Being in Mascot’s industrial area, there’s probably no way you’d stumble into The Lobby Café accidentally, but if you happen to be one of the eight thousand people employed by Qantas next door, it should be on your radar.
It’s a five-day-a-week business aimed toward pleasