The bustling Darling street in Balmain is home to a number of cafes but not many have stood there for decades like Contessa Balmain. This one is a local favourite and has constantly re-invented itself and kept the buzz going.
My first impression was the flurry of activities in the cafe; The takeaway coffee customers lining up and patiently waiting for their coffee; the chatty conversations I could hear around and the warm exchange of greetings between the cafe staff and customers; the customers seated in the outdoor area treating themselves to a view of the iconic Balmain post office and local court building. From what I could tell, it was just a regular Saturday morning at the cafe; alive, busy and happy.
We were promptly seated and got our coffee orders started as we looked through the menu to decide on breakfast. The takeaway coffee queue however just didn't subside and we knew why as soon as our coffee arrived. The coffee was from the ground roasters of The Grounds of Alexandria fame. It was smack-bang perfect and absolutely divine. A perfect 10 on 10.
The decor is very rustic and the menu card has a similar theme to it. With copper pipes running through the cafe ceiling, exposed brick wall to one side, warm yellow lighting, the cafe is filled with textures and has a well-grounded character to it.
I absolutely have to make a mention of the froggicino. The toddler at the table beside ours seemed to order one and we were more excited than the toddler himself when it arrived. It was super cute to look at and the little one was absolutely delighted to gulp it down.
We had a chat to Marco, the owner, who gave us his take on the breakfast menu and some of the must-have items. Marco has brought his Italian touch to the menu and added some American inspiration to make it a wonderful combination of both. The brekky burrito was an all-time favourite that he recommended. With a generous squeeze of chipotle mayo, the burrito was everything it ought to be - filling, fresh and flavoursome.
At this stage, we were a group of satisfied breakfast goers, however, Marco steps in again and draws our attention to the specials wall and we all go weak in the knees at the sound of Nutella and at the sight of the Nutella doughnuts in the pastry window.
The Nutella french toast just sealed the deal for us. Not too sweet, no Nutella overload, it was just the perfect proportion of Nutella goodness. Topped with toasted muesli, toasted nuts, dry coconut flakes, fresh strawberries and with maple syrup dripping down the side of the wooden board, every bite was a mouthful of goodness.
If you are not an early morning person, try the brunch menu at Contessa or even better, make it a boozy lunch. A pet-friendly cafe like Contessa has something for everyone. The loyal locals who frequent Contessa are a testament to that and Marco and his team are constantly striving to improve and experiment with new things in the cafe. If you haven't had a chance to get to Contessa in a while, perhaps this is a good excuse to get there.
Spot on!!! As a Balmain local for 6 years... Contessa was a religion for myself on my own, with my daughter & whoever else had the privilege of being taken here by me :) this review is so perfect Marco! Everything she said was exactly how it is & has been at Contessa & why it's so well-loved by locals & visitors alike ... we miss you guys & will be down after Christmas