From the “I’m glad you exist” files is Clementine’s in Pyrmont. Sure, the menu is as tight and tiny as the space, but it proves you don’t have to go blockbuster big to make a point. My fave thing here is the Belluci ($10), which is a mushroom thyme sub that’s just an excellent transit point for lots of melted provolone, really. (And mushies, herbs and cheese always are solid partners in sandwich-enhancing crime; thanks radicchio for giving us licence to think this sambo might be remotely healthy.)
That’s not the only sammich on the menu – in fact, there’s one literally with that name that’s a toastie with fried egg and BBQ sauce (from $7). And Myffy Rigby name-checked The Godfather for its heavyhitter status as a meatball sub (she also noted in her review that you can get a Nutella hot choc as well, if that’s your thing).
My thing is finding it hard to decide between the Vegetarian Reuben or having the Belluci yet again when I take my friend Hetty on her recent Sydney visit – and then we end up going best-of-both-worlds and halving the two. (I totally back anyone else who makes this indecision-justifying choice also.)
Turns out that cafe owner Eric Mendoza (Bloodwood, Porteno, Baxter Inn) is a vegetarian, too, and that’s why there’s a decent line-up of vego-friendly choices on the menu. (There’s also the option to protein-boost your order if you like, by adding American bacon, pastrami or corned beef to a Grand Central breakfast bun of scrambled eggs, Swiss cheese and caramelised onion that happens to be a tribute to LA’s Eggslut or you can also pro-actively sneak smoked salmon into the Herschel bagel that already hides pastrami, capers and cream cheese.)
The drinks list is tidy, too – you can get Single Origin cold drip, regular-flavour espresso options via Blind Coffee Roaster or filter brew from the Moccamaster the cafe inherited from the last owners. There’s Sticky chai and good iced teas if you’re skipping the beans. A recent addition: the sodas, which include an amaretto-like Almond, Lemon and Coriander Soda ($5), Bitter Grapefruit and Basil Soda ($5) and my favourite, the Elderflower and Thyme Soda ($5).
There are some snackable pastries, too. On the counter are Salted Pecan and Dulce de Leche Muffins ($4) and slices of family-recipe Zucchini Bread ($4).
The decor is pretty old-school, to the point that there’s an amazingly ancient cash register that they use on the counter (it’s retro-cute and still works). Eric joked that the relic is worth more than the cafe itself. But for me, having this small-but-great eatery in Pyrmont (which is not a place overrun with amazing options), is priceless in other, not-so-eBay-auctionable ways.