It was a sweltering summer's day as we made our way down the shady side alley at Sassafras Canteen and selected a table-for-two-plus-dog underneath a large canvas umbrella. Our waitress delivered a couple of menus and immediately asked, 'Would your precious pooch like some water?' I grinned. This was a good sign. Here were staff who had their priorities straight.
My dog drank deep from the proffered bowl, stretched, then settled down for a nap - which was the cue for me and my other companion to peruse the extensive Sassafras Canteen menu. Serving breakfast, brunch and lunch till 2pm daily, this little gem is housed in a converted workers' cottage on Paddington's humming Latrobe Terrace. However, the lush courtyard out the back, with its palm trees, potted plants, wall gardens, small pond and odd stray scrub turkey chick, spells anything but busy high street.
Sassafras Canteen's bright and breezy interior. Author image.
Known as the Sassafras Cafe until its recent revamp, the Sassafras Canteen has remained in the care of the same skilful hands for almost the past two decades. So what's new? A liquor licence, for starters, which allows people to sit out back and enjoy a craft beer, cider or wine with their dog in tow. There's also a new canteen style lunch where guests can choose meals, including salads, savoury tarts, gluten-free quiches and sandwiches from what's behind the counter. There's even whole-baked salmon on Fridays.
My advice would be to get there early. We arrived just after 1pm and there were only a couple of sandwiches left behind after the lunchtime rush. No matter, though, for breakfast options such as ricotta hotcakes, brekky burgers and eggs Benedict were still being served, along with what the menu describes as 'brunchy things' such as garlic mushrooms on toast, chilli corn fritters and the crab omelette.
And then there are the hot dogs. Man, these are good. Cheekily reflecting the dog-friendly theme, varieties include Duke the Doberman (Texas chilli beef sausage, avocado, chipotle mayo, jalapeno, chives) and Peter the Poodle (red bean and beetroot falafel, chipotle and roasted garlic aioli, avocado, tomato and shallot salsa). I chose Louis the Dachshund (smokey beef sausage, sauerkraut, European mustard and house relish) and opted for a meal deal which threw in a side of sweet potato fries and a drink as well. Flavoursome, moreish and excellent value.
From Friday to Sunday, Sassafras Canteen's new 'Bar in the Garden' is also open from 2pm to 9.30pm for fur babies and their owners who like to stay up late.
Located on Paddington's Latrobe Terrace. Author image.