Monday, January 17, 2011

Freedom + Sandwiches (aka, Allpress @ Zetland)...

If you never happen to have heard of him, there was once a famous Scottish scientist who devoted his later life to philanthropic efforts. In 1949 He won the nobel peace prize for it. He was Lord John Boyd Orr. Don't let the name put you off, he was a pretty brilliant, kooky-kinda guy. He is responsible for the single biggest, shiniest wisdom I ever came across. Oh, yes. He once uttered a notion so insightful, so observant, so assiduously intelligent that all I could do was nod in awe. And this from a man in a skirt! In 13 simple words this Giant among men summed up everything I think and feel about life, mankind, human-nature and psychology. He said a thing so simple and so brilliant and true. Prepare yourselves for a revelation. Lord Boyd Orr said...are you ready for it? I mean, really ready for it? I don't want to go ahead and freak you out (via revelation) into an early stroke or anything. Okay. You're sitting down, right? Here goes. He said: If people have to choose between freedom and sandwiches, they will take sandwiches. Lord Boyd Orr, you sly dog! How'd you know? Who told you! Sandwiches over freedom, indeed. You sure wasted your time with all that scientific experimentation and do-gooding, Lord B.O. They should've just given you the Nobel peace prize for that utterance alone - or a bloody good BLT, at the very least.
Lord Boyd Orr is right, isn't he. We know it. He's got us pegged perfectly. Even if we're gazing long into the blazing astral configurations with all of the lonely curiosity that a single human eye can hold, we still want our grub. We still love it. We just might be more guts than imagination. Heck, they might even be the same thing. 

