I have few regrets in life, but two from the day of my visit to Cornersmith. The first is that I didn’t know I’d be coming, so instead of bringing my old faithful DSLR to capture the cool quirkiness, hand-written blackboard menu and homemade preserves, I had to use my iPhone. The second is that, having arrived at 9:30am, they haven’t gotten around to making the Herb Baked Ricotta with nasturtium pesto and olive roast tomato. For SHAME.
Having been told on several occasions that Cornersmith is the best café in Sydney (big call, ladies, you know who you are), I made it on an impromptu visit waiting for Peter’s of Kensington to open one random Tuesday. Upon walking in I spy Cornersmith pickles, locally produced honey and any number of weird and wonderful things to ooh and aah over. The menu is like a party, and every imaginable pickled vegetable, obscure herb and stinky cheese is invited. There are plenty of vege and gluten free options (although not too many vegan ones) and a list of “Produce in this week” which details delights such as apples “from Johnnie’s mum”, snowpea tendrils and foraged pine mushrooms. The pickling menu is more excitement than I can handle… Picalilli, Whole Carraway Brussel Sprouts and homemade Worstershire (I don’t usually have it as it contains anchovies, didn’t ask about this one but it’s cool they make their own either way)… I’m literally quivering in my boots.
After the ricotta disappointment it’s hard to decide what to have. Garlic mushrooms and vegetables with rocket and pecorino on rye sounds pretty amazing, but I’m all garlicked out from Lebanese the night before. A Pickled fennel and two cheese sandwich sounds like a fair compromise without having to delve into the muffins and sugary things (sweet for breakfast just doesn’t sit that well unless it’s leftover chocolate cake or of the cocktail variety). The meat-eater gets a sandwich which is so beautiful to look at it almost makes an appearance as the first meat dish to appear on TSA, but JUST scraped below the line with little bits of corned beef visible hanging out the sides.
As I chat to the chef he gestures to the backyard, home to the cutest milk-crate herb-garden which provides the café with much of its daily requirements. A bee-hive on the rooftop, I learn, is where the Marrickville Honey inside comes from, and as part of the Urban Beehive project is helping to assist with pollination and maintaining the genetic diversity of our wild bees.
With their solid position on local, seasonal and ethical produce, Cornersmith is paving the way for Marrickville cafés. It pains me that people suggest that these sorts of places are a fleeting trend. Trendy, yes, I spotted it from across the road, down the street and almost around the corner, but fleeting? I think not. Anyone who shows respect to the Earth and makes an effort to maintain the balance when it comes to well-sourced, fresh, seasonal produce should be commended. And, as we learnt from raw foodist Georgia Dind, the age-old tradition of pickling vegetables is the way forward (even if it sounds a little backwards) when it comes to intestinal health and balance. So as it turns out ladies, you were right. Cornersmith may very well be Sydney’s best café!