A cafe that has two of my faves - fabulous food and books. I was invited to sample the latest menu at Ampersand Cafe & Bookstore in Paddington. This cafe is surrounded by an eclectic library of more than 30,000 pre-loved books. Specialising in buying and selling second-hand books, they are made available for you to browse through as you're enjoying your food or coffee.
If you are interested in selling your books, come along on Thursday, Saturday or Sunday from 10am to 4pm and have a chat with the book curators. I know it's hard to part with your cherished books, but this cafe is a beautiful home where they can be appreciated by other readers.
When my friend and I arrived, we were pleasantly surprised at the ambience and buzzy feel of the cafe. The welcoming smells of coffee, chai and food melded together enticing us in. It was a particularly warm and bright Autumn day, so Sydney sunshine was streaming in throughout the ground floor of the cafe. With three levels, including an outdoor patio, there are many different areas for you to enjoy sitting, eating, chatting or browsing books.
My friend Mark and I sampling the new menu. Photo courtesy of Andre from CPM Online Marketing.
The other surprise is the variety and age of books available, there are many current books from popular authors that look brand new. Book bargains abound with genres from fiction, non-fiction, crime, romance, classics and so many more. There are even pre-wrapped books for only $10, which includes the price of a coffee. Surprise yourself, you may find a book you would never have thought to read.
The table where we were seated is on the ground level, which is a thoroughfare from the front cafe to the kitchen in the back. This table and the two others on this level are laptop-free space. On the patio, lower level and upstairs areas you are welcome to use devices. The other areas are conducive to working on laptops, they are more intimate, library-style spaces. Once you ensconce yourself either upstairs or downstairs, you would never know you are in the middle of a busy city. The outside patio area is more for people who enjoy the city buzz.
The upstairs and downstairs levels have lovely areas to explore. I sampled this dish, the tasty smokey flavour of the mushrooms was devine. Photo courtesy of Andre from CPM Online Marketing
The food is generous and flavoursome with Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences. We sampled three dishes accompanied with the Capi Cola and Spicy Ginger Australian-made soft drinks; the seven spice Chai (made in-house) and for dessert, the signature Brownie and the Black Sticky Rice Pudding. Both were amazing but the brownie was a standout for me. Made with homemade almond meal, it is the softest, most melt-in-your-mouth brownie I have tasted. It was so good I purchased one to take home.
The Beef Brisket Benedict was tender and slightly spicy, just enough to give it a full flavour. The serving is generous and is definitely a great choice for brunch or lunch. It would be especially comforting on a cold day.
Smokey mushrooms tossed with semi-dried tomatoes were a lighter combination in the second dish we tried.
Not being a smoked salmon lover, I have to admit I didn't try the third dish. Mark, however, thoroughly enjoyed it saying the salmon did not overpower the other ingredients.
There are lots of cafe staples available as well and the lunchtime takeaway menu is full of healthy options. Speaking of healthy options, Irene, the cafe's owner, told us about the almond milk she makes herself. From this comes the almond meal she adds to her brownies. Any wonder they are so delicious.
Irene and her staff pride themselves on looking after people with intolerances, which is one of the reasons for the homemade almond milk. They use chemical-free, fresh produce and it certainly shows in the taste and quality of the food.
Cafe staples like croissants and scrolls with coffee or chai are always available to eat in or takeaway. Photo courtesy of Andre from CPM Online Marketing
This cafe is housed in a beautiful old building with a homely, relaxed feel. Each area has been decorated with furnishings, artwork and books that welcome you to stay awhile. It is also licensed for dining with musicians and music students encouraged to perform. The whole place has a vibe of encouraging artistic pursuits.
Downstairs has a fireplace, fits twenty people comfortably and is often used for groups. One such group comes regularly to learn French. Both downstairs and upstairs areas are suitable for groups and functions. To inquire about booking these areas, click here.
The new menu at the Ampersand Cafe & Bookstore in Paddington is not the only reason to visit this quaint cafe. With a library of second-hand books to browse through and purchase, this cafe is an absolute must for book lovers. With three levels of books, cosy nooks and spaces, and food right there when you're done reading, this is a must visit for book lovers and foodies alike. I can certainly see how this cafe has become an institution on busy Oxford Street. It is a must-visit place for anyone spending time in Sydney, once inside you are transported to a quiet haven of great food, books, coffee and homemade chai.
We enjoyed the Black Sticky Rice Pudding with the Seven Spice Chai.