It's a shame John died in 1971. It really is. Had he lived just a few decades longer he might perhaps have had the opportunity to put his theory to the most delicious proof that was available for it. And what more could a good scientist want that some ample proof? So, Lord Boyd Orr, what's it going to be? Freedom, or an Allpress beef sanga with caper-onion-mayonnaise? Liberty, or lovely salty, roast pork and watercress baguette? Manumission, or some rocket, fontina and tomato-a-whishin? Releeeeaaaase, or gruyere-ham-mustard or chived cheese? You know the answer, I know you do.
Did you ever experience a moment of such unadulterated joy that you were literally left speechless? Without a word to say? Speechless? Without speech? Well, it's hardly ever happened to me. Words never usually fail me for more than a second (Lebanese + female). Extreme joy and extreme anger are the two emotions that pop open the flood gates on my own inner-thesaurus... 
A good moment usually begins with an expletive. Allpress was a damn fine moment in time. It is nothing less than the dawn of a new era for me. It is a-maz-ing! Shocking, startling, stupefying, awesome, breathtaking, wonderful, splendid, sensational, stupendous, spectacular, unbelievable, incredible, indelible! 
I kept hearing that this was a place to try. Dan and I managed to make it in for a post-last-exam-ever (hopefully) celebration on Monday. Allpress, Zetland is a bustling cafe nook wedged against a big brewery-like room full of lazy, bloated, richly scented sacks of sacrificial-coffee bean. The roasting for Allpress brand coffee goes on here, but so does some damn wondrous sandwiching and caking. This is food on a scale and at a height that you simply won't believe. I know I can be a tad exuberant when it comes to good food, but I tell you no lie when I claim that Allpress is the most impressed I have ever been with cafe food. Dan, who usually reserves his own elation for seriously big swell or anything else to do with surfing, proclaimed these the best sandwiches he has ever had in Australia (he grew up in Switzerland, sandwiches are pretty serious stuff over there).
The beef with caper-onion mayonnaise...Gorgeous, crazy sandwich! How do I describe you? If you were a physical theorem you would be Simple Harmonic Motion. If your taste was an edifice, it would be the Taj Mahal's. If you creaminess was a depth, we would find it only at the bottom of the deepest, bluest sea. You are Signor Sandwich. Tender rare-Devil-may-care roasted beef cavorting in creamy, tart, rich home-made saucy-sauce mayonnaise. I tried the mayonnaise on the bread and died. It was toasted, warm, crusty loaf to creamy, cool, smooth sauce. The flavour and texture made my jaw drop. It's kinda hard to keep chewing when your jaw does that, but I kept truckin'. Dan and I both cried out and groaned. I could pretend our reaction was more elegant, but it wasn't. This is extreme sandwiching. Not too much bread to filling, beautiful simple ingredients doused in screechingly vibrant sauce. 
Sandwiches are so easy to do badly. There's a lot more going on to them that most people who sell them seem to think. They're like a good relationship. You need certain elements that are opposites to come together and balance where they need to, and then contrast when they must. They should be simple. Sandwiches are always a less is more type affair. Simple doesn't mean easy. They need to be thoughtful. Salty, rare beef wants the warmth and creaminess of the mayonnaise, and the sharpness of the onion and caper absolutely saturates this beautiful bastard of a sandwich with a deft and faultless pungency that could make the eyes water. It has just the barest spattering of salad to give it just a little freshness and crunch. But otherwise, this baby is a fairytale for the mouth, creamy-capery-meat dissolving into gently toasted, baked wonder. My God. If you try this and don't like it there's honestly something wrong with you. I didn't eat the beef, just a section of the sandwich with the mayonnaise and salad. Even that was enough to make me see stars and hear the angels singing in heaven. 
Look at that beautiful bread. Its contours are perfect, lustrous and moist - and not at all dry. Shards of garishly purple/pink SweetTart beetroot stain little slivers of gorgeously roasted sweet potato. Fresh and salad spliced and clean. With chickpeas and baba yum-oosh. 
Sharing the sandwiches happily and trying to recover from the waves of awe that had set off a seemingly endless spiraling within us, we were unaware that amazing was about to get better.
The fisherman's rice needs to be returned. It is clearly lost and faraway from it's home. This dish is of a craziness and a calibre that you'd expect to find it on some provincial Asian coast. Sold by a tired and friendly old lady from the back of a little shack. This would be all she would sell. It would be the most beautiful thing you ever threw your mouth's way. You would eat it and then order another. You would take photo after endless photo and when you went back home you would try to describe to everyone you knew and loved the magic. You would tell them what it tasted like, you would close your eyes and you'd be transported back to wherever it was you found it. A quiet coast with memories of fishing nets and little boats and smiling, foreign faces... 
Nu uh. It's not there. It's not in some exotic locale you have to hop on a plane to get to. It's in bloody, Zetland, of all frickin places! Oh my God. Please, please try this. Please, do it for me? It is a mellifluous melange of soft rice, gently flaking tuna and the most tender octopus you ever laid lips on. You don't taste the flavour, it converses with you and leaves you speaking tongues. Tossed in parsley and with a squirt of lemon. It is smooth and fresh and so exotic. I can't believe how masterfully it came together. It sounds so bland and basic. It wasn't. 
