This spacious warehouse cafe serves knockout sangas in an (air-conditioned) industrial-chic setting.
There's a moment in the (so underrated) spy-comedy show Chuck that I think we can all relate to. Rachel Bilson's character, trying to cope with a stressful situation, closes her eyes and starts intoning under her breath: "Turkey, Muenster cheese, egg bread, grilled". That's right, she's gone to her happy place, and it's a sandwich.
Sandwiches are just an excellent thing, having brought solace into the middle of our days for centuries. Now new Redfern cafe Three Williams has taken it upon themselves to not only put the sarnie in the spotlight but to up the ante with what they've called a 'narnie', which comes wrapped in their glistening, signature house-baked flatbread that's much like Indian naan. Oh yes.
Three Williams is the kind of next-level cafe Redfern has been waiting for, with a vibe that's a little bit Grounds of Alexandria. That's not entirely surprising, really, given that former Groundsman Glen Bowditch leads the team on the floor, while the menu comes from Tim Bryan, who's ex-ARIA looking to get homey.
It's a big, warehousey cavern that's been warmed up with beech wood, wall lights and plain old conviviality. The team is clearly positioning the place as a neighbourhood hub where you know you'll always be welcome. They've got free Wi-Fi if you want to get some work done, tables big enough for a crowd and a kids' corner where any tykes can be kept occupied. Coming here is a no-brainer; it's good at any time. The only thing missing, perhaps, is some sound baffling; noise bounces around the exposed brick chamber.
But it's the narnies that people are particularly flocking for. Priced between $11-$14, gloriously rich and too loose to hold in one hand, these aren't the sort of sandwiches you're meant to eat every day at your desk — and yet, since Three Williams is literally next door to the Concrete Playground office, I've done basically that.
The pick of the trio of flavours is the grilled prawn with avocado, sweet corn, tomato salsa and aioli ($12 take away/$13 eat in). Packed with juicy prawns, it's beautifully fresh, summery and seductive, like a taco in overdrive. Runner-up is the glazed beef brisket with slaw, gherkins and chipotle mayonnaise ($13/$14) — a sublime combination that's sometimes let down by a lingering layer of fat on the meat. The fried tempeh with pickled veg, Sriracha and lime mayo ($11/$12) is decent — excellent texturally but in flavour a bit stubbornly earthy.
There's also a range of hearty and wholesome salads ($12-$14), perfect for people who want a light meal but not necessarily salad lovers who crave the burst of raw veg and zing of vinaigrette.
The breakfast menu is short, but you don't want to miss it. The star of the show is the boldly reinvented French toast ($14), which instead of being soggy with egg (don't get me wrong; that's how I usually like it) is light and crisp, crusted on the outside with toasted pecans and maple syrup and topped with yoghurt and fresh berries. It's beautiful to eat and beautiful to Instagram. The poached eggs with marinated bull horn peppers, Serrano ham, feta and dukkah on toast ($16) is another solid choice: the ingredients are perfect individually and in combination, though a sauce could help to tie them all together.
Also on the brekkie menu are the likes of granola with hibiscus pear ($12) for every day, and bacon-and-egg-roll-with-a-vengeance 'The Merchant' (that's chilli fried egg, crispy bacon, pickled slaw and ranch dressing on a brioche bun) for special occasions (like hangovers). Couple anything with a smooth Single Origin coffee and you'll be set to face the day.
So what are you waiting for? Three Williams is out there, awaiting you with open arms and a sandwich of kings.
Images: Kitti Gould.