Monday, August 9, 2010

Four Ate Five, and then he had a coffee with Three

Sounding ever so slightly like an educational children’s book, Four Ate Five is the current favourite with Surry Hills locals and critics alike, clearly evidenced by the puddles of waiting couples and small groups on the footpath at 11am on a Saturday. I think 30 minutes is quite a long time to wait for breakfast, especially with Zumbo pastries glaring at you from the front window; so when we’re seated at one of the small footpath tables, I was hoping my already determined menu item was going to be good.

Pastries in the window front at Four Ate Five, Crown Street, Surry Hills
Service is a little spotty from the beginning, but we manage to get our drinks orders in, shortly followed by food from the brown paper menus. Sitting on the pavement, we’re surrounded by a few other tables, the other waiting masses and the traffic on Crown Street, including a giant gas guzzler parking within an arm’s length of the table. It’s not really an environment conducive to intimate conversation, or post meal lingering for that matter; but perhaps that’s the point.

The drinks don’t take a grand amount of time, but they’re not speedy either. The latte is has looks to kill and makes me a little regretful at not ordering a coffee, but I’m (mostly) successfully trying to manage my caffeine intake these days. And I always like to see how cafés tackle a chai latte.

Masala chai tea latte
Four Ate Five’s chai arrives in a little teapot, frothy with milk and fragrant with spices. Straining into the little latte glass, I see a myriad of crushed spices including cloves and ginger. It’s quite a feisty brew actually, with plenty of the aforementioned spices and hints of cinnamon and cardamom, all smoothed over by a wave of pre-added honey. The teapot yields slightly more than one glass, which makes the milk shakes incredibly good value.

Banana, cinnamon, honey shake
The milk shake arrives in an old-school metal cannister the size of a vase, filled to the top with frothy bubbles of milky goodness. The banana flavour tastes fresh as opposed to artificial flavouring, while the cinnamon and honey combination is homely and comforting. It is a mighty large milk shake though – I’d recommend sharing unless one has the digestive capabilities of a cow.

The breakfast menu is somewhat less exciting than some of the lunch menu sandwiches; rather traditional with a quirk or two, but I’m not expecting a breakfast revolution. We divvy up the menu favourites among us, and plunge into a world of eggs and sourdough rye (I think).

Homemade creamed corn with poached eggs, bacon and sourdough bread
The idea of creamed corn has piqued my interest since I saw a recipe in GT, and my childhood love for Edgell’s tinned creamed corn. The corn in this meal doesn’t look as sprightly yellow as corn cobs I’m used to, but it tastes magnificent. It’s creamy but not too much so, with the corn’s natural sweetness a highlight, although the texture is no longer crunchy.

It’s divine with the chewy bread and I can just imagine the wintery scene: me, bedsocks, on a couch, a bowl of creamed corn, sourdough fingers for dipping and the pitter-patter of rain on the window. However, back to the alternatingly chilly/sunny footpath, the bacon is supremely undercooked, with some pink sides not knowing the love of a grill or any other browning heat source.

Free range eggs poached with sourdough bread with beef chipolatas and potato & fennel hash
There isn’t a ‘big breakfast’/‘the works’ on the menu, but there’s certainly scope for one to design their own, starting with a foundation of eggs and sourdough and adding from a list of extra sides. Here, beef chipolatas were chosen along with the potato and fennel hash, the latter of which was not entirely attractive – but scoffed nonetheless. The little beef sausages were wonderfully juicy and tasty although the dish as a whole was a little on the dry side, despite the perfect runny yolks and gigantic milk shake, but a request for tomato chutney was eventually chased down.

Moroccan baked eggs
The baked eggs are probably the most exotic choice in our breakfast crew, and upon arrival, we immediately start thinking about how this could be done at home. Terracotta tapas dish, a tomato-based sauce enlivened with garlic, onions, “Moroccan” spicing and a couple of the freshest eggs plopped in the middle for a mild bake; so mild that the whites are just as runny as the yolks but perfect for dipping bread.

The Moroccan bit was a bit lost on me (tasted like an Italian sugo without basil) other than some paprika on top of the eggs. I can’t wait to by some of those tapas dishes to give this a try and a bit more turmeric, coriander seeds, cumin and nutmeg flavours.

With breakfast done and the lunch menu nearing, there are still people on the footpath waiting for a seat. We dismiss the thought of ordering the morning’s special of cherry pancakes for a shared dessert given all those waiting, and head on inside to the much-nicer-than-eating-on-Crown-Street interior to pay. There’s a communal table and other inviting nooks and crannies, as well as an army of staff in the kitchen.

While I’m not overly enamoured with breakfast, I’m keen to try out lunch one day – perhaps the next Surry Hills Markets day. If this place can keep up these sorts of crowds through the day, weekend and maybe even weekdays, they’ll be counting a lot more than Four Ate Five in the till at closing.

Fouratefive on Urbanspoon


Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

I had noticed time out's obsession with four ate five too :) a shame you were a little disappointed by breakfast but the creamed corn sounds superb. and it's always reassuring to see milkshakes presented in the old metal style cups!

Betty @ The Hungry Girl said...

Hmm shame about the breakfast not being a huge hit with you. I've read a lot of hype about them too (and their pulled pork sandwich!), however I am a sucker for some good eggs and a giant milkshake!

monica said...

I agree with you,their breakfast was quite ordinary when I went there a couple of weeks ago. I was expecting something more wow with all the reviews it has got.
I do want to try their lunch menu as well, perhaps it will better :)

Jen said...

That latte does look good! I could so do with a coffee now...

Tina said...

Hi Helen - Must be the lunch menu... It was a great value milkshake too - from memory

Hi Betty - Yup, pulled pork next time.

Hi Monica - Perhaps something to do with our heightened expectations too...?

Hi Jen - Sure was a good looking latte

Anonymous said...

Damn... I was too busy with deciding what to eat for breakfast to notice the lunch menu >.< LEt me know how it is if you go again

Cath Kenny said...

I have to say when I went there I really enjoyed the breakfast. Perhaps you just got unlucky.

Tina said...

Hi Anita - Will do - hope the lunch queues aren't as equally bad...

Hi Cath - Unluckily underwhelmed - completely possible, but I'm keen on lunch next time :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Hehe I'm a little obsessed with good creamed corn much like I am with real baked beans (but I don't like the tinned versions of either). Maybe the brunch offerings are better? One would hope! :)

Tina said...

Hi Lorraine - ooh yes, fresh baked beans!


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