We had actually planned to go to The Grounds of Alexandria, voted best new café in the recently published Sydney Morning Herald Good Café Guide 2012 (also available as an app). However, it’s closed, being a public holiday – I had failed to check that in advance. So we walk back towards Erskineville through quiet, picturesque residential streets to try our luck at Bitton Café & Grocer on Copeland Street, opposite Erskineville Oval. Café, bistro, grocery shop and product line with a book, a blog and cooking classes, this mini empire is headed up by Parisian managing director David Bitton.
I’m surprised that we manage to get a table quite so easily considering Bitton is always packed to the gunnels whenever we go past. We’re catching up with friends with a toddler so we park ourselves in the covered outdoor area at the back, right next to a great little playroom complete with ride-on vehicles and chalkboard. A side order of fried mushrooms for the hungry little chap arrives promptly and a highchair is manoeuvred into position.
The breakfast menu is available until 5pm, something of which I heartily approve, and as you’d expect it has a hint of French flavour, including crêpes, Croque Monsieur, croissants and brioche. A bit of clever cross-promotion highlights which of the dishes are included in The Bitton Book, and which sauces, pestos, preserves and so on are available to buy from the laden shelves inside the café or online.
Coffees come quickly, which is quite a relief this morning, followed by food. The service is friendly, efficient, attentive and entirely unphased by all the strollers blocking up the passage-ways. Mr T and I both opt for the Croque Monsieur, two slices of white sourdough, sandwiched with ham and Gruyère cheese sauce and fried to a satisfying golden crunch. A side dish of zingy Bitton spicy tomato sauce and a garnish of bitter salad leaves with salty-lemony dressing both help cut through the richness.
Al has the one pan bacon and eggs with wood-fired bread which also comes with the spicy tomato sauce. He says it’s good without being particularly remarkable.
And Nicole goes for sour cherry toast with poached rhubarb, ricotta and Bitton orange jelly. The caramel coloured orange jelly gives a nice bitter-sweet flavour contrast to the creamy ricotta and the rhubarb has held its shape and has a bit of bite to it. (I admire the whole chunks of fruit since I don’t seem to be able to cook rhubarb without it quickly turning into a purple purée!)
After eating I take a few snaps inside the café, trying to capture something of the bustling atmosphere and the shelves filled with freshly baked bread, fruit and veggies, as well as the Bitton range. David, the MD, asks me – in his fabulous French accent – why I’m taking photos and we have a brief chat. He gives me his business card and asks me to send him a link to my blog post – if the write-up is good. Well, David, if you’re reading this – c’est très bien, n’est pas?
Bitton Café & Grocer
36 – 37a Copeland Street, Alexandria
Visited 1 October 2012