15 February 2012

Elements Cafe, Lyall Bay

You know how there's always that one cafe or restaurant you've always meant to go to but have never been? Where every time you walk/drive/cycle by you're all, "let's go there next time!" For the longest time, Elements was that kind of place. I even followed them on Twitter for ages, mostly so that I'd be reminded to go there every time they tweeted. And still I didn't go. 

I guess it was because I got into this routine over the last year or two: I'd head to Miramar for brunch and, on the way back, do a meandering drive back around the bays and sometimes drive through Lyall Bay on the way home. So each time I'd pass Elements, I'd already be full. 

But I've finally broken that habit and incorporated Elements into my rotation of weekend brunch spots. I'm so glad I did. The following is an amalgamation of food eaten there, by friends and me, over several visits over the last couple of months. 

On a visit with Sophie and Sophie, I snuck a bite of Sophie's twice-baked goat's cheese souffle. It was light yet substantial at the same time, airy with a whiff of that unmistakably tangy goat's cheese flavour. I quite liked it, enough so that I ended up ordering one for myself on another visit.

Sophie's beetroot, salad & halloumi open sandwich on olive toast seemed easier to eat as a salad than a sandwich, and she reckoned the olive toast was pretty salty and intense, but good. I'm a sucker for anything with halloumi on it so I was pretty happy to have a taste.

On a visit with Eric I got to try some of his macaroni and cheese. Elements' version is a huge, hearty bowl of big macaroni elbows baked in cheese sauce studded with chunks of shredded roast pork. Herbed breadcrumbs are a nice touch, too. This was filling and tasty, though the pork needed more flavour - perhaps we're just too used to bacon? 

I couldn't write this blog post without trying Elements' famed lambs fry & bacon. So many people have raved about it that I was a little worried my expectations would be too high, that it'd be okay but I'd be disappointed. I shouldn't have worried: holy crap it was good. It even looked good (if you've ever tried Google image searching lambs fry and bacon, you'll know what I mean), enough so that we could hear the elderly man at the next table commenting about the presentation, and when I had finished the last drop of gravy he leaned over to ask me if it was good, though I suspect he knew the answer.

And it's funny, because I thought it was going to be such a rich, heavy dish that I wouldn't be able to finish it, and there I was mopping up the last bits of gravy with the last of Sophie's side order of bread, totally satisfied but almost wanting more. It was the perfect balance: thick, minerally lambs' liver, meaty thick-cut mushrooms, crisp bacon, sourdough that soaked up all the gravy. And oh, the gravy. I think it was the best part, the underlying sweet tones from the caramelised onion softening up all that savoury richness. So, yeah. Get yourself to Elements. Get yourself this dish. It's seriously so good.

While we're on the topic of seriously good, can I just say I love golden syrup butter almost as much as I love maple butter (which featured on some crumpets at Cafe Polo a while back - sadly it looks as though they've disappeared off Polo's menu) and miso butter? So I couldn't not order these crumpets. They were hot and tasted fresh, albeit a little gummy in the centre - perhaps a bit underdone. Still, the golden syrup butter made up for any shortfalls in the crumpets (and frankly, I'd prefer a slightly-undercooked homemade crumpet to a supermarket version any day). Awesome.

Thought I'd quickly mention coffee - I ordered a flat white on each of my visits to Elements, and kept kicking myself afterwards for not asking for it in a tulip cup as I often do at cafes that I know serve flat whites in bigger sized cups. Is it just me, or have cafes started serving larger and milkier flat whites over the last few years? It's just my personal preference, but I do prefer them not to be too milky - I would order a latte if I wanted a lot of milk.

Anyway, little personal quirks aside, Elements does a pretty decent coffee. I'm having a brainfreeze moment and can't remember who they get their beans from, but when I remember I'll put it up here - or if you know, leave it in the comments!

So, that's it for now - Elements has firmly wedged itself among my favourite weekend suburban cafes and I'm all the happier for it. I can't wait to go for dinner sometime (though I've been saying that about Cafe Polo and the Larder for years) aaand they have cooking classes which look worthwhile. But for now, I recommend this: if you haven't been for brunch, get there quick smart and order yourself some lambs fry.

Elements Cafe
144 Onepu Rd
Lyall Bay
(04) 939 1292

Open Mon-Sun 8:30am-5pm; Tue-Sat 6pm-late