On a recent public holiday, when a number of places were closed, my husband and I found ourselves in Crows Nest looking for somewhere we could have breakfast. It was made a little more difficult by my need for gluten free food, but we were pleased to come across the open and busy Cornerstone Café Bar on Willoughby Road.
A plate practically groaning under the weight of the food.
Hard to resist getting a juice with breakfast when it looks like this.
Housed in what used to be Coco Cubano, the Cornerstone has kept much of the eclectic décor that made Cubano so welcoming, as well as a number of the gluten free items they had on the menu.
The Cornerstone is located in the building which used to house Coco Cubano.
The staff were friendly from the moment we walked in and we were thrilled to be able to get a spot by the fireplace. Not because it was cold, but because these seats are usually hard to come by. The chairs are mismatched, cosy and surrounded by odd books and other collectibles for you to look at while you wait to order - and if there's one thing that makes me almost as happy as good food, it's finding books and knick knacks in surprising places.
There is smaller and lighter fare for those who'd enjoy it, such as these salted caramel scrolls.
The Cornerstone has a nicely varied menu, but we both decided to go for the full breakfast. It being a public holiday seemed a good enough reason to indulge and get something big. When the plates came out, I have to admit to being surprised that they didn't crumble under the weight of all that food. We wanted big breakfasts, but this was like those enormous serving sizes you see in American reality television shows. One plate could have easily fed us both.
Much of the previous décor has been retained.
The bacon was cooked exactly the way I like it – crisp and almost overcooked. There was some nice grilled haloumi, juicy mushrooms, and my poached eggs had perfectly runny centres, but the whole plate was lacking that bit of finesse that would bring it inline with other restaurants (and indeed, the Coco Cubano that used to be there) in the area.
For instance, the butter for our toast was just a wad that someone had scooped out of a bigger tub and plopped on the plate. Messy to look at, but also a major cross contamination concern for this coeliac and the plates were so full that it actually made it hard to cut anything that was on the plate without fear of sending the food flying into your neighbour's lap. By the time we finished, we both had what still looked like a full plate of food in front of us, even though we were bursting at the seams. I love a hearty meal, and can usually polish off full breakfasts with no trouble, but this just seemed almost wasteful.
The menu includes gluten free options, but beware of cross contamination issues.
As I said before, the staff were friendly, but it seems like they were a little overwhelmed. Our coffees for example didn't come out until we were halfway through our meals. The reason for this was they only had one barista making all the drinks on this busy public holiday and had him serving them to the tables also. I don't know if this is the same for lunch and dinner, or on other days – perhaps they simply underestimated how much patronage they'd have given it was a public holiday.
The Cornerstone also does lunch, dinner and drinks.
Although the food was decent (if unexciting) and filling, and the staff very friendly, I'm not sure I'd go back in a hurry. Perhaps it's that the food and service doesn't quite live up to the ambience provided by the beautiful décor. Or perhaps it's because Crows Nest has so many places to eat that 'just okay' isn't really enough anymore.
Still, if I'm in the area again I would definitely pop my head in to see if improvements had been made, as I get the distinct feeling that this place has a lot of untapped potential.
Where: Corner Clarke and Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, 2065.
Cost: $8.50 - $20 for breakfast.
When: Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Good for kids: Personally I'd be a little nervous taking kids here with all the knick knacks around.
Take away: Take away coffee available.