Cooks Hill has long held dominion over lazy breakfasts and good coffee. Its streets are dotted with cafes serving up plates of eggs and bowls of muesli and mugs of strong, hot, foamy coffees. As a Novocastrian, you’ll no doubt have your favourite, the old faithful you can visit time and again. It’s as comforting as that first sip of your flat white in the morning, all warm and rich.
But newcomers are always welcome. Especially if they can keep up with the rest of the crew and add something to the mix. Joining the Cooks Hill club is the aptly-named Corner House Cafe. It’s a cute, friendly space, literally on the corner of Laman and Union streets. The space isn’t large, but with wrap-around windows it feels light and bright. Bench seating along one side and a couple of tables inside are matched with more outdoor, covered seating.
Owner Sophie has Swedish heritage and wanted a clean Scandi feel, featuring white wood, marble and plants. To be sure, there is pretty greenery at every turn.
I’ve strolled past on weekdays to see workers come and go for coffees, catch up for meetings or settle in with something to eat. An early Saturday morning visit is quieter than midweek, but there are still people sleepily wandering in getting takeaway coffee and others staying for breakfast.
Open seven days for breakfast and lunch, the compact menu reflects the design aesthetic with fresh and clean food, plus innovative touches that can lift a simple dish. Daily specials are listed on brown butcher’s paper hung from the ceiling. The kitchen is open and small, but works quietly and quickly. Much of the menu is made on site: the pestos and sauces, the spices and relishes, maintaining a home-made ethos.
You can find many of the usual suspects on the breakfast menu, but with Corner House touches: banana bread with whipped ricotta and a maple and nut crumble; a toasted croissant with ham, cheese, spinach and chilli jam; in-house roasted mushrooms with marinated goat’s feta, pesto and thyme. You can even find the newer favourites - an acai bowl with granola crumble, chia, goji berries, seasonal fruit and toasted coconut chips; or the best-selling breakfast bowl.
Another modern classic – the smashed avocado on toast is definitely a worthy inclusion. Start with two great pieces of toast – not too thin, not too thick, warm but maintaining crunch, the right amount of chew and a lovely nutty flavour. There is plenty of precious avocado smooshed on top with chunks of creamy marinated goat’s feta that doesn’t overpower; little red vein sorrel leaves and black sesame seeds are sprinkled on top, a fresh pile of rocket and lemon wedge accompanies. The thoughtful touch is the dried chilli flakes – served to the side.
The bacon and egg roll is enough to fill a hearty appetite. Served on a big round bun, it is filled with two poached eggs which are ready to explode the second you take a bite, and multiple layers of salty bacon. The presence of cos lettuce adds a nice freshness, as does the house beetroot relish (choose between the relish or BBQ sauce). It’s a big bite, but the choice of poaching, rather than frying the eggs, means it isn’t an oily one.
The Single Origin coffee is handled competently and with care by the baristas and there are plenty of options for non-coffee drinkers, which is nice. A soy chai latte is creamy and spicy and smooth.
A return midweek for lunch and I perch myself on a stool at the window bench. It’s a great spot to watch this increasingly busy part of the world go by. There are a selection of sandwiches, including a few specials. They are simple, but brimming with flavour and good quality ingredients. Think bone leg ham with cheddar, pickles, tomato and relish; roasted pumpkin with feta, spinach and pesto; or marinated chicken with ajar, spinach, cheese and red onion. You can tackle the Ploughman’s Board is you have the appetite or as a grazing dish for two. A fresh soba noodle salad bowl is perfect for a summer’s lunch. The lovely big bowl is a flavour punch – earthy noodles that aren’t gluggy, sweet cherry tomatoes, peppery rocket, crunchy cucumber, avocado and the right amount of coriander and mint. The ginger and sesame dressing doesn’t drown the dish and the black sesame seeds add another flavour element for fun. The ingredients are fresh and the overall effect is light and wholesome.
For later, or early, or whenever, there is a cabinet full of baked delights. There are familiar faces behind the counter from the former Saluna cafe, so you know you’re in good hands.
With reasonably priced food menu, and coffee that’s just as good as the food, Corner House is a great place to stop by.
- What: Corner House Cafe, 29 Union St, Cooks Hill.
- Contact: @cornerhouse.cafe
- Hours: 7 days, breakfast and lunch.
- Owner: Sophie Eriksson
- Accessibility: Step up to cafe.
- Take note: There are sweet treats to go.
- Bottom line: Dishes $5.50-$17. Large coffee $4.50.
- Must try: Smashed avocado, sandwiches.