It was light and beautiful, replete with its own perfection. So delicious and textured and fragrant. I know I haven't had them yet, but I seriously doubt I could ever love my own children as much as I loved this rice. It was splendour. I still don't know what it is doing on a cafe menu in Sydney's industrial backwaters. Take it as a good thing and don't even ask.
A perfect Allpress latte (bonsoyed, of course) and a wee little wait while the lovely waitress brings us over whatever happens to be the most Allpressive dessert they have...
Ask and Ye Shall Find. Ye shall find orangey-almonded creamed spongey cake heaven. This cake is something of a culinary mermaid. It's a creature very much of this earth but also entirely of imagination. It tasted so wholesome but it felt so incredibly abstract in your mouth. 
A secretive crust of scorched, iced almonds adorn a tall, blonde spongey confection-starlet. This is a big, smooth, luscious expanse of sponge. Sweet and vanillaed. Gentle and moaning with ambrosial infusions. The taste is delicate and warm and faintly, faintly barely there citrusy. It wafts over your senses like summer. It is fresh and alert and stunning. It reminds me of something Portuguese or Tuscan. Rustic and simple, like it was baked on a farm by a beautiful woman with olive skin in a dull yellow apron and scarf. Sometime at dusk, while she was alone and looking out through the window and into a verdurous garden.
The way it tasted was nothing compared to the way it moved and felt. There had to be some hard-core baking genius behind this. Some kind of Einstein of flour and eggs and sugar they've got back there in the kitchen. It was a sturdy shape, but it wasn't dense. But it wasn't airy either. It had a rich-light almost dry-viscouslyness to it. Buttered and beguiling and sugared. It was flexible and supple with some kind of insane elasticity you couldn't separate from the taste.
The texture was molten and eggy, with a perfect pause of vanilla cream silencing the point where the two layers met. The cream was dizzying. Whipped and full. The whole thing tasted more like an idea than like a cake. The softness and butteryness of all of that gorgeous immensity ending in a sharp-honeyed toasted almond sliver crunch, was a rapturous rush on an already dumbstruck tongue.
A dollop of cream, a stunned spoon and two happy people. Allpress brand Magic. They have already gotten themselves going in London and Tokyo. Ronan tells me the London cafe has already been voted into that great city's top ten cafes. And why the hell not! Michael Allpress and Tony Papas are onto a bloody good thing. Let's hope word (and outlets) keep spreading.
Flawless, simple food usually means there's a Kiwi lurking behind it, and Allpress is no exception. Kiwi's have an uncanny knack for doing really simple food well. Beautiful, well priced morsels and coffee entirely hit the mark in an industry that is usually more form than substance. Allpress seem to understand the true soul of good bread and coffee, and the experience of pairing them perfectly together. These days, people want to be closer to the roots of it all. We've done fine dining and uber-fancy a thousand times before. It's pretty hackneyed. To actually make the roasting process visible, to open up the bowels of it all to the visible eye is what modern dining is becoming about. Cluey foodies are staying as close as possible to the source. Food has definitely become too pretentious, we are so focused on what we're eating and how organic and exotic and contorted it all is to even notice the taste. It never ceases to amaze me how often new-It restaurants and cafes which do different things in expensive set ups serve food that only tastes okay at best.
The people at Allpress must actually be eating their own stuff, can you imagine! They've got their eye on the prize here and you're the one that's winning because of it. There's actually expertise, discernment and know-how behind the cooking and roasting. How refreshing. Most cafes these days are just two 20-something boys in Barista vests with pale skin and surly, thoughtful frowns who thought this'd be a cool way to pull in The Babes. 
There's beautiful breakfast with a spunky toast line up, lots of croissant and cake and even more coffee to take home. Food with verve and sincerity: about bloody time. I love this place. I love that it isn't in Surry Hills and that it's full of lots of normal no-bullshit hungry workers on the go. I can't gush enough. I'd be Allpressed to find a single bad thing about it. There's an energy and an honesty in the food that I haven't experience for the first time in quite a while. It's like they're not trying to be anything, not cool or different or ingenious. They just know what constitutes a damn fine sandwich and that's what they're serving up - and what could be more genius than that? I think we're going to have to go back tomorrow.
Allpress happens at 58 Epsom Road, Zetland, ph 9662 8288 for the roastery, 8198 4440 for the cafe, Website here. On weekdays it's a from 7-3 job, and on Saturdays it's 8 to 2. Special thanks to Ronan for patiently chatting to me about rice and bread and coffee - all great topics. And reverse kisses to Danny for being there at The End.

When Rousseau said that man is born free and everywhere he is in chains, was he talking about Starbucks and Gloria Jeans? Who knows. Life (and small intestines) are far too short for bad fodder and coffee. Even if you have to go a little out of your sweet way: Get Allpressed, it's taste-bud freedom and sandwiches. Why choose when you can have both?


Anonymous said...

I can't believe I didn't even know fisherman's rice existed. Now I have to go to Zetland and have one. And a sandwich, too. Clever man, that Lord John Boyd Orr.

Trish said...

Wow you truly were impressed and I'm so glad you came back again today for more.....good move!
But most of all thanks for the mention, I was 'that waitress' obsessed with your lens.....always happy to help out a fellow blogger.
Please visit us again soon!!!

amanda said...

lateral, get your butt there asap. rice is amazing!

hey Trish, lovely to meet you! got to get in earlier for that damn rice next time! take care x