Okay, so Valentine’s Day is literally right around the corner. More like knocking on your door to be exact. Are you buying flowers for your significant other tomorrow or will you be organising for a delivery to their workplace today? Or maybe your better half isn’t a flower person at all; maybe they are allergic to flowers or don’t see the point in them as they eventually die… Would they be more interested in this bacon rose bouquet, maybe?
If they are the type of person who would appreciate as wacky and wild a gift as this, or for the ladies stumped for ideas as to what to do for their lads, I know something else which would tickle their fancy and get you into their good books this weekend… 😉
Cuckoo Callay cafe in Newtown, since this Monday the 9th of February have started their BACON FESTIVAL and it will be running for the next twelve weeks in conjunction with their regular cafe menu. Teaming up with the local Black Forest Smokehouse with their free-range, sustainably-sourced pork products – it’s one way to get some pork on your fork on Saturday, or maybe for a late lazy breakfast on Sunday morning.
I was given the opportunity to sample most of the new menu on a steamy Sydney Sunday afternoon, but at least I didn’t have far to walk in the blazing sun as Cuckoo Callay is conveniently perched right beside Newtown Station; perfect for the morning commuters on the way from the inner west into the heart of the CBD. There’s some indoor seating but it’s stifling inside with the afternoon heat, so most people either linger at the window patiently waiting for an iced takeaway drink or lounge on the seats and chairs outside, hoping to catch a passing breeze.
I enjoy an iced coffee while we wait for the whole party to arrive. Unfortunately they were out of cold drip, but at least this means I can have ice cream with my coffee. Muhaha.
The menus we are handed are newly printed and so glossy – myself and the other lucky invitees cannot suppress our “oooohs” and “aaahhhs” of wonder as we run our eyes over the description. This was a bacon fiesta unlike anything I’ve ever seen!
One brave person starts off with the Shake ‘n’ Bacon ($9) – the bacon milkshake. It allegedly tastes like a good old-fashioned vanilla milkshake, flavoured with maple syrup, and – you guessed it – crispy bits of bacon at the top and bottom.
The dishes are rolled out one by one for our analysis. The first one up to the bat was the What a Croque of Bacon ($19) – bacon, basil and vintage cheddar croquettes served with bourbon bacon, pea puree and two poached eggs.
Now, this is my kind of breakfast. The croquettes were to-die-for perfection: shatteringly crispy fried outsides, not greasy or oily in the slightest, giving way under your knife and fork to fluffy mashed potato innards, speckled with bacon bits and chopped basil, lightly oozing with cheese. Crispy bacon on top, creamy and lightly seasoned pea puree, and two wonderfully soft poached eggs. This is something I would be very happy eating every day for breakfast, if I didn’t have to take my health into consideration!
I may as well forget about taking my health into consideration though…Bacon All the Rules ($24) was the next to arrive. Black Forest Smokehouse maple bacon, bourbon bacon, bacon steak, bacon sausage and bacon-crumbed poached eggs served on sourdough.
This…this was a hardcore bacon dish. It leaves no prisoners. There is not one smidgen of green on the plate; it is for those who have a “it’s all or nothing” stance. It was my first time having bacon steak, and I really enjoyed it; the texture was like biting into a lean pork cutlet, but with pure bacon flavour. But the bacon sausage was my favourite. I don’t know how it’s made (it’s apparently also made at the Black Forest Smokehouse) but it was soft, fragrant and I wanted more of it!
With these two being more the ‘breakfast’ items on the bacon menu, we begin the transition into the brunch and lunch items.
The Bacon Dawg ($16) is a particularly tasty one – Maple Glazed bacon sausage with gruyere cheese sauce, tomato and quince relish, crackling and dill mustard pickles.
Look at those pieces of crackling on top! If there isn’t enough crackle for you, the roll comes served with barbeque chips: crinkle cut – my favourite. The Bacon Dawg is a messy, saucy, satisfying eat, and you will end up with gruyere and tomato relish smeared all over your face and fingers. But that’s not something I would ever object to, and I don’t think you ever would either 😉
We follow up this carb and bacon goodness with even more carb and bacon goodness. Here came in the Don’t Go Bacon My Heart ($19) – beer candied bacon and popcorn chicken burger served with beer and tomato chutney, mustard aioli and ‘slaw on brioche (brioche from the Bread and Butter Project).
