I admit I felt incredibly self indulgent the day I stepped out of Devon Cafe in Surry Hills. Little did I know upon entering that Devon was and is run by two ex-Guillaume chefs who left the fine dining scene to throw in a little more flair to the casual comfort food dishes on offer for breakfast and lunch. Since opening in 2014, it has won awards, been featured in Good Food Guide and as a general rule, is quite popular on Sydney Instagram feeds.
The cafe staff were joking loudly to themselves, singing the choruses of pop songs (Bang Bang no less) with no problems but faltering and muttering when it came to the verses. Obvious slip ups of lyrics were followed by laughter. A guy with cool hair and a warm smile greeted me and showed me to the private courtyard of the cafe, where a few groups had gathered over coffee and breakfast backed by a graffitied wall and utilitarian style camouflage netting.
As I was on my own and the staff had proven entertaining, I chose to sit at the long table at the front of the cafe, where natural light poured in over the long wooden table and the sound of bicycles and cars swooshed past on Devonshire Street outside. I watched as suppliers came through the cafe with boxes of flour, beans and milk, stocking up for the weekend. Regulars lining at the counter were asked what they wanted but it was clear that they always ordered the same to go. Flat white. Latte. Picturesque swans in a cup.
The same person that had greeted me earlier whose name I discovered was Calvin, swung by the table, handed me a menu and struck up conversation. "Have you eaten at Devon before?" No was my response but he continued with a smile. "Then if that is the case, I suggest you go with my personal favourite, the Cookies 'N Cream! It's just the right amount of sweetness, and it will fill you up. It's also really pretty. Don't look at the other items on the menu, unless you'd prefer something a little savoury in which case I'd recommend the Breakfast with the Sakuma's. But the Cookies 'N Cream will surprise you. Trust me." So I did.
The staff struck up conversation and after spotting my camera, invited me to take photographs of the cafe, posing in a few of the shots only to realise I had been recording video footage. The laughter and slight embarrassment that ensued contributed to the atmosphere. Service was friendly, down to earth and attentive given the casual vibe of the cafe. The counter offered macarons, homemade ricotta, sticky fig and honey muffins in addition to savoury toast but I was drawn to the food menu.
Reading through the menu the items seemed hearty and oh so guilty. 63 degree egg? Fairy bread and fairy floss? Pork crackling and apple jus? Okay, if you insist. The menu is all day (or at least until 3pm when the kitchen closes) and each of the items blur the lines between breakfast, lunch and dessert. The hardest part is picking which dish to order. Once you have though, the category of food becomes an ignored technicality as you're too busy relishing the balance of sweet and tangy on your tastebuds to remember if it should even be classed as breakfast.
A stack of purples, browns and pinks on a plate made its way from the kitchen to the empty space in front of me. It took a little while for me wrap my mind around the layered perfection and for a split second I wasn't sure if it was what I had ordered. Calvin walked past, signalled me with an A-ok sign and gloated at my reaction. I was then left to enjoy/pluck up the courage to break this cinnamon muesli based cookie with my fork.
Although it was indulgent, Calvin was correct, it had just the right amount of sweetness. The structure of the cookie did not cause it to crumble into pieces once the fork divided it, instead it held its own. That didn't meant to say it was dry. The raspberry cream was smooth, light and tangy and if your tastebuds were tickled a little too much, the flavours could be adjusted with an introduction of the sweet droplets of strawberry gel. Finish with a bit of violet depth.
Buttery feuilletine was crumbled into two chaotic piles on either side of the centrepiece, mixed in with purple, pink and gold sparkles for good measure. The fresh raspberries sat atop the dish in glory and were the last to go. This quirky and colourful rendition of Cookies 'N Cream was so far removed from the typical associations of chocolate and vanilla. It further foregrounded the food on offer as unique and modern twists on the classic dish.
On my next trip to Sydney, I'd be keen to re-visit Devon. Its seasonal menu makes it an attractive cafe haunt and the modern east meets west dishes on offer at its sister cafe Devon on Danks is equally as tempting. Did I also mention they have a Devon by Night? Too many options, not enough stomachs.
76 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
Sydney, NSW 2010