I'm told that 11.30am will be less busy at Papercup in Stanmore, but the tables are still full when we get there just after. It seems the locals have already discovered this one-year-old café, previously a storage facility for the bottle shop next door.
Luckily there's space at the timber bar. And we quickly realise it's a pretty good spot to watch the action taking place behind the counter. As well as coffees (Coffee Alchemy beans, roasted in nearby Marrickville) the tiny galley service area puts out a focused breakfast menu, and sandwiches with Middle Eastern flavours providing a hit of spices and texture to the signature dishes.
After drinks – soy hot chocolate ($3.50) and long black ($3) – we take food suggestions from owner-to-be, Eloise. Easy decision: Arabian-style bircher muesli with poached fruit, yoghurt, pistachios and honey ($10), and the Dr. Shakshuka eggs poached in cumin and chilli-infused tomato sauce with local ricotta and feta ($13). Both are excellent.
The pear is perfectly poached, the nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios) are a crunchy addition, and cinnamon is an entirely appropriate and unexpected surprise. Dr. Shakshuka can cure any ailment. Okay maybe that's an exaggeration, but it makes me pretty damn happy. The flavours are exotic and the spices balanced by a sprinkling of herbs and parmesan.
It's beautifully presented on a tiny chopping board with bits of toast, topped with za'atar – tiny details that make this culinary experience stand out. And it's so reasonably priced, especially for this Eastern Suburbs local.
There is a sweet local vibe. The staff chat to the customers, and one of the parents from the school across the road supplies the gluten free chocolate brownies; another the chai tea. Everything else (besides the bread) is prepared right in front of you, with the assistance of an induction cooktop and slow cooker.
Although weekdays will be busier with tradesman, parents and young professionals en route to the train station down the street, today it feels relaxed despite being at capacity (maybe around 20 people). The light interior adds to the feeling of calm spaciousness. White walls are enhanced by coffee-inspired line graphics and an artwork by Hugh Ford, and the backdrop – glass-covered exposed original brickwork – adds visual texture while also respecting the heritage of the building.