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Sassafras of Paddington

Twenty-six years is a helluva innings for a Brisbane cafe. And that’s just what Sassafras of Paddington, in the city’s inner west, will be celebrating this July.

The culinary institution started by Peter Clarke more than two decades ago and now owned by long-term venue chef-turned-proprietor Chris Zirbel has been a Latrobe Tce landmark, enduring almost as many paint colours and signage changes as it has years in service, but never losing its cottage charm.

Stepping into the weatherboard-clad eatery with its mismatched retro furniture, brown tiled floor, community noticeboard and greenery-bordered courtyard, the feeling is comforting and homely. It’s made even more so by the warm and jolly welcome from Zirbel.

The consummate hospitality professional knows how to work a room, cheerfully offering menu recommendations, explaining dishes and checking in on guests for valuable feedback.

On a scorching hot day, his drink suggestion is the ever-changing house-made brewed probiotic ($8.90), this time an icy cold, not-too-sweet Davidson plum concoction that hits the spot in the wilting heat.

Sassafras at 88 Latrobe Terrace, Paddington. Picture: David Kelly

There are house-made spritzes, too, in flavours like strawberry and lemon lime and bitters, which sound equally appealing, as well as HRVST St cold-pressed juices, smoothies, fancy milkshakes and some seriously smooth coffees made with Bear Bones beans.

But what Zirbel says keeps customers coming back is the dietary-friendly, all-day brunch offering, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options running from a green papaya salad and a hummus plate, to a line-up of gourmet sandwiches. The two dishes that can never come off the menu, however, are the ricotta hotcakes ($19-$25.50), and the corn fritters ($21-$27), Zirbel says, claiming he’ll be “drawn and quartered out in the streets” if he were to ever remove them.

The hotcakes come in three incarnations: plain with honeycomb butter and organic maple syrup; with smoked bacon and grilled banana, or with lemon curd and blueberry compote (though the fruit compote changes with the seasons).

The corn fritters at Paddington;s Sassafras. Picture: David Kelly

We choose the latter, stacked three-high with a dollop of bitey, luscious curd on top and an avalanche of syrupy blueberries cascading down the sides. It’s this trio in unison that sets the plain pancakes apart, creating a sweet, sour and savoury splendour.

Meanwhile, the gluten-free fritters have apparently taken two years of recipe development to reach a level the kitchen is happy with – the batter bringing together fresh corn and their own house-made cream corn before deep-frying to form puffy, golden nuggets, rather than the ubiquitous patty shape.

They come as a trio, served with a whisper of vegan jalapeno-laced aioli, a smudge of onion relish and a wedge of avocado, with the option to add on two poached eggs, haloumi or smoked mushrooms, probably necessary for satiety sake, though it makes the dish a little pricey.

For a quarter of a century Sassafras has been a leading light of Paddington’s food scene, and with the passion and jollity of Zirbel at the helm, it’s sure to have another 25 years in it.

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88 Latrobe Tce, Paddington

0408 088 961

Open Mon 8am-3pm; Wed-Thu 8am-3pm;
Fri 8am-8pm; Sat 7.30am-8pm and Sun 7.30am-2pm


Food 3.5 stars

Service 5 stars

Ambience 3.5 stars

Value 3 stars

Overall 3.5/5 stars