Review: Cafe Ism (Newtown)

I’ve walked by Cafe Ism a lot of times. Most of them I’ve seen the tiny place packed with people who seem to be regulars and locals, mostly young families with kids. This happens almost every Saturday morning, when I’m on my way to the market (and on my way back home) but I had never stopped to have breakfast there mainly because I almost never eat breakfast out.

Cafe Ism

Last Saturday we had an inspection two houses away from the cafe around 12:30, so it was the obvious choice for lunch. All the tables were full but there were two free stools on one of the benches. We sat there and browsed the menu while a waitress brought us glasses and a chilled bottle of tap water. Everything on the menu “sounds good on paper”, but I couldn’t see any of the dishes I was curious about at other tables, to compare my mental images with reality. The lady next to us had ordered pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries that looked absolutely delicious but were not a sensible lunch choice.

I wanted the feta & pesto scrambled eggs with roast tomato, mixed leaves and toast, but then I flipped the menu and saw the Gourmet ISM burger (lean beef & lamb pattie, with home-made spicy beetroot relish, tomato, caramelised onions, cheese & lettuce), and the inner debate began. Luckily, Bonnie said she would order the burger too, so I suggested sharing one plus a salad. We chose the haloumi salad with cucumber, tomato, red onion & avocado.

Right after ordering we moved to a table that became available. We were given more chilled water when our bottle was finished (excellent service!). The burger arrived in a focaccia-style bread instead of the burger bun I was expecting. Much better for me, actually. The bread was great, the beetroot relish too. The pattie, however, was not that good. It was a bit underseasoned and it tasted boiled instead of pan-fried or grilled, suggesting that they hadn’t cooked it at a high enough temperature. Bonnie had an issue with the taste of lamb being too overpowering; it was fine for me.

Cafe Ism - Gourmet ISM burger

Gourmet ISM burger ($15.00)

Cafe Ism - Gourmet ISM burger

The salad was wonderful. Simple ingredients but well thrown together. The haloumi was not rubbery, the vegetables were fresh and the balsamic dressing was delicious.

Cafe Ism - Haloumi salad

Haloumi salad with cucumber, tomato, red onion & avocado ($12.50)

We didn’t get to try the coffee this time but I’m planning on doing it soon. Even when the burger was not as good as I hoped, the menu is full of great-sounding options, the service is good and the vibe is great. One small detail I noticed when looking at my photos is that they had the burger listed in the specials blackboard at $14.50 (50 cents less than the menu). Because I just gave Bonnie my half of the bill and she paid, I don’t really know how much they charged. It’d be cool if they had consistent prices everywhere they’re written.

Cafe Ism
187 Wilson Street
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9519 1166

6 thoughts on “Review: Cafe Ism (Newtown)

  1. What a shame, cute location… love Newtown… if we were ever moving back to the inner city it would be around newtown/marrickville… let us know how you find the coffee when you have the chance

  2. I’ve walked past this place quite a few times on my travels from work at Redfern into Newtown. It is always crowded and looks popular. Glad to finally hear something about it.

    Some people can find lamb a bit strong – I love lamb, but cannot eat lamb shanks as they are just too much lambiness for my liking.

  3. Oh I remember passing by this cafe and it was bursting at the seams and thought to myself I would return one day, totally forgot about it so thanks for the reminder, and for trying it out before me =D Shame about the burger though!

  4. HAHA i thought i read cafe ish..

    goes to show im a bit dreary

    home-made spicy beetroot relish … that sounds great. I ABSOULTELY LOVE HOME MADE SAUCE.

    i was at a cafe called Plum for brekky yesterday.. omg their homemade tomato sauce served for brekky was DELICIOUS. i still cant find many places in Syd with lovely homemade sauce yet ><

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