I live in a neighbourhood that real estate agents call ‘gentrifying’, which is a fancy way of saying that it is itself getting fancy. And, truth be told, it does seem to be happening; no one has been shot in our back lane since the heroin dealers sold their house to the gay decorators.
Interspersed between public housing and crumbly terraces with their illegal additions harking back to a time when the neighbourhood policy was mind your own and keep your eyes down, there are now cafes. Cafes with almond milk and gluten free toast and eggs poached at 63 degrees by bearded men covered in artful tattoos.
Everything old is being made new again and all the new things are shiny. Which is why it was so confusing when we stumbled across a new place that was so decidedly un-shiny. So demonstrably not-new with its tatty lace curtains stretching across dingy plate glass windows reflecting Formica table tops and cement floors painted an alarming shade of green.
But it was new.
The hopeful smile of the man standing outside with his homemade sign told us that much (his sign told us that all plates of yum cha were five dollars, 11am-2pm, Saturday and Sunday). The incongruity of a middle aged portly white man wearing a traditional Chinese hat attempting to solicit traffic with his hand crafted advert told us perhaps business wasn’t going too well. When he tried to entice us we told him we would come back again another day.
We didn’t really mean to go back. It looked terrible. But something about that man standing outside in mimicry of a foreign national costume to drum up business made us curious. And so the next day we did go back.
And the following weekend I took some friends there for brunch. For the plump prawn dumplings, the juicy scallops steamed to perfection, the delicious vegetarian noodles and my favourite – the fried rice rolls with peanut and sesame sauce. All swirled in smoky chilli, soy and vinegar and all washed down with pots of 8-treasure tea.
Next weekend I’m going again. I suspect it will become a haunt. Because the food is as good as the décor is bad. And because every neighbourhood needs some local colour.
Psssst: If you’re curious Dear Reader, this hidden little gem sits in plain sight diagonally opposite the Norfolk Hotel on Cleveland St, Sydney, and it’s called Mrs Wu’s Kitchen.