What's it going to be? You're a guy, you're a little bit Italian. You're a little bit Scottish, too. You know your food, you know your coffee. You're a mile-a-minute fast-hot-flat-shot. You've been involved in 9 previous cafes, each more delicious than the next. You reach a new point in life, you marry a lovely Japanese woman. She's sweet and strong, like a good latte. She keeps you in line and is brewing what is perhaps going to be the world's most stylish baby girl. All in all, life is pretty sweet. Do you, A) Turn in the Pepe Jeans for a Paul Smith penguin suit and try your hand at the corporate thing? Do you, B) Give it all up and head deep west to a subdivided slice of suburban lawn mowing sticky-fly-swat Sunday poolside don't-forget-to-take-the-garbage-out domestic stupor on the other side of a little rainbow called the M4?... Or C), do you, do what you've always done best, don't-fix-what-aint-broke type thing and stick to your ever evolving, exceedingly excellent esspressions?
Come on, Adriano Matteoni, what's it going to be?
AB is telling you it's C. Unlike Francis Ford after Part II, thank frickin' God he just didn't stop. Ardi has traded in the Glebe Clipper digs to jointly start up the decidedly delightful Booth St Coffee Co, Annadale. In the playful spirit of his soon to be born little girl, the old, winning formula comes wrapped and bundled in a concept that is all pale colours, broken toys and butterfly-twirling whimsy. He calls this concept... (ahem): Danish Kindergarten. Forget the snot-nosed finger painting I'm-dobbing-on-you stale vegemite on tip-top taste bud trauma you lived through, this is Kindy... gone classy. Your mum might drop you off, but you won't cry at the door. Not only on school days, but every day of the week: there's singing time, there's reading time, there's recess and lunch, and there's a damn good short black, to boot.
Cafe freaks, get ready to wet your pants. School's in...
Cheerful as all fuck is this friendly little bastion of Booth St serendipity. On the far side of Booth St, away from all the other cafe riff raff is this new little start up, pretty as picture and practically peppermint breathed with the energy and the cheer of something new happening. I smiled the moment I saw it. It's fun and whimsical, more so because the main clientele are very lackadaisical 30-something sophisticates with curly haired, Nutella mouth-smeared angels. It's local, it's quirky, it's communal, and it's rocking. Come on, don't be scared, i'll hold your hand.
There's always room for some Sourdough French Toast with Sweet Labna and Maple Syrup, isn't there. Ooooh, sticky, doughy, bready, creamy child O' mine. Labna, for those of you who had the culinary misfortune to not be born Lebanese, don't scrunch your perfect little ski jump noses at this most delicious of yoghurts. Labna is thick-stick-to-mouth-deep-sharp-sharp-stun-me-creamy-make-believey mouth punch. A dense, heavy, sure footed yoghurt. Douse it in some of that nutty maple stickiness, sprinkle it with some pistachio and smear, drizzle, lavish the whole shabang on top of some richly toasted, earthen sourdough, and you've got a breakfast that is a real Cereal killer. You just try finding a cheaper thrill for 9 bucks.
Or perhaps a Goats Cheese, Pesto Omelette with Baked Mushrooms? Aloft a beautiful slab of crafted wood, and with some sourdough side kicks, this Omelette would make any chicken cross the road. The rich, generous green seeping out of the fluffy lemon center is mouthwatering to behold. Another one of Ardri's no nonsense Mediterranean mouth gods. This is rich, buttery, beautiful breakfasting.
It might be kindy, but it's definitely got enough punch to please more nuanced palates: the Haloumi, Roast Eggplant and Watermelon salad is a curious and refreshing pendulum between cool, scarlet sweetness and heady, oily, salty grilled squeak-weak-in-the-knees-please-me-with-cheese delight. Or, if your taste buds prefer things a little more ABC, there are baguettes with leg ham, mustard, tomato, brie and basil, or swiss cheese with eggplant and hommous. The Smoked Salmon Omelette with ricotta satisfied the always fussy Tats. Rich and fluffy, salmon-egg with flickers of purple onion to sharpen the heaviness. The crusty and yeasty baguette mixes well with the silken-oiliness of these organic eggs and beautiful salmon. A filling breakfast, for when you've stayed up too late the night before doing homework.
Home made baked beans with Labna make a little bit more of an affair out of the old baked beans than Mr Heinz has taught us to expect. Sweet and rich and spicy, tomatoed and broth-hot with a light olive oil spiked richness. Blend in a cool and creamy dollop of Labna and let the saltiness and the whiteness of it all surrender into your wonderful little clay pot of dreamy beans. My much loved flatmate Bowie had to cut a Playstation session of FIFA a bit short to join us for brekkie (God, forbid), the scowl didn't completely disappear from his face until he'd sampled a little of this. But the amazing menu is only a part of it.
The Booth St Coffee Co still has that Ardri touch, anachronistic objects that draw you into a sense of space and time that makes you forget who you are and the world you come from, if only for a moment. I particularly love Ardri's approach to cafes because it has never just been about the coffee and the food for him, he wants you to have an experience, he wants to draw you into a little corner of his mucked up mind. This is cafe as theatre, it's Leg-Hamlet, it's a Midsummer Night's Cream. After all, the world's a stage...
