Sotto’s Italian owner Danny says he sometimes wonders what his deceased Nanna would think if she knew the fate of her precious heirloom china. It’s hanging upside-down the ceiling of his stylish café on the corner of North Sydney’s West street – colourful teacups and teapots carefully carved out by a diamond-cutting drill bit and fitted with light bulbs that give the décor a personal touch.
Its not the only one – the menu items are cheeky one-liners like ‘Rodney stop being so corny’ (zucchini fritters named after Rodney, the Serb-Croat co-owner of the place), ‘Sweet dreams are made of 3 of these’ (ricotta pancakes with berry compote, house-made honeycomb, dutch cinnamon and ice cream) and ‘Hungover much? If you are do it all’ for a protein-packed double egg and bacon panini. It all looks rather promising, as we settle down to breakfast on an autumny Saturday morning with amber and ruby-red maple leaves blowing outside on the cobblestone street. The waiter tells us that Danny lives in the apartment above the café and hence the name Sotto, which means ‘underneath’ in Italian.
I order the eggs benedict titled ‘My spicy fat red-bottomed signorita’ – since I am on a never-ending quest to find good hollandaise sauce in Sydney – and ask for spinach instead of the pancetta. B, after much ambivalence, settles for the ‘Indian for Breakfast’. Rayyan has his babycino, flirts a bit with the lady seated next to us, and goes to sleep in his pram. Our lattes are served, I take a sip and am blown away. It is one of the best coffees I have had in the area – sharp in flavour and roasted to perfection. The waiter had been boasting about the allpress beans and now I know why it made a mention in the Gourmet magazine.
Sadly, it goes a bit downhill from here. My ‘fat signorita’ is slightly clumsy, and collapses soon after she has been set down on the table to reveal her ‘red bottom’ – a cup made from a hollowed-out tomato (which is nice aesthetically but does not advance the flavour much). The hollandaise is too lemony and not buttery enough (and so the quest continues). B’s Indian scrambled eggs are packed with spices as expected, but are over-cooked and dry. The menu says it comes with a ‘potato and onion hash brown’ but they are essentially Indian pakoras, and really yummy. The bread is from St Malo’s Bakery in Crows Nest which does beautiful bread, but we are served a default variety of brown wholemeal sourdough with our order, since we didn’t specify otherwise, and it’s a bit too strong in flavour. We leave the café not exactly unhappy but not thrilled with the food. Might have to give the lunch a go sometime since the word-of-mouth around here is that Sotto’s food is excellent.
[Highchairs are available at this cafe.]
Positives: Sotto has a nice ambience, a vintage building on a quiet tree-lined is the perfect setting for a street café. The place has personality and the menu strives to be creative and international. The service was very friendly and swift.
Negatives: The hollandaise isn’t a winner, the scrambled eggs were overcooked, and the bread was not that tasty. Breakfast mains are more expensive than the average cafes in the area