Berry’s artisan bakery becomes a charming bistro at night, thanks to a husband-and-wife team. Simon Thomsen reports.
Driving home after dinner at Berry Sourdough Cafe, I bought some of the local catch; morwong, leatherjacket and squid, from a waterfront fish shop. Trade was brisk. The most popular fish there? Tasmanian salmon.
So I have some sympathy for chef John Evans, who produces evening meals at this cult bakery. Local kingfish ran out and fish of the day is now barramundi, served with saffron, kipfler potatoes, tomato, olives and a shellfish sauce, $33. It’s a beautifully cooked fillet, the skin crisp, flesh moist, and given John’s local produce philosophy, I’m looking forward to barra fishing on the Shoalhaven River. Not. Sometimes you’ve just gotta roll with your fish supplier.
Berry Sourdough Bakery And Cafe is a decade old this Easter. Artisan baker Joost Hilkemeijer and his brother Jelle restored this rundown 117-year-old heritage-listed warehouse, which spent much of its time as a bakery, and relit the two brick wood-fired ovens. By day, it’s a cafe with a constant stream of takeaway bread, pastry and coffee buyers. Others linger for breakfasts of smoked tomato and manchego omelet with chilli jam, $16.50, and brioche french toast, $16.50. Lunch includes sourdough with dips, $8, potted ocean trout, $19, and linguine with prawns, $23.
John and his wife, Sonia Greig, decided to seachange south from Sydney two years ago, having proved themselves at Rozelle’s Three Weeds & then Merivale’s CBD. One year ago, they began offering sophisticated bistro dinners three nights a week. John’s sole territory is dinner. His small menu has three entrees, four mains and three desserts, plus cheese, supplemented by a couple of blackboard specials. The wood-fired oven is put to good use and, not surprisingly, bread also plays a part in some dishes. Pork and rabbit rillettes with a creamy granny smith apple dressing and sourdough croutons, $19, is a fine starter to share. A shallow puck of the rich, shredded meat is crowned by a jumble of watercress and parsley, with the sliver of crisp pork crackling balancing on top, a nice, crunchy touch. Colourfully pretty basil and orange-cured salmon, $20, is thinly sliced and scattered around the plate amid, crab, shaved radish and fennel, small tomatoes and rocket and tastes as good as it looks. The same applies to the baby beetroot salad with Meredith goat’s curd, asparagus, croutons and hazelnut dressing. What looks like a croquette sits on top of sliced roast sirloin – normally beef, which is sold out so now it’s veal and no lesser dish for it – with pea and bacon puree and port jus, $34. The menu also mentions red wine butter, but I don’t see it until biting into that little crumbed nugget. Its liquid contents squirt all over me. It’s nonetheless a delightful dish. And the stains came out. Eventually.
The affordable wine list flits between France, Italy, home and even nearby Coolangatta winery’s semillon, $29. Sonia leads the chirpy service. For dessert, the soft meringue with lemon curd, poached cherries and lemon verbena jelly, $15, just misses the mark. However, a chocolate and espresso mousse with raspberry sorbet and wattleseed crumbs, $15, is worth a longer beach walk in the morning before heading back to the bakery for a prune tart.
How it rated
- Food: 14/20
- Staff: 8/10
- Drink: 3/5
- X-factor: 4/5
- Value: 8/10
- The score out of 50 – 37
Berry Sourdough Cafe’s details
- Address: 23 Prince Alfred St, Berry; Phone (02) 4464 1617
- Food: Contemporary
- Drink: Licensed. Small international list; BYO $10 per bottle
- Hours: Breakfast Wed-Sun 8am-11.15am; Lunch Wed-Sun 11.30am- 3pm; Dinner Thurs-Sat 6pm-10pm
- Chef: John Evans (dinner only)
- Price guide: Entrees $18-$20; Mains $29-$34; Desserts $15
- Snapshot: Always a popular daytime destination, this now has extra appeal, thanks to bistro cooking by John Evans.