Stop what you’re doing. Put down your salad. Step away from your bowl of quinoa and kale. Make your way with haste to 212 Devonshire Street Surry Hills. There’s a new kid on the block in Sydney, and it’s cheekily serving one of the city’s best sandwiches.
It would be easy to get distracted at Sly; by the gleam of the custom made cut glass decanter lamp shades and jars of house made preserves up on the shelves. Then there’s the exposed brick walls (if only they could talk) laguiole cutlery and nostalgic easy listening (in a good way) soundtrack.
You could lose yourself in conversation with chef/owner Dean Wilkinson (ex Bathers Pavillion, Glass Brasserie, Firefly) around the history of the site , over an expertly made flat white or latte. The etymology of ‘Sly’ dawns quickly- this address was the last home of underworld figure Kate Leigh who during Sydney’s pub lock out years ran an empire of bootleg liquor- and more- from her sly grog shops.
The space has been refurbished to honour the building’s history and the brief for the menu is comfort with a modern, canny twist. There are jaffles (made in trusty breville toasted sandwich makers), plumped with d’affinois cheese and spiced pear, or duck confit and chestnut. There’s a hearty vegetarian rival to the BLT- an open faced ‘F.A.T Baz'; feta, avocado and heirloom tomatoes with basil on toasted Sonoma soy linseed bread.
Those who want to take a coffee or a house made muffin (rhubarb and strawberry, dark chocolate and cherry- there’s a new variety each day) or mini banana bread loaf over to the park opposite with their pooches will find a sneaky box of complimentary canine treats.
But really, you shouldn’t visit without trying the porchetta toastie. It’s a sublime experiment in texture and tempered sweetness. There’s the crisp edges of the bread and the fresh crunch of shaved fennel. The meat is relaxed threads of slow roasted pork belly. And the applecrack sauce is made with the humble Granny Smith; ‘the unsung work horses of the apple kingdom’ according to Wilkinson, before being studded with shards of crackling. It’s shatteringly good stuff.
And at $10, it’s a steal for a meal. Here’s crossing fingers that a small bar licence soon follows. The promise of a porchetta toastie and a glass of cloudy cider is just too good. For those who ever wondered if Surry Hills needed another cafe, you’re wrong. Stumble into 212 Devonshire Street and you’ll see how out of the darker days of Sydney’s past, a very shiny future is being born.
212 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
(Nb, in the interest of disclosure, I’ve known Dean Wilkinson for a good spell now – and this isn’t the first time he’s appeared on the blog- he’s also referred to as ‘chef’ when he accompanied The Hungry One, myself and our friend Jo (author of this beautiful tome) to El Bulli in 2009. I like to think that the manchego and jamon toastie on the menu is partly inspired by some boozy nights we spent in Barcelona prior. But even if I didn’t know him, I would still love Sly. I dare anyone not to).