Devon Cafe continues to offer beautifully presented, delicious food. Desserts/sweets are especially on point. Service is friendly, though the ambiance in the front half of the cafe is disappointing (too crowded). Definitely get a seat in the courtyard if possible.
Presentation: GREAT | Taste: GOOD | Ambiance: AVERAGE (based on the front half of the cafe) | Verdict: 4/5 (SHOULD TRY)
Now I’m no expert, but back when the cafe scene in Sydney was first taking off, there were two cafes I would often here about: the first was the Grounds of Alexandria, and the second was Devon Cafe. Both of these cafes were (and still are) Insta-famous, offering dishes that were beautiful and Instagram-worthy.
Fast forward to 2015, and Sydney is now filled with an overwhelming number of cafes, each offering their own instagrammable dishes. And while cafes have come and gone, Devon Cafe have remained a fixture in Sydney’s flourishing cafe scene.
Having visited only once before almost a year ago, I decided to give Devon Cafe another visit (in no small part thanks to the competition they were running with the Jugernauts).
Devon Cafe’s menu, while containing a mix of Asian fusion and cafe-style items, is somewhat limited. For mains (and by main, I mean a main with some sort of meat), they only offer two fish dishes, one chicken dish, and one pork dish. There were also only two desserts on offer (excluding their baked goods available from the counter).
Now, thanks to Instagram, I already knew that I wanted both the desserts. The only problem was the main. As I am not a huge fish fan, that left only two dishes, and because one of those was a burger (which, as tempting as it was, I’ve had way too many of recently), I decided to go for the only one that was left: the PORKY PIG.
Now this dish had its up and downs. I found the smoked ham hock croquette somewhat disappointing. The exterior was nice and crisp, as a croquette should be, but I found that the smoked ham hock was lacking in flavour. There was a subtle pork taste there, but that was not enough to satisfy me.
That being said, the croquette was saved when coupled with the awesome onion puree. The natural sweetness of the (caramelised?) onions added a much needed flavour boost to the otherwise lacking croquettes – especially combined with the apple. Pork + caramelised onions + apple? Yes please!
The other stand-out ingredient was the smoked pork and maple sausage – no cheap pork sausage here! The sausage had a subtle smokiness that blended well with the much stronger sweetness of the maple. That, combined with the sweetness of the onion puree, and the sweet/tartness of the green apple? Heaven.
The remaining ingredients: the pork crackle, while crispy, and the fried egg, served in a nice limbo state between solid and runny, were also welcome additions to the dish, though were a bit superfluous. In my opinion, they were more for presentation more than anything else.
And speaking of presentation, this was a fairly well presented dish. It had a nice earthy base (browns and reds), nicely complimented with the purple of the leaves and the yellow of the fried egg yolk, and nicely contrasted with the green of the apples and leaves. The ingredients were also carefully arranged with a slight element of symmetry, adding some balance to the image.
But as nice as the presentation for Porky Pig was, it could not match the presentation of the two dishes I had already decided I was having well in advance. The first of these was the Little Lost Fairy Bread:
I’m fairly certain that there was a previous version of this over-the-top take on French toast (with possibly the same name), but this iteration seems like it should be frolicking with unicorns in some Candy Mountain or something. (Perhaps that’s where it ended up after getting lost?)
But jokes aside, the presentation of this dish was FABULOUS. Sometimes the use of a fairy floss topping can be too messy and awkward, but here (and especially in this shot) the platting of the fairy floss seemed deliberate and purposeful – especially sitting on an ordered layer of rainbow-coloured 100’s & 1000’s. The presentation doesn’t hold forever though, as when the icecream melts, the fairy floss begins to dissolve and lose its shape (as we learnt the hard way!)
I ordered this dish with the optional bacon extra (for $4). As this was presented on the menu as an add-on for the dish specifically, I had thought that the bacon would be incorporated into the presentation of the dish. Unfortunately, it came in a separate plate – in other words, you were essentially just ordering a plate of bacon.
The addition of bacon plays on the whole American (?) invention of sweets with savoury meats. I found that the combination, though strange sounding, worked (think bacon with pancakes, American chicken waffles, etc.). If you think about things a little deeper, meat is often marinated in sweet marinades, or eaten with sweet sauces like the Australian BBQ sauce. So if you really think about it, the combination isn’t totally far-fetched.
Now would I recommend the bacon add-on? Well I’d like to believe that #baconmakeseverythingbetter, but unless you subscribe to this mantra, you’ll probably want to spend the $4 on something else.