...a stage with beautiful ingredients: organic eggs, bountiful Bonsoy, carefully selected cheeses and meats and vegetables. Thoughtful salads and punk rock sandwiches. Snappy service. A little bit Middle Eastern. A little bit Italian. A little bit French. And a lot Lovely.
The coffee, like liquid Pacino, never puts a foot wrong. It's beauty as beverage, it's Hoo-Hah! for the mouth, for the throat, for the belly it warms and for the self it wakes to life. Delicious, solid, true. They are selling their special blend in store with little pamphlets that tell you how to Try This At Home. Delicious and nutty, welcoming in deep, dark swirling creamy brown lattes and caps. They line up for it, the Have Here's and the To Go's.
Good foodies are generous by nature, and I simply love all of the freely accessible jars of peanut butter and plump, scarlet pots of perfect hanks jam. All up for grabs, all there for you to smear it onto warm toast as thickly or as thinly as you please. Sharing and trading and the passing around of jar after jar. I felt like a gleeful five year old being able to dip into the big jars all by my abandoned self. Delicious globs of luminous jam staining a silver fork: it's these images i'll take to the grave!
My favourite, as always, is Ardri's stunning Arabian Bircher w cream, fruit and pistachio. I had it today with delicately poached peaches, argh!! So good. Agony as Yumminess. The smooshiness of cream and silken oats swirls so voluptuously into and out of globs of moist, sweet summer-drenched peach. Like emerald fairy dust, a ground pistachio cloud dances all over the dish, lending nutty-crunchy-livid green flickers of texture to the melting smoothness. Eating Ardri bircher is like dozing in bed on a rainy Sunday monday, you're semi conscious- you hang on to each and every blissful moment-you go soft and gooey, you smile, you sigh, you twinkle your tootsies...and then you wake up as your spoon scrapes the bottom of your pretty dish.
Bountiful, beautiful breakfast bircher, it sits there all coy in a pretty bowl and blushes as it peers up at you, all Oaten and Flirty.
I was hoping it wouldn't come down to this. But as a blogger, honesty is what I promise you. Now, as much as I enjoy the finer things in life... you should probably know that part of me will never loose the ability to go absolutely bloody gaga over a big, gooey, sticky jar of Nutella. If there was a giant jar of Nutella in front of me and I was driving along in a car and there were babies crossing the road, well, you just finish that sentence off how you like. I love Nutella. Nutella is chocolatey-hazelnutty Italian Crack. Screw Rome, Screw Roads, Screw Culture and Civilization. Nutella is the best thing those Italians have come up with, and Ardri had several big, bountiful jars up for grabs. You just know this is going to get messy...
Nutella is tall dark and handsome. It is sweet. It is gooey. It is sticky. It is messy. It is delicious. It is Everything Anything should ever Be. Order some sourdough, get a butter knife, and don't be shy, stick your knife at least half way into the jar, at least a good 7cm from the surface, deep, deep into the recesses of the Nutella subconscious scrumptiousness. So you've got the knife in far, now wiggle it around it a bit, get it under and up and through and, glory of glories! avail yourself of thick, smearing after smearing of brown, hazelnutted perfumed gaga-glutton-glue. Grow dizzy on the spreading of it. Let your hand pass the knife over the warm surface of the toast surely, slowly, teasingly, from knife to hand, from hand to arm, from arm up through neck around the back of the ear and to mouth...feel it before you taste.
And again. On the second Piece. Spread it slowly, delicately, sensuously over that warm willing toast. Let the warmth from the toast seep a little into the chocolately mess, let it breathe slowly, silently against the Nutella and then let it all happen: let there be loosening and melting and sinking and drowning. Let the hazenut and the chocolate explode into each other and inside your mouth. Jesus Christ. Nutella. I'm honestly batty for this stuff. Not just the taste, the texture...it's got just enough give, and just enough stay. It's smooth, but it has shape. It's whipped and gooey and I swear if you hold it close enough to your nose and close your eyes you just start automatically swaying. You sway. Just you. Just you, and the Jar. Just you, and the Jar in the crowded cafe with Bowie and Tats. Don't be all grown up about it, get it all over your grubby face and all over your greedy hands, that's what serviettes and loving boyfriends are for.
...Just sit with that for a bit...
Oh, Ardri. We love the Booth St Coffee Co. We love you. We love Nutella. Breakfast, lunch, coffee. Quirk, whimsy and Innocence. Take the child in you out to tea.
Thank you, Adriano. I'd wish you luck, but the joint is already as jam packed as a Hank's jar.
I started this piece by saying it was all old dogs doing old tricks. The theme was not of changing but of doing old things well. It does, however, seem that there is a bit of a first here...
...Cake + knifelings, I give you: photographic evidence of Ardri, with his mouth shut. Can you imagine? Booth St Coffee Co happens at 78, Booth St, Annadale (just near the intersection with Johnstone St).
Booth St Coffee Co, let them finger paint all over your taste buds.
Gold star for Ardri!
Oops! Ghastly oversight...Gold Star also for part owners:
Barrister of the dark tee's, first year philosophy student berets and calm cappuccino moves Daniel Jackson, who makes amazing tea to exacting specifications. Also, to sometimes fireman, but otherwise smoking cook of Kazbah fame: Aaron Callander. xx A.