One of us likes the simple things, the other, adventure. But for better or worse, we are dining partners for life! We aim to provide you 2 perspectives in our reviews. After all, there's no wrong way to eat a reese's; or a jalebi. -Plebe Epicure
Published May 16th 2016
A secret edible garden
Situated on the corner of Darling and Elliott Streets, the Hanging Ladder blends right into the strip of cafes and boutiques that dot Balmain. You'd have thought it was an establishment; however, it is only a month old and still waiting to be discovered by locals and out-of-towners alike. Peeking in, the café looks like any other from the front: a couple of little tables squeezed together, a large espresso machine, and a glass case with baked goods. As with most gems, however, to find them you must first do a little digging.
View from Darling Street
If you pass through the café, past the kitchen, the bathroom and down the stairs, you'll discover a little treasure trove of seating options. This is a place to stay for a while. This is a place for tete-a-tetes, for reading, for writing. A huge window overlooks a gorgeous courtyard, bedecked with herbs, succulents, and flowers growing around and up the sides of the walls. Inside, cozy couches invite deep conversation. Large, playful, wall paintings of birds and trees liven the atmosphere and bring the outside in. The layout is ample, so much so that your conversations won't intermingle with the diners at the table next to you.
Joining a few other locals who were quietly chatting or reading morning papers, we pulled up a chair in the sunny garden area. Tea was served on a silver tray in patterned china, the hot chocolate arrived with a beautiful pink marshmallow that tasted of jam. Herb-infused water was served along side.
Perusing the menu, the breakfast options are mostly savoury old standards with a few exceptions: for example, a brekky salad with kale and quinoa, a cured salmon omelet. But these standards are beautifully presented. Their aim is that the roasted truss tomatoes (a side) go straight from plant to oven to plate. The bread is artisan and served in large, thick slabs, and every plate is adorned with a sprinkle of herbs and edible flowers, hand-picked off the living wall growing in the back.
The living herb wall
One of us ordered the Benedict, the other, the Brekky Salad. I'd characterize these as a "hangover cure" and, a "detox." A smattering of quinoa provided texture to the well-dressed rocket and spinach and left me with no guilt. The hollandaise was excellent, though reportedly the quantity was "just sufficient." But the Plebian always cries for more. Between the three eggs on our plates, two were perfectly poached – cooked whites, runny yolks –the third, a little overdone. But overall, this was a good start to our morning with prices comparable to most Balmain cafes ($12-19/plate).
Other dining options included a good array of fresh juices and smoothies, handmade; and lunch which includes a range of sandwiches, all day eggs, and mains. I took a cappuccino to go: delicious as expected with coffee made from Gabriel coffee beans.
Bottom line: This place is going to come into its own as word gets out. It's a fantastic place to spend a few hours with friends, and the food is just healthy enough to feel like you've done right by your New Year's resolutions. They take bookings for larger parties who can be well accommodated in the back room.
Pro tip: The back wall of the courtyard aligns with the back alley, ignoring the garbage cans on the other side, this makes for an excellent discreet entrance for pooch to join in the courtyard without walking him through the restaurant.