I'm a teacher, musician, blogger and uni student living in Sydney and always dreaming about living & experiencing a new corner of the world. Visit my blog at www.youngoldtraveller.wordpress.com.
Published October 5th 2017
A Surry Hills cafe with everything you want
By now, many of you would have heard about Cuckoo Callay. It's been featured on just about every website and blog in Sydney for their gorgeous and immaculately presented brunches. Cuckoo Callay is also the mastermind behind the annual Bacon Festival (if you didn't go there this year, there's always next year). Situated conveniently outside Newtown train station, it had already established itself as everyone's go-to cafe in Newtown. And the story just gets better. When I heard about another Cuckoo Callay opening at Surry Hill's cultural hub of Crown Street, Cuckoo went straight to the top of my brunch bucket list.
With a view of the public library, the vibrant street scene and the ever-so-popular Clock Hotel on the other side of the road, Cuckoo Callay is already at the perfect location for a lazy Sunday to people watch and indulge on excellent food and coffee.
Cuckoo Callay's response during the marriage equality debate
Cuckoo Callay's character is immediately established as soon as you walk in, with a bright pink slogan running upstairs. While we didn't sit in the downstairs area, I knew I'd be back here soon. Here, witness its spacious white marble bench tops and Cuckoo's signature pink and teal furnitures, while soaking in plenty of sun, whether you're sitting inside or dining al fresco.
As we reached the top of the stairs, I screamed. Not the scary-movie kind of scream, but one out of pure excitement and joy. How could I forget? Cuckoo Callay has two dogs as their mascots! They weren't just ordinary dogs, they were small, light and fluffy Toy Poodles that you could hold in one arm while you hold your coffee in your other arm.
In fact, Cuckoo Callay cares about your favourite companions so much, that they even have a dogs only menu. Think pupcakes, pupachinos among other dog treats! Oh, if only every cafe could be as dog-friendly as Cuckoo!
The upstairs area is just as characteristic. With its fold-out windows, lots of colourful plants hanging from above, pink banquettes and teal stools, the interior design of this place embodied everything you wanted a Surry Hills cafe to have.
And then there was the food.... We first had an 'Emperor's New Pudding': forbidden rice pudding, rhubarb sorbet, lime crumble, caramelised banana and pistachio puff pastry. All the ingredients were cold, fresh and aromatic. I especially loved the blend of textures flavours in this dish. It was eccentric. It was complementary. It was indulgent. What a refreshing start to the meal!
We then had some sautéed potatoes with poached egg, hollandaise sauce and broccolini. For a dish with seemingly simple ingredients, this was definitely a classic dish to remember. I don't know about you, but I still get excited whenever I cut open a poached egg to see the yolk oozing out. When this doesn't happen, I am disappointed. However, Cuckoo delivered well and lived up to my expectations. In fact, everything about this dish was cooked to perfection. Now I know that if I don't feel experimental, this would be my go-to dish.
Then there was the 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest': Sautéed broccolini, baby kale, fresh peas and snow peas with wild grains, chermoula, Persian feta and activated almonds topped with a 63-degree poached egg. This dish was an absolute piece of art. I mean, just look at the perfect curvature that allowed the poached egg to just sit on! This dish was a wonderful blend of familiar and exotic flavours. With lots of green, protein and inviting flavours, I reckon this dish is everyone's favourite when they come to Cuckoo Callay for brunch.
We then had the 'She's My Cherry Kewpie': Chicken Karaage Burger, shredded Japanese coleslaw, toasted nori, furikake, wasabi kewpie mayonnaise served with gherkin. Now, this is a dish that starts trends! If I were a chef, I'd start putting wasabi mayo and nori (seaweed) in a burger. This dish was the heartiest in terms with its amount. It was fatty. It had strong flavours. It was an experimental east-meets-west, and very well done indeed. I'd say this was my favourite dish if I was in an experimental mood.
Before we started devouring our burgers, the sight of the infamous salted caramel milkshake caught my peripheral vision. This was creamy. This was full of salted caramel and popcorn. This was indulgent at its finest. I tell you, Cuckoo's milkshakes are something you must try when you're here. If you want a perfect Instagram shot, these trendy and yummy shakes are all you need. Plus, it provided a very tasty contrast to the foods we were obliterating.
I may be biased, but the next dish was my favourite simply because I'm an avid fan of eating lamb. I admit, I would almost always order a lamb dish at restaurants when possible. Lo and behold, the next dish was called 'Gang Lamb Style'. It was a lamb shoulder with Moroccan spices, couscous, chutney, mint and other elements that my ears didn't actually catch as I was already too busy concentrating on the dish. The lamb was cooked to perfection, so much so that the game smell was basically gone. It was easy to slide your knife through the meat. It had a combination of simple and complex flavours. We were smiling with every bite.
Last, but definitely not the least, my favourite part of any degustation- the dessert. We had the 'Chocolate Salty Balls': textural Alice of French toast coated in crunchy nut cornflakes topped with banana jam, house banana ice cream, two shards of exquisitely brittle chocolate meringue and a dusting of chocolate soil. I liked how our first dish had bananas and flowers, and now this last dish also had bananas and flowers. It was as if at the end of our exploration, we had arrived at the place we started at, and knew the place for the first time (Thanks T.S. Eliot- I'll never forget this quote). Jokes and quotes aside, this dish was such an indulgent way to end an indulgent experience at Cuckoo Callay on Crown. The French Toast was soaked in all the aforementioned flavours, but there wasn't anything that was overpowering. Who would've thought that bananas, chocolate and flowers blended so well? I'm definitely going to start trying some of these ideas out in the future. Prepare yourselves for the best French Toast you'll ever have.
I should also mention that for our whole experience, we had an amazing and flamboyant waiter. The descriptions we got of every dish was delivered with such enthusiasm, energy and wholeheartedness. He made sure he went around to every table and held actual conversations with everyone. He made funny comments, sassy comments and genuine comments overall. I can truly say that he made my Cuckoo Callay experience just that much more special.
All in all, I had an incredibly memorable experience at Cuckoo Callay. It provided everything you have ever hoped for in a Surry Hills cafe- chic vibes, good views, excellent blend of trendy foods. I have to thank Cuckoo for giving me so many cooking ideas! It's a shame that I didn't get a chance to try their coffee, but I have already started planning an upcoming brunch date there, so why haven't you?