Pimp My Plate #15 – Willoughby, NSW

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $18 or less.

‘Industrial chic, with a street beat’

The Mowbray Café

Instead of using carbon fibre café chairs The Mowbray café flips convention and uses carbon in its food. But more on that later…

Wedged between the busy rumble of traffic along its namesake, Mowbray Road, and a large residential building site The Mowbray is an urban-suburban oasis.

A newcomer, the café sits in a compact retail strip that continues to reinvent itself, as if looking for its mojo. It’s a challenging location because local traffic speeds by after exiting the Warringah Freeway. Blink and you could miss them, but word of mouth is making it popular with locals and drive-bys.

The café interior is scrubbed brick, black tiles, and earthy wooden table tops with a pineapple plopped on each one.

Over time, pineapples have become symbolic of hospitality and a warm welcome. Hosts would often place a pineapple in the middle of their table to welcome guests to their home.

What a nice alternative to flowers, but is a pineapple a flower or a fruit? One pineapple is made up of dozens of individual flowerets that together form the entire fruit. So each scale is a separate flower. I guess it’s both.

The first time I ate at this café their BAYO – a bacon and egg roll on a black bun – had sold out. I was disappointed as I was eager to compare their black burger buns with the ones KFC had been advertising. Yes, I admit to driving to KFC just to ‘check out their buns’. Their buns were still the consistency of cotton wool, only black. But kudos on just how jet black they were! Black is not an easy colour to achieve in food, unless of course it’s burnt.

On today’s visit THE BAYO ($10) was back. Yey! And it was seriously good – filled with sweet flavoured bacon, a ‘sunny side up’ fried egg, greens, and cheese.

The bun itself was a hybrid of bread roll and brioche, with nice texture and chew. It was partly black. Toasted? Charred? Food dye? Whaaat?

I was told that carbon is mixed through the brioche dough to give it colour. O-K. ‘So it cleans your teeth while you eat it?’ I mused to the staff, who replied with a laugh, ‘That’s it!’

The AVOCADO + SMOKED SALMON ($19) was sprinkled with feta and sesame seeds, and sat on good quality sourdough bread. Clean eating at It’s best. But …. what are those black blobs … carbon?

These blobs were once capers that had been ‘crisped up’ in a frying pan … so much so they had turned into activated charcoal or carbon, and were no longer identifiable as food, to me, at least. Although it’s not known to be toxic, I have reservations about ingesting activated charcoal or carbon. So, no more crispy capers or black burger buns for me!

My dining companion ordered SCRAMBLED EGGS with MUSHROOMS ($20) served with greens, sprouts and feta, which he scored a 10/10. After sampling his plate, I had to agree.

While at the counter I noticed a tray of almond and rhubarb tarts ($5 to take away). Without shame, I asked for the largest one. My piggishness was met with a kind smile and, ‘Of course!’.

The food at The Mowbray is good value. While they currently only cater for breakfast and brunch, I see potential for this café to grow and innovate, especially when they become a licensed café and their menu evolves to accommodate that.

Until then the café is keeping their menu simple, fresh, and consistent.

If you have any time on your hands after eating at The Mowbray take a walk around the corner, and down Willoughby Road, where you’ll find French Accent, which is a choc-full of hand picked authentic French pieces, from bedheads to old linen, lampshades, and coffee pots. Walk a little further and you’ll find Love Vintage Books, a very browsable second hand bookshop.

RATED: Industrial chic but give charcoal the flick   FOOD: 3.9/5
VALUE: 4/5    ATMOS: 3/5   VIBE: Eat with a beat
The Mowbray Café – 130 Mowbray Road, Willoughby, NSW

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