There are other good cafés in Marrickville but this is the one, I think, that has really put our home suburb on the map, such is its popularity. Mr T and I wandered down there today for only the second time since it opened almost exactly a year ago. On my first visit I was a bit nonplussed, slightly put off by the lack of meat options – there was only some organic salami that day. Today they had wagyu corned beef and pasture-raised ham (all their meat is organic and sourced from local providore Feather and Bone) as well as house-smoked ocean trout. What’s on the menu entirely depends on what seasonal, local produce they’ve bought in.
On arrival we add our name to the list on the blackboard beside the door but we don’t have to wait long to get a table in a perfect spot from which I can see all the action and take photos. It’s a small light-filled room with white-tiled walls, an ornate ceiling and funky bare light globes hanging down above the counter. You can sit on high stools at said counter or at little tables that line the floor-to-ceiling window that runs the full length of the café on the Illawarra Street side. On the counter is a big Italian coffee machine churning out great coffee and behind are several black-boards displaying the menu, and below them shelves filled with jars of pickles, chutneys and jams, all made on the premises. Run by a husband and wife team, Cornersmith is open for business Tuesday to Sunday and on Mondays they close for pickling. Whatever fruit and veg is in season features heavily on their menu, and come Monday is also turned into various preserves which are served with the meals and also bottled and sold to visitors. According to articles I’ve read, some of their produce is grown and given to them by locals who have a glut of something or other, in return for lunch or a jar of pickles. I love that kind of community spirit. They even use and sell honey from bee hives on their roof, supplied and tended by a company called The Urban Beehive. It’s altogether a thoroughly feel-good kind of venture!
Today the menu features a lot of zucchini – roasted with okra as a side dish with harissa, feta and mint; in a salad with asparagus and grapefruit; and in the form of zucchini pickles. Everything that comes out of the kitchen is as pretty as a picture, full of vibrant colour, a love letter to fruits and vegetables, like a harvest festival on a plate! It’s very wholesome and healthy, but not even a little bit puritanical or worthy – it’s just fresh, beautifully presented, delicious food. We start with a latte for me, a strawberry, green apple and beetroot milkshake for Mr T, which comes in a glass jar with a straw (to me it’s just strawberry flavoured but Mr T can detect the earthiness of the beetroot), and a muffin to share.
The muffin is a thing of beauty: topped with pumpkin seeds and a slice of oven-dried nectarine, just below the crunchy surface is a well of ricotta (from local Italian cheese factory Paesanella) and then big chunks of fresh juicy nectarine, all subtly flavoured with cardamom.
We also order one each of the two ‘plates’ to share – the ploughmans plate and the Cornersmith plate. The ploughmans is meant to feature the wagyu corned beef but in fact comes with ham. When Mr T points this out later we receive an apology and a little dish of the beef to try – it’s full of flavour but a little dry and powdery on the tongue. The ham is moist and smokey and is accompanied by crumbly, bitey Maffra cheddar, dressed heirloom tomatoes with basil, zucchini pickles, a perfect sliced nectarine and toasted sesame seed sourdough. The Cornersmith plate consists of a little glass jar of chunky, herb-flecked house-smoked ocean trout terrine, creamy labneh sprinkled with caraway seeds, sharp pickled celery, a delightful salad of rocket, watercress, finely sliced blanched asparagus, zucchini and flaked almonds, and sesame seed toast drizzled with olive oil. I am absolutely in heaven as we pick, using only our hands, at these two laden wooden boards, vocal in our appreciation of the quality and flavours of the food.
I am entirely won over by my experience at Cornersmith today and it’s officially my new favourite Marrickville café. I want to eat there, support them, tell everyone about it and buy their pickles and jams. I’m a committed Cornersmith convert!
314 Illawarra Road, Marrickville
Visited 16 December 2012