COOGEE STRIKES GOLD WITH FINE DINING ON A BUDGETI always love going to Coogee. To me it’s a refuge from the hustle and bustle of Bondi Junction, where I spend way too much of my time. And now I have a reason even better than the beach and pool to scoot on down to Coogee Bay Road – it’s called Coogee Trade.
This modern café opened last September and is the brainchild of former Café Sydney chef Matt Bates and his wife Rachael. After 13 years at Café Sydney, Matt wanted to create a café/restaurant that was neither too mainstream, nor too niche. He’s succeeded, as the result will blow you away whether you pop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Easy to locate at the busy beach-end of Coogee Bay Road, Coogee Trade’s interior is sophisticated, but beachy. It’s a light and airy open space with wooden tables and ceiling fans, a feature wall covered in palm frond wallpaper and a massive mirror on one side to create that feeling of space in what is quite a slender building.
Arriving with my two companions at midday for brunch (so we could try dishes from both breakfast and lunch menus), we were greeted by two of Matt’s super-friendly staff, Emily and Susan, who quickly set us up with perfectly crafted Single-O coffees and two of their freshly squeezed juices: orange, pineapple and mint; and green apple, lemon and ginger. The red and blue striped paper straws were a nice touch.
Matt relies on fresh ingredients sourced from local purveyors, which ensures that everything coming out of the small, but effective kitchen is of the highest quality.
Diving into the ‘Before 12’ and ‘After 12’ halves of the menu, Matt recommended the whole kit-and-caboodle: corn fritters with avocado, heirloom tomato relish topped with bacon; Pepe Saya buttermilk pancakes with strawberries, whipped ricotta, maple syrup and pistachios; smashed avocado with truss tomato, Persian fetta, lime, wild rocket, black sesame seeds on Miche toast; crispy chicken burger with shaved slaw, hot mayo dressing and shoestring fries; lamb shoulder salad with pearl barley, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and house-made tzatziki; and a roasted cauliflower, spiced butternut pumpkin, baby spinach, Israeli cous cous, and feta salad. Read it and weep.
If food was judged solely by the way it looked, these dishes would win all the awards – the bright, rich colours of the combined elements on each plate were simply stunning. The smashed avocado was perfectly creamy and flavoursome, and the poached eggs oozing over it made it the standout breakfast option, while the 12-hour roasted lamb and in-house made tzatziki was the pick of the lunch options. That said, everything was outstanding, as you’d expect from a seasoned executive chef such as Matt, who was working he pans the whole time.
Still with room left in the basement, we devoured some of the delicious home-baked dark chocolate ‘Nemesis’ cake with candied peanuts, banana fritter and vanilla ice cream to finish. This and a range of modern small and large plates are now available at dinner time (after 5pm) on Friday and Saturday nights.
Six months in and Coogee has struck gold with Coogee Trade. It’s like fine dining on a budget for Coogee locals and those wise enough to make the trip.
Address: 244 Coogee Bay Road, Coogee
Phone: 0407 306 743
Open: Open daily, 7am-4pm (Sun 7:30am); Dinner Fri/Sat from 5pm
Cards Accepted: Yes