On the peaceful cobblestone Kendall laneway, behind the Observer Hotel. PROFILED BY DE GROOTS MEDIA
The Fine Food Store is everything you’re looking for in a local café – a damn fine brew to pick you up first thing in the morning or when the 3 o’clock blues hit, a humble light-filled interior that warrants newspaper lingering beyond the mid-morning and an all day-breakfast menu with friendly staff to take your order – except that it’s in The Rocks. Surprised? I was too.
From the outside it looks like little more than a gift shop, but waltz in through the glass doors, beyond the baby blue vesper to discover a gourmand’s delight. Shelves brimming with regionally-sourced artisan produce from Ornella Pasta and Tetsuya's dressings, to Pukhara Estate Oils from the Hunter, Princess Pastry Jams and the famed Elixir honey.
Continue past the rustic wooden tables to the far counter, where a glass display of colourful sandwiches and wraps sit in neat rows, teasing you with their generously-sized fillings. With ‘Black Star’ as a pastry partner, things just keep getting sweeter as the buttery curves of a Danish come into full view.
A blackboard menu offers hot-on-eggs specials, a lip-smacking dish of fresh goats curd with honey and toasted ciabatta, warm banana and pecan loaf with cultured butter and preserves, and a breakfast panini that is the stuff of dreams.
The Campos coffee is serious, strong and expertly well-made. The food’s beyond good too: my peppery poached eggs arrive doused in truffle oil, oozing their golden yellow entrails upon thickly sliced Brassiere sourdough. The precision-cut avocado and caramelized balsamic roasted tomatoes impart the dish with unfettered flavour and gravitas. But the real hero is the handsome mound of homemade backed beans, generously spiced with chilli and paprika. It’s a sure way to fire up the digestive system, if the coffee hasn’t already done so.
So if you’re ever in The Rocks (hey, it’s not just for tourists you know) – follow the well-dressed artsy crowd. They are all too familiar with this hip local hub.