All the elements of this cafe, recently voted the best in Sydney by the Sydney Morning Herald, make it a pretty ace place to drink coffee and eat some lunch, if you don't think too carefully about it. The first is the million-dollar fit-out. The site looks like a studio apartment of a graphic designer with lots and lots of money, with timber floors, exposed brick, a garage roller-door at one end and a semi-circular cut out of the ceiling so you can see the level above.
The food is definitely not your run-of-the-mill Surry Hills fare either. With influences from South America, it has a Baleada (a Honduran tortilla), Ceviche and Empanadas for choice. The Baleada was a little salty (as was the Avocado on Toast, though this was nicely tangy), and didn’t reach its full potential in terms of flavour. The Baked Eggs, however, had a rich, flavoursome tomato sauce and would be good to share. The Figs on Sourdough with Goat’s Curd was perfect, with the warm comfort of the cheese and bread perfectly balanced by fresh figs and rocket.
The coffee is hands down great. A few of their house roasts are always on offer, which are creamy and rich. Eating the Dogg’s Breakfast, an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel, will conjure memories of your five-year-old self, sneaking past your mum for a cheeky breakfast. It’s tasty in the 'oh my god, junk fooood' kind of way but again, I think they could have done something a little more exciting - as they do with the flavours of the milkshakes (black sesame, espresso and wattle seed).
That’s where I baulk at claiming it’s the bee's knees. Eating in such an amazing space, I kind of expect the food to surprise and impress me a little more. There’s nothing wrong with having a beautiful premise and keeping things low key, some of Sydney’s most exciting new restaurants are utilising this combination with fantastic results, but add on a 15 minute wait on busy (read: most) days, I expect the food to be well worth it.
The place lacks the personality and charm that was once the trademark of Surry Hills. Gentrification will always change the essence of a place so perhaps it’s useless to be nostalgic, but Reuben Hills seems like it’s trying just a little too hard to fit into what people expect it to be: a cookie-cutter version of inner city slick/cool, without striving to be individual.