Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gluten-free grazing at four favourite Annandale cafes

Working in Annandale over the past year, I have been taste-testing a number of the suburb's cafes. In the process I have discovered the following four favourites that cater for coeliacs like me and those on a gluten-free (GF) diet. 

For those of you who don't know where Annandale is, it's between three and five kilometres from Sydney's CBD and is within the Leichhardt Municipality. It is the next-door suburb to Glebe to the east, Leichhardt to the west, Balmain to the north and Stanmore to the south. Infamous Kings Cross property developer Abe Saffron was born there, Cold Chisel guitarist Ian Moss is a resident, and American author Mark Twain visited the suburb. He stayed at the home of Sir Henry Parkes, the father of Federation, who died in Annandale on 27 April 1896. I have also spotted a few of The Chaser boys drinking coffee at The Little Marionette On The Dale cafe on the corner of Albion and Trafalgar streets.

Cafe on Johnston

At 63 Johnston Street, opposite the tall spire of the Hunter Baillie Church is Cafe on Johnston. A favourite with locals for more than 14 years, this friendly spot is particularly popular with St Brendan's Primary mothers and their under-5s, who stop in for a morning coffee after dropping their older kids at the nearby school

I came across this review of Cafe on Johnston on Eatability, which describes it well: "It's not your usual trendy cafe (so many of which seem to be popping up everywhere) but it's got good heart and is not intimidating to walk into!"

It also serves delicious food and owners' Lee and Rob have always been very helpful in catering for my GF needs. They stock a particularly delicious GF bread which I had the other day topped with pesto, eggplant, red pepper and artichokes. Other choices include smoked salmon, capers, cream cheese, Spanish onion or tomato chutney, roasted pumpkin, eggplant and spinach. They also offer a range of tasty salads with at least one usually GF, 'create your own omelettes', and hearty soups in winter.

Revolver Cafe

At 291 Annandale Street, around the corner from Annandale North Public School, is the very cool Revolver. Original owner Rod, who recently sold to Mark, opened the cafe in 2009 in one of the suburb's old corner shop buildings.  The circa 1893 building was originally intended to be a pub but when the upper class gentry who lived in North Annandale (and some may say have returned) objected it became a general store and residence. 

On the cafe's website original owner Rod explains where the name comes from. "I have a John Lennon signed copy of the Beatles Revolver album which I think was the pivotal point in their career, as was this cafe so pivotal in my career. I have also always had a thing for cogs and all things revolving like the inner workings of some fantastical machine so revolver just fitted."

Revolver is full of character with friendly, efficient service, great coffee and innovative food. The mother of former owner Rod makes all the cakes including GF orange syrup cake, lemon and lime friands and a moist, coconut-filled, delicious banana bread. Many of the breakfast options are GF and bread-based items like eggs Benedict or burgers can be substituted with GF bread.

Esther's Table

Away from Annandale's main retail area of Johnstone and Booth Streets is the delightful Esther's Table. On the corner of Annandale and Reserve Streets, it is named after Esther Abrahams, the convict wife of Major George Johnston.  A captain of one of the First Fleet ships, George Johnston met his Jewish milliner wife on the journey to Australia. They set up home in Annandale after he was granted 100 acres in the area. Johnston named the suburb after Annan, his birthplace in Scotland.

The cafe has had a number of owners over the years, and some of you may remember it as Hopscotch or Beth's Place. The corner 1902 grocery store building and outdoor area has a nice aspect and seems to be bathed in sunshine for a good part of the day.  In terms of GF options, owner Rose Saunders usually stocks GF banana bread and a number of other sweet treats to accompany a coffee. GF bread is mostly available, although the stocked brand is not as nice as the one at Cafe on Johnston. Esther's Table's breakfasts are particularly delicious and there are a number of GF options.

Clover Cafe

Another local favourite is Clover on the western side of Booth Street just down from the Annandale Post Office.  Clover stocks Naturis Organic Buckwheat loaf GF bread, which waitress Maddie said had received many positive comments from patrons. In the sweet stakes Clover offers lemon and poppy seed polenta cakes and GF brownies.

On the day I lunched there, I enjoyed the mint and lime poached chicken salad with a cucumber, coriander and sesame oil dressing. I have also tried the Clover Greek Salad which includes chunky cucumber, cherry tomatoes, Persian feta, fresh mind and parsley, rock salt-roasted beetroot with a punchy fattoush dressing. Another favourite is the grilled haloumi with watermelon, artichoke hearts, pesto, semi-dried tomatoes and salad greens. Clover has an app which can be downloaded for free at:

Next time: Annandale's coeliac-friendly restaurants