So Meet Gerard has staged an impressive introduction on this borderline between Alexandria, Redfern and Erskineville. On a corner that’s seen a wipeout of short-lived cafes (RIP), this eatery has not only scored lasting attention, it’s quickly become busy and much-visited.
As I wrote in Good Food, Meet Gerard “might finally break the curse of ever-rotating cafes” – and that’s not because the owners have access to some mega-strength (or fate-overturning) lucky charm; it’s because Meet Gerard is across-the-board excellent.
There’s plenty to lure you through the doorframe – from a “Best Roast Chicken Sandwich Ever” ($10) to Granny Smith’s French Toast ($17; it’s the best kind of fruit-bowl raid), Hand-Cut Chips with Paprika Rosemary Salt ($6), Peanut Butter and Banana Cake ($5) and beyond.
Even if you were unaware of Meet Gerard’s team (and their high-cafe-cred past), you’d be intrigued by their cliche-ditching menu. Sure, you might spot avo on toast (which is kind of becoming the invasive weed of cafe menus, isn’t it?), but it’s given such an inviting rethink, that you wouldn’t penalise Meet Gerard for taking a familiar move and making it worth paying attention to. Here, the avo does come predictably “smashed”, but then it’s given the heat and zing of pickled chilli, plus the toasty pep of yuzu sesame seeds and salty crumble of feta, and guac-like lime and coriander. The yuzu-toasted sesame seeds give a bright pop of flavour that makes Regular Joe avocado-on-toast seem like it should just retire out of embarrassment.
Meet Gerard’s menu doesn’t have that prefab feel that some cafes can feel guilty of – every listed item seems lively, vivid and cliche free. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise given the strong team behind the cafe – barista Mariella Traina previously ran The Counter in Petersham and Sarah McWilliam was a chef at Marrickville’s much-loved West Juliett; here, they’ve reconnected since their days at The Counter.
And together they’ve really raided the paintbox for colourful ideas – like the ‘Milk & Honey’ dish ($15) which is apparently “a breakfast story by Meet Gerard”, but no need to dog-ear anything or remind yourself of the plot developments, this is a straight-up delicious breakfast dish. It might have a lot of elements – like an elaborate book chapter – but it all locks together perfectly: there’s yoghurt panna cotta with buttermilk jelly, rhubarb and vanilla compote, honey-coated puffed rice, granola that’s house-made and full of crunch and snap, and a good overspill of dragonfruit, in-season berries and kiwifruit.
I also love the Granny Smith’s French Toast ($17), which really is a crusty, stretched-out transportation service for house-made ricotta and baked-sweet wedges of apple, surrounded by a tideline of whey caramel (currently a frontrunner for best-ever use of leftover ricotta whey) and a nine-spice crumble so addictive that diners have actually asked for a scoop of it specifically, just as a stand-alone side you’d order (like an extra egg or bacon and haloumi).
There’s something in that ginger-cinnamon mix that unlatches the need to just keep trying more.
Meet Gerard isn’t afraid of aiming high and so its declaration-making “Best Roast Chicken Sandwich Ever” is definitely going to get thoroughly cross-examined by sambo nerds. The sandwich sets itself apart with its “picnic stuffing” – a roast-worthy mix of stuffing, which includes cranberries, mushrooms, and lemon zest. People are so curious about this mystery stuffing that it’s actually the cafe’s most-asked query. Well, Will was not compelled to investigate further, because the whole experience was such a satisfying full stop: roasted chook with roast-like stuffing, plus herbed aioli and peppery rocket, it was good in such a self-explanatory way; no further questions, your honour.
I could fill this write-up with a trail mix of compliments (“I liked the mandarin and kaffir lime house-made soda!”; “how good were the chips?”; “that salad sandwich definitely busts the cliche that they all have to be sad and thrill-free experiences!”), but I think it’s worth you meeting Gerard yourself, if you haven’t already done so. He’s a character that you’ll want to spend breakfast, lunch and countless mealtimes with. I like what he’s done to the neighbourhood, too.