Unlike the song, these babies didn’t quite “take the weight off me” when I saw them, but luckily the full-sized burger had been downsized to slider size for our tasting convenience. For that I was supremely grateful – at this stage, I knew dinner wasn’t going to be on the cards!
This was great. So great. Fresh ‘slaw with a lovely kick from the mustard aioli, not too heavy on the beer and tomato chutney. For me, this felt more like a chicken burger with bacon rather than a bacon burger with chicken, if you catch my drift. But I love my chicken burgers and for me, the chicken was perfect. Lean and still juicy despite being fried, still nicely crisp all around. Oooh baby.
The Bacon, Get in Ma Belly ($20) was an interesting one. It was pork belly with sticky sweet chilli and fennel seed sauce with bacon, caper, coriander and lime salad.
While the other items so far had felt like complete dishes, this dish felt like the main course in a meal that needed something else to go with it. For the sake of sounding Asian, I felt like it needed a bowl of steamed white rice, hahaha. The pork belly was a little scary when you cut through the glorious crispy top crackling to reveal the braised meat beneath, and while tender and a huge hit of flavour – particularly with the candied chilli – I was really wanting something to go with it rather than having just pure meat. It felt like having a roast beef without any trimmings or sides. Great in itself, but a little lonely.
I paced myself with a Bloody Bacon Cuckootail ($14) – their version of a Bloody Mary.
I’ve never actually ever had a Bloody Mary before, and I laughed at my first sip because it tasted like a very smooth, chilled, spicy and heady tomato soup or pasta sauce, with an exotic cocktail stick of curled crispy bacon, gherkin and stuffed olive. Even when all the ice had melted the Bloody Mary didn’t taste too watery; unlike the mojitos and gin and tonics I’m fond of on hot summer days.
We enjoyed a brief respite from our feast…to finally get to our most anticipated dish of the day. Ya Bacon Me Crazy ($20): Buttermilk waffles with house-made bacon, caramel and cinnamon ice cream, Black Forest Smokehouse maple bacon, maple syrup and chocolate coated bourbon bacon. Just…oh…my..goodness.
It was nothing short of spectacular. I’m no stranger to having bacon with sweets, having tried bacon with strawberries on French toast, but with ice cream and chocolate-coated bacon scattered with hazelnuts?
One word: mind-blowing.
Let’s start from the bottom. The buttermilk waffle is made in-house and was one of the fluffiest, most cinnamon-y and cake-like heavenly things I have had the pleasure of putting in my mouth (get your mind out of the gutter!). It was like a fresh cinnamon doughnut straight out of the fryer, without the greasiness or oil; just fluffy and scented so beautifully.
Then we move onto that ice cream. Lordy, that ice cream. Fragrantly spiced with cinnamon, sweet notes of caramel and then – BANG – crispy salty bit of bacon. Icy cold, creamy and milky. I’m out of words for that ice cream.
And finally, the waffle was topped with what they called Drizzle Sticks – Crunchy Black Forest Smokehouse streaky bourbon bacon lightly painted with milk chocolate and scattered with crushed hazelnuts. It really is not as strange as it sounds. It’s salty and sweet all balanced out, chewy and crunchy at the same time. They even sell it by the cup for $10.
And here’s a picture of Nessy Eater getting in there and enjoying her bacon in front of the camera, with absolutely no shame or embarrassment about it!
Needless to say, I was stuffed like a little piggy after our meal. But what an experience! I’m not out in the inner west all too often but I would – without a doubt – make the trek in just for a good bacon feed. I would return for the croquettes and of course for that waffle dish.
For that waffle dish, I raise my glass. Congrats guys, that has to be the most stellar themed menu I have had the pleasure of tasting in a very long time. For the next eleven weeks, I have no doubt everyone’s going to be #cuckooforbacon.
324B Newtown Railway Station
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9557 7006