When you first start going out with someone, one of the nicest things is meeting their group of friends. You’re introduced to a ready-made group of pretty amazing people, without having to go through the years-in-the-making work of finding them from the unknown crowd, one by one, right from scratch.
If number one spot goes to the actual person and number two is their friends, then the third-nicest thing about going out with someone is becoming familiar with all their cafe and breakfast favourites. It’s a sudden and wonderful entry to a well-edited world of good food and new discoveries – without any of the blind testing and bad meals endured to learn what would deserve regular attendance.
This is how I first came across Vargabar in Newtown – on introduction from Will. It became my de facto cafe and I even adopted it, recommending it to other friends like it was my own personally-researched discovery.
It’s funny, before Will clued me in to Vargabar, I never ever considered going there. Even though I’d been going to Newtown for years – and walked past the cafe countless times – I had some silly bias against it. I just didn’t know anyone who went there, so I (dopishly) assumed that it wasn’t really that good.
So, thanks to Cupid for expanding one’s cafegoing horizons. Because I really like Vargabar, I like it a lot. (And: “You don’t just talk about it, man, you talk about it a lot.”)
It’s one of my favourite places to have breakfast in Sydney, for the following reasons.
1. Because Vargabar’s Potatoes ($3) are just crispy, carb-hogging bliss. Every meal I order is architecturally built around the side of potatoes I am going to have at this cafe. The potatoes are just cubed goodness – the perfect-sized medium between the thin, golden badness (regrettableness) of deepfryer-shocked chips and the Sunday roast saintliness of roasted spuds. Any smaller and it’d be all brittle from heat and oil, any bigger and you feel like you’re eating parent-pleasing vegies.
2. The awesome, inspired drinks. If your friend orders the Raspberry & Coconut Smoothie ($5) and offers you a sip, you will (on first thought) brand them as your instant hero. The smoothie is that good. The coconutty-shreds, the berry smoothness, the disbelief that no one has (seemingly) thought of this combo before. Then you’ll kinda resent your pal for having such a fabulous drink – giveth and taketh-ing away so easily. The only remedy is making sure you remember to order it yourself, forever onwards.
The other beverage combinations are bound to get your table talking – I haven’t tried the Tim Tam and Strawberry or Peach, Maple and Macadamia smoothie, but they sound like a lot of fun.
I do like the Blueberries, Raspberries, Orange Zest and Thyme ($5) drink though – a jolt of slight weirdness, but after a few tastebud-realigning gulps, it is totally refreshing.
If you are a health nut, you can get your drink spiked with LSA (50c), but most people will probably use the appearance of linseed, sunflower and almond mix on the menu as a cue to make tenuous jokes about having LSD with your breakfast.
3. Lots of good, eclectic breakfast options – from Sweet Potato and Sesame Pancakes with Avocado, Spinach and Sweet Chilli ($13.50) to Vargabar Baked Borlotti Beans with Tomato, Leek and Thyme on Toasted Baguette ($9.90) and other side-stacking brekky combinations; from the health-freak choices (hello muesli!) to the sweet-tooth tempters (one day, I WILL have the Blueberry Pancakes with Orange Passion Butter). The only problem is finding enough table room for your elbows after your multiple dishes arrive.
4. Really nice staff. In general, they are pretty sweet, but one time, Will had a hangover and one of the waitresses offered him her own personal stash of Panadol. (Even though the menu caters for the weary-feeling – the Vargabar Massive! ($18.50) includes all your fried and stomach-filling cravings plus juice and a Berocca.) In fact, she was one of the nicest waitresses we’d encountered.
5. The amusing semi-disco in the toilet. It’s semi-lit in a nightclub-flattering (or stuck-in-a-red-lens filter) kind of way. There’s chalk and a blackboard for you to leave philosophical musings on the door. There’s even an oversized pot plant to keep you company.
6. It’s highly friend-converting. OK, so we haven’t recruited stadium-loads of people to the Vargabar cause, but there were definitely doubters who have completely swayed. Some friends have wondered if it’s changed owners or management in the last while, because it’s exponentially much much better than when they last went (ages ago). To the point that they’re now out-frequenting us when it comes to Vargabar visits.
The only drawbacks to Vargabar are 1) it is rather small (but it’s never been hopelessly hard to get a table I’ve found – knock wood) and 2) it is cruelly not open on Sundays, which is prime breakfast-gallivanting time.
I guess it can’t all be rosy-eyed perfection (like relationships at the start!). Still, it makes my heart hum.
Vargabar, 10 Wilson St, Newtown NSW 2042 (02) 9517 1932