WSP is a subset of SP: Western Suburban Pride. There’s a big difference between simply having SP and having WSP. I know people who would happily eat Chinese in Chatswood and Korean in Eastwood (have SP), but are too scared to venture to Auburn for Turkish or Granville for Lebanese chicken (do not have WSP).
One cafe that is waving the WSP banner high is Circa Espresso. At the time I visited, it was only open on weekdays but I somehow managed to sneak in a lunch there (ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies…) – but hip hip hooray because it is now open on Saturdays from 8am to 3pm and will soon open Sundays too!
The entrance to Circa is tiny but you can’t miss it – just look for the big brick wall covered in wildly coloured graffiti and western suburb hipsters sitting on op-shop furniture.
In the tight space the shelves are stacked with all things coffee: bags and bags of beans, cups and saucers, grinders, pourers and cold drip coffee makers (which are like the ‘IT’ accessory to have in your cafe these days – if you don’t have one you may as well be McCafe). The message is clear: WE REALLY LOVE COFFEE AND WE TAKE IT VERY SERIOUSLY!
A box of records – looks good, but do they actually get played? We’ll find out later in this episode.
The menu and a curious logo that first looks like an octopus but is actually a hand with a coffee bean tied to each finger with string – an ancient tradition practised by Ethiopian tribes who believed that doing so would bring good fortune and a plentiful harvest.
Jokes – I just made that up. The lack of meaningful results for my “coffee beans tied to fingers” Google search indicate that this logo is simply a product of someone’s coffee-obsessed imagination.
The decor becomes a bit less coffee-specific as you move to the back of the cafe – my favourite were the 4 Mr. Potato Heads and their Russian grandmother.
The bookcases are also filled with volumes of hard cover encyclopaedias which take you back the good ol’ days when you actually had to open up a book to research a school assignment. Nice to know that Britannica and World Book are serving a purpose other than adding to landfill these days.
And now moving on to the beverages…
Not being a coffee fan – Matt ordered an iced tea. I don’t remember exactly what type (I should really start taking notes…) but it was exotic and floral and quite lovely.
I ordered the drip coffee of the day over ice. As cool as it is to have a coffee menu as detailed as the food menu, honestly my unsophisticated coffee palate can’t tell the difference between a Colombian single origin and a commercial blend. So as beautiful as this may have tasted to someone who really understands coffee – it was wasted on me. I’ve only JUST reached the point where I can tolerate black coffee – but I still love my foamy capuccinos and I only ever choose the black option when I’m at a cafe like this where adding milk is so sacreligious the barista will probably spit in it.
While waiting for our food, we opened up a tin of dominoes and played a round. I wanted to stand and topple them, but realised this might get us kicked out of the cafe.
The day was steaming hot so I ordered a salad – in-house smoked trout salad with poached egg, blood orange, crispy pancetta, shaved fennel, pearl barley, zucchini ribbons & walnuts ($16).
Salad is a science. I think it really takes a lot of creativity, skill and a great understanding of flavours to construct a good salad because it’s all about balance. We want salads to taste healthy, but not to the point where we feel like we’re eating rabbit food – we still want something tasty and substantial. So you add some protein, carbs and dressing – but you can’t overdo this or else you end up with a salad with more calories and fat and less fibre than a burger, which defeats the whole purpose of a salad. You want a variety of textures and flavours – but these need to marry together and not just be a random mix of sweet/sour/savoury/crunchy/soft. You want it to be easy to eat – all components fitting on one forkful so you can taste everything together.
Overall, it just needs to be delicious in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re being punished for making the ‘healthy choice’ and sends you through a Maccas drive through after lunch.
I say all this, because this salad was the first salad I’ve had in a long time that I actually LOVED and made me wish that more places made salads like this. I rarely order salads because the health and nutrition benefits never outweigh the compromises I need to make in terms of flavour and enjoyment. But the kitchen at Circa proved to me that you can make a lunch-worthy salad that doesn’t make any compromises. It helped that it included some of my favourite ingredients – smoked trout, a poached egg and crispy shards of pancetta. Another thing I thought was really smart was that all the vegetables were shaved into ribbons, which makes them a lot more palatable. It’s the kind of thing you would do to make your kid each more veggies – but it totally works on adults too!
A lot of people who I talk to about Circa don’t seem to have a very high opinion of the food here, but I really hope the salad is still on the menu so you can try it – it is beautiful and it is genius.
Matt ordered the HCAT (Barossa Valley double smoked free-range ham, avocado mash, vine ripened tomato, gouda cheese, house relish & rocket) which was one MAN-SIZED sandwich. So big I feel like they would need custom-baked bread to make this. It was actually quite simple, like a lunchbox sandwich your mum would make you, but on steroids. Even Matt couldn’t finish it!
I love that Westies who are also coffee snobs, tea snobs, or brunch snobs have an option like Circa right in our backyard – and I hope this is only the first of many word-class cafes to pop up in the ‘hood. WSP 5eva!
Oh, and about the records…
… they’re for display only. Elvis sings from the modern day gramophone – an iPhone dock.
21 Wentworth Street
Parramatta, NSW, 2150