The bacon conundrum aside, this French toast was a solid dish that played with many different textures in a single mouthful. There was a subtle crisp to the crust of the bread, which housed a nice fluffy interior. The fairy floss provided an airy, stringy, sticky texture, though the airiness gave way to stickiness after combining with the icecream. The strongest texture, though, came from the 100s & 1000s, which added a playful, sweet crunch.
The orange cream cheese also deserves a mention: it was more like orange cream with a slight cheese taste. This added a nice fruitiness to the French toast, more so than the strawberries did in my opinion. It’s also something that you are unlikely to find in other cafes, bringing the uniqueness of the dish up a level.
Now, with the dish’s Candy Mountain appearance, you’d expect the dish to be super-sweet. I personally didn’t think the sweetness level was that high (though I have a higher tolerance for sweets than most, and I did eat it with bacon), but my Japanese friend (who is far less tolerant of sweets than I am, and thought the bacon-combo was too weird to try) also found the dish much lighter than what its appearance suggested. Perhaps it was due to the orange-flavour balancing things out? Or maybe I’m underestimating the impact of the bacon? I’m not sure. Either way, I’ve always wanted to try the French toast at Devon and both the presentation and taste didn’t disappoint!
The other dish I really wanted to try also proved to be lighter than I expected – the Cookies ‘n Cream:
If you don’t look closely at the menu, you might miss this dish. At least that’s what happened to me… After pulling out my phone and asking the waitress if this was still on the menu, she pointed at a menu item named “Cookies ‘n Cream”. When you think of cookies n’ cream, you think of chocolate and vanilla cream, but there’s none of that here! The Cookies ‘n Cream at Devon are fruity and surprisingly light (as a dish).
This dish can be considered both a breakfast (it is muesli after all!) and dessert, which actually makes this the perfect brunch dessert! And since it’s muesli, that means it’s healthy right? Right?? Yeah, I’m going to take your silence as agreement!
Biting into the muesli cookie, I was instantly hit with a distinct, but pleasant cinnamon flavour. The cookie itself had a solid exterior, but after breaking into it, I found that it had a nice, soft and grainy texture, as one would expect from a good muesli cookie. It was at this point that my friend revealed that she didn’t actually like cinnamon (not even in an apple pie!), but that she really liked this. If that’s not an endorsement for this dish, I don’t know what is!
The raspberry cream carefully sandwiched between the muesli cookies was sweet, but light. The raspberry flavour worked very well with the cinnamon of the muesli cookies, and its sweetness was offset by the tartness of the fresh raspberries. The strawberry and violet gel was also pleasantly sweet, so much so that I found myself scraping up the remaining gel afterwards!
Now whereas the Little Lost Bread was presented like a childhood dream or fantasy, the Cookies ‘n Cream was more like an mature work of art. From the ordered layering of cookie and cream, to the beautiful artwork created from the violet gel palette, strawberry gel blobs, and fruity muesli piles; this dish felt both sophisticated and grounded/earthly.
After considering both presentation and taste, this was probably my favourite dish of the meal.
Devon Cafe is split into two areas: a smaller interior cafe area, and a larger courtyard at the back.
The interior cafe area is fairly small and communal, which isn’t exactly great for photo taking, as you don’t want to disturb the strangers on your table. It features a single large communal table and a communal front bench, with strong (naturally?) yellow lighting. I personally found the area too cramped, with the communal table and front bench being quite close together. Also, while the lighting was great from an atmosphere perspective (it added warmth), it wasn’t necessarily great for photography (had to compensate for the extra yellow).
Now I came to Devon Cafe at around 2.30 (actually I was meant to get there at 2, but was late due to transport issues), hoping to catch the cafe at a quiet time so that I could take my photos with relative freedom (and before the kitchen closes at 3). Unfortunately, they close the courtyard area around this time, so I wasn’t able to get a table there.
The staff were quite friendly and polite, and didn’t really mind my photo-taking (clearly they are used to food bloggers visiting!), which is always a bonus in my book. On the way out, they were also happy to clarify which were the quiet times best for taking photos (namely around 10am, or on weekdays – though with the school/uni holidays, things were busy even on weekdays at the moment).
- All three dishes tried were presented well, especially Cookies ‘n Cream.
- While all dishes had standout elements, I’ve gone with a GOOD rating due to the disappointing smoked ham hock croquette.
- This AVERAGE rating is based only on the interior cafe area. Unfortunately, this area played to my negative biases (communal areas, cramped spaces, and non-natural lighting).
Verdict: 4/5 (SHOULD TRY)
- For the beautifully presented food, especially the desserts.