When Archie isn’t at Uni or at the gym or busking on trains or spending time with his girlfriend, he’s working in Baxter’s Cafe. Baxter’s opened just a few months ago. When the previous old and tired cafe that is on the ground floor of the shopping centre closed down, the site was given a total re-fit and now opens onto a very sunny north-facing alfresco dining area where, during the day, is where I like to sit.
The cafe is open for breakfast and lunch and serves typical cafe fare like steak sandwiches and burgers with chips and wraps and sandwiches with a variety of drinks including beer and wine. I often taken Alfie there for a drink after school – not for a beer but for a malted vanilla thick shake; his favourite.
But there’s more to Baxter’s than good cafe fare to enjoy in a sunny location. There’s also (sometimes) live music provided by a gorgeous waiter and so far he’s only had one complaint. When Archie finished singing one day an elderly lady said (loudly so Archie could hear), ‘Thank God that’s over’, which Archie thought was hilarious.
But beyond the cuisine and the singing waiter, the owner of the cafe is from Sri Lanka and so every now and then he opens his cafe in the evening and puts on a Sri Lankan feast. All previous Sri Lankan nights have been completely booked out with disappointed drop-ins having to settle for takeaway. When I heard about these nights I immediately thought of my good friend Deb-zie who is married to Sunil who hails from Sri Lanka. I rang them and asked if they would like to join us for a Sri Lankan feast and they were only too keen.
So one night this week we met at Baxter’s. Unfortunately, because of the time of year, it wasn’t possible to sit outside which would have given the dining experience less of an eating-in-a-shopping-centre experience but with the weather warming up, it won’t be too long before we can dine al fresco.
Once we were seated I looked at the menu and was surprised at how reasonably priced the food is. Entrees and desserts are just $7.00 and there’s a set price for a main course of just $20.00.
I had black dhal cutlets for an entree and we all laughed at how there was nothing black about them. They were served with spiced coconut and a yoghurt and reminded me of arancini balls.
Carl had the fish cutlets and the fish had been freshly purchased that morning from the Sydney Fish Markets then minced and turned into little balls, again, reminding me of arancini balls.
For a main course I had a lamb curry that had been cooked in coconut and then fried because Sri Lankan curries tend to be dry curries. It was served with deviled okra, dhal, eggplant pickle, rice and a papadum. The curry was wonderfully fragrant and the meat incredibly tender. The pickle was a great accompaniment and it was lovely to have okra because that’s not a very common ingredient in Sydney. The dhal was also very good and with its mild flavour was a good contrast to the spicy curry. The papadum was crispy and crunchy however rather than being given just one on the plate I would have preferred to have been able to order them as a side dish and see a big basket of them set down in the middle of the table and indulge in as many as I liked because Carl says they were better papadums than normal papadums. Sunil loved the flavour of the curry but for him, it needed a lot more heat – he loves his chillies!
I found the presentation of the main courses a little odd. I’m not used to eating off a metal compartmentalised tray and it conjured images of dining in a prison. The other problem with metal trays is that they’re not heated so it’s hard for the food to stay hot when placed on a cold tray.
Carl had the swordfish that had also come straight from the fish markets and (as usual) had no complaints. He said it wasn’t over-cooked, was moist and fell apart. The swordfish curry was served with deviled potato, dhal and a tomato chutney with rice and a papadum.
For dessert there was the choice of Wattalapam which is a kitul palm-baked custard with rose water and it was served with a raspberry coulis and ice cream. I certainly have never had a Wattalapam before. It’s a custard made from coconut milk and in texture it was a lot like a creme brulee; beautifully smooth and silky. The coconut flavour was very evident and pleasantly perfumed by the rose water.
The other choice for dessert was the Love Cake. This is a cake that is very common in Sri Lanka and is made with semolina, nuts, rosewater and spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. I could smell the spices as it arrived on the table. The cake was deliciously moist with an evident honey flavour and an interesting texture.
My friends and I experienced a wonderful night in a casual setting with attentive service and interesting cuisine. The service was speedy and all meals arrived at the same time which is always a blessing. It was an inexpensive night out and we could BYO with corkage being just $2.00 per person. Sunil was pleased to be able to enjoy cuisine from his country right here in Sydney and he gave his compliments to the chef.
The singing waiter wasn’t there – he was at home babysitting his little brother!
If you would like to attend the next Sri Lankan curry night, you absolutely need to book.
Baxter’s Cafe, Bridgepoint Shopping Centre, Mosman. Ph: 9969 4536
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