Review: Cafe Ish, Surry Hills, Sydney37

Posted on January 18, 2009 by ChristieRestaurants


[Native pepper pork loin on roasted pumpkin w/ housemade tomato relish]

Have you ever been yelled at by a chef and a barista for taking photos in a cafe? Well now I have. Don’t worry though, this story has a happy ending.

On Saturday I went to lunch with my friend and fellow blogger, Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella, her husband Mr NQN (apt, huh?) and my husband Dillon (there you go, The Bear’s real name is Dillon). We went to Cafe Ish in Surry Hills.

We were meant to go on a picnic to Palm Beach, but alas, mother nature had it in for us and produced the only overcast day in more than a fortnight. Lorraine had even baked a delicious rustic picnic pie which I never got to taste – cranky!

When we realised that it was indeed too windy for a picnic we started thinking of places to go out instead. Lorraine has a permanent long list of places she wants to visit so I just let her to choose.

Sushi Suma, her first option, was closed. But then she remembered an excellent review for Cafe Ish she’d seen recently on another food blog, The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry. It was full of praise for the owner slash head chef Josh and his business partner slash barista Ai. We decided to check it out.

As soon as Mr NQN’s (massive) cup of coffee arrived he whipped out his camera and took a quick pic. The coffee looked great. It had a perfectly textured crema and pretty heart shaped design on top.

While Mr NQN was taking the photo someone stormed up behind us and loudly shouted – I mean, Gordon-Ramsey-style-loud – ‘no pictures’. He was extremely agitated. It was Josh, the owner. To be honest, it scared the crap out of me, I’ve never encountered this before. Mostly people are happy to get free publicity from food bloggers.

The barista and co-owner, Ai, was also very upset about us taking photos so Lorraine and I approached the counter. We chatted with her for a while and handed over our business cards / blog addresses while she explained that professional reviewers always ask before taking pictures. (Point taken, we should have).

She mentioned that other bloggers had been taking photos of their coffee and comparing them with other surrounding cafes on their blogs. Apparently she doesn’t like being compared online and asked us to email her when the post goes live so she can read it.

With the drama over we settled into good conversation and the occasional request from the colourful locals for spare change or to lend a lighter. Our reply was always the same; ‘sorry, we don’t smoke’.

When the food arrived all was forgiven. I think I got the best thing on the menu followed closely by Lorraine’s choice of Japanese style omelette with soft shell crab. Actually, Cafe Ish is famous in the food blogosphere for that omelette, and although it wasn’t on the menu Josh made it for her anyway. Nice!

My dish of the native pepper pork was absolutely beautiful. The pork was juicy and flavoursome with a thick layer of crisp fat (see pic above) and the accompanying pumpkin was heavily spiced and aromatic. No complaints either about the housemade relish; sweet, spicy, sour and perfectly seasoned.

The boys had a wagyu beef burger (I didn’t taste it, but the bun was a little singed) and a Japanese curry with crocodile, apple, muntharies (native Aussie berries) and lemon myrtle flavoured rice. I haven’t eaten crocodile before and was surprised that it tasted like a cross between pork and fish with the texture similar to a firm fish like monk.

After our meal Josh headed over to our table to apologise for his outburst. We thought this was very kind and can totally understand how hot it gets in the kitchen. Couple that with some bad food blogger experiences and I’d probably shout too.

We followed him back to the kitchen (tiny!) and chatted about how on earth he makes such wonderful food in such a small space and without gas! I can’t believe it, especially when we learn that everything is made on the premises, except for the bread and the ice cream.

Josh tells us that there’s a special ice cream flavour made just for Cafe Ish; Wattleseed and Macadamia. Our eyes widen with the intriguing combination and he quickly offers us a scoop. To my delight it’s not overly sweet and the macadamias are still crunchy. Delicious.

So it’s true, something good can definitely come of something bad, sometimes. I recommend Cafe Ish for good coffee, excellent food that’s ethically sourced and passionate owners. Just ask them first before whipping out your camera.

Happy eating! Christie x

PS. For another opinion on how it all went down and lots more photos, check out Lorraine’s post at Not Quite Nigella.

Cafe Ish (currently no website)
82 Campbell Street
Surry hills, corner foster and campbell
Ph: +61 2 9281 1312

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