Sonoma has to be up there among Sydneyís top artisan bread makers. A number of restaurants - including world famous ones Tetsuyas and Quay, and independent supermarkets as well as cafes use Sonoma bread; but the Sonoma cafes dotted around the place are well worth a visit. Seeing one of those typical black vans with the Sonoma logo is always a sign that good bread is not far away; but when you dine in you get more than just the bread. The other interesting thing is that each Sonoma you go into will have different specialties and sandwich or panini combinations too, so you donít have to think each one will be the same.
I frequently visited the Glebe Sonoma when I worked in the area, and became a bit addicted to their vegetarian breakfast roll, and therefore decided to try the closest thing on offer from my new local Sonoma in Alexandria. The Ďtchoukaí roll with an Israeli relish and fried egg was different but satisfying, and the coffee that accompanied it tasted incredible.
Coffee is something all Sonomas Iíve visited seem to do very well, and Alexandria is no exception. They use Bonsoy, which is really the only soy milk I will drink, and the coffee was my perfect strength (you can order an extra shot but it will cost you more if you like it super strong).
The layout of the Alexandria cafť is nicely done, with mirrors on the back wall making the space seem even bigger than it is. This is a much nicer setting than what you get in other popular bakeries in the area that donít have so much space and arenít as well fitted out. If you want to dine in on a Saturday or Sunday for breakfast or lunch, Sonoma would be my choice. The dark walls remind you of warm roasting coffee beans, and the pictures on the walls show you the bread making process and make for a calming mood. The aroma of fresh bread and coffee gets your appetite going too.
There is a display case of pastries and pre-made sandwiches that are toasted to order, but also breakfast specials made to order such as muesli and toast with tomato and avocado, eggs or ricotta or sweet versions with artisan jams. Seasonal dishes like warm rolled oats are usually available according to whatís appropriate. There are of course shelves of just baked loaves you can buy to take home, and the selection is usually large. The signature Miche is usually suitable for any purpose, with a great crunchy crust.
The service and atmosphere are both good, and itís a place you can sit for a while without feeling rushed, as a few of the other customers were doing when I was there. Read the papers or catch up with a friend over coffee and walk it off by taking a tour of the leafy Alexandria streets to complete the experience.
Where: 32-44 Birmingham Street Alexandria NSW
Why: The coffee and artisan sourdough breads
Cost: $4 for large coffee, $9-20 for food.
When: Mon-Sun 7am-4pm