Carolina is a new cafe in East Brunswick where pram-pushing mums, bike riders and hip young things collide (or sometimes, in my case, I like to think I’m all three).
What was a former Italian shoe store called ‘Invicta’ has been transformed into a casual cafe with all the right elements to appeal to their three-prong target demographic. The owners have kept the shop’s original gold decal on the window so look out for the tiny curbside blackboard pointing you in the right direction.
For the hipsters – a small room with a smattering of tables, a high-walled bar and cosy wooden booths lining up one side. There are cute knick-knacks dotted around, including antique shoe moulds harking back to the premises’ original purpose.
For the parents – walk down the corridor and find yourself in a gorgeous courtyard with a backdrop of reclaimed wood. The spacious setting includes garden beds filled with herbs and vegetables, tangles of trellised vines and overhead, swatches of hessian that pull along wires to create shade where needed. In one corner, a clean little sandpit with toys!
For the cyclists – turn off the Capital City Trail near the bike shop Velo Cycles, take a left down the cobblestone laneway and enter the cafe through the gate for the back entrance. Plenty of space to park your bike or even wheel it in if you’re particularly precious about it.
Now, to the menu. The coffee comes from Seven Seeds and breakfast staples like eggs, muesli and French toast all make an appearance, but with a twist. I tried a half-serve of housemade fruit brioche toasted with poached peaches, a squiggle of orange blossom spiced syrup, a large dollop of marscapone and fresh mint ($6.50 for half, $13 for whole). The bread was quite dense, all the better to soak up the syrup which I would have liked more of. The mint was a welcome addition to a reasonably rich dish.
From the lunch menu, which starts at 11am, I chose the Tunisian-style brik pastry rolls filled with mozzarella, basil and pinenuts ($14). This was served with some summery ratatouille, the slight sharpness an effective foil for the cheesy, nutty, finger-licking oily pastries. I hope that in future they might let you choose one of their wholefood salads as an accompaniment – I particularly liked the sound of organic quinoa, roast pumpkin, apple, snowpeas and tamari pepitas ($9).
There is lots to like about Carolina – both the breakfast and lunch menus are wholesome and inventive, the service is friendly and the setting is wonderful. I’ll be back, pushing a pram or riding my bike.
Carolina, 11 Nicholson St, East Brunswick
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