It’s one of those rare Sydney summer days where it’s actually so hot that I’m jealous of my lunch companions shorts. The warm weather is something we haven’t seen much of lately and I’m wishing I too had my legs out enjoying the sunshine that’s creeping over the corner of our table.
I always threaten, to one day, run off and join the circus so it’s quite fitting that today Miss Universe and I are at Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen for lunch. Really, we should be at the beach, but his studio is just around the corner and he’s taking a break from working on his collection for fashion week.
As their website says , Bread & Circus is “a canteen, not a café. Amazing tea, mostly organic and biodynamic food and sweet things and no coffee – not a single drop”. Which is fine because over the cabinet heavy with books, pickled veg, foodie nick-nacks and plants is the best coffee going around, Campos coffee. The back of the warehouse space is decked out with reclaimed wood communal tables and metal stools with brightly coloured seats. The bi-fold walls open out and dogs are tied up, looking longingly at their owners who are leisurely ready papers, working away on iPads and catching up with family & friends. Random clusters of freshly picked flowers sit amongst bunches of fresh herbs, jars of preserves, organic fruit & veg and little ceramic cups on each table.
Don’t let the ‘wholefoods’ thing fool you in to thinking this all a bunch of mung beans and chickpea blandness – quite the opposite – the menu has fun with fresh seasonal produce that’s packed full of colour and flavor. I can hear the faint circus music…As usual I want to try everything on the menu so we agree to the tasting plate (I restrain myself and only order the regular sized plate…) of Olive oil baked eggplants halves under spiced pear yoghurt; Raw coriander sweet corn, roasted capsicum with spicy lime aioli; Balsamic baked fig & nashi pear with cinnamon-basil blue cheese; Dill, broccoli green bean red onion 7 kipfler with a dollop of thyme-spiked grand aioli; sage-butternut in the skin with orange zested maple goats chevre – choose any or all, half plate ($14), regular plate ($25), sharing plate ($25). And what sounds fantastic, ‘The daily plate’ – Iggy’s sage & biodynamic egg crusted organic Inglewood chicken schnitzel with cold Mediterranean potato thyme mayonnaise & daily salad ($24). To cool off, a fresh cold pressed organic juice (little glass $6; large glass $8).
I’m not usually a fan of the chicken schitty but today it’s amazing – juicy chicken in the most flavoursome crumbly coating, lightly fried. For me, you usually can’t go wrong with a potato salad, but this one is special with its thyme ‘spiked’ aioli. I love a sharing plate and the chance to try everything, but there are so many flavours they get a bit confused. The raw coriander sweet corn (can’t say I’ve ever eaten a lot of raw sweet corn) and the sage- butternut pumpkin with a tangy sweet goats cheese are a standout. We pick and chat, pick and chat… this is a nice way to eat.
The place is full and clearly a kid friendly with a big box of toys that’s strewn across the table behind us – great idea, but including a xylophone in the mix, not great. I become one of those people staring at the parents with eyes of “Please stop your child from making that awful noise!”. I block it out. Miss Universe is still trying to get through his half of the chicken schnitzel (I’ve warned him that if he doesn’t eat it, I will) when I head back up to the front counter to sniff around for something sweet – a freshly baked orange and coconut muffin. Deliciously tangy and moist with toasted coconut throughout… it would be perfect with a coffee, but it’s just too hot today.
Some random trivia; The phrase, bread and circuses, originates from Rome with satirist and poet Juvenal. In context, the Latin metaphore panem et circenses (bread and circuses) identifies the only remaining cares of a new Roman populace which cares not for its historical birthright of political involvement. Here Juvenal displays his contempt for the declining heroism of his contemporary Romans. Roman politicians devised a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of these new citizens: giving out cheap food and entertainment, “bread and circuses”, would be the most effective way to rise to power. “… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”
Next time, I’m coming back for breakfast and the ‘Very particular pancakes’ - pre-soaked buckwheat, black quinoa, coconut vanilla & rapadura wholefood pancakes with maple-orange gloss or maple-orange biodynamic yoghurt ($16).
If you’re not quite ready to run away and join the circus, come and eat here instead.
Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen – 21 Fountain Street, Alexandria NSW – 02 9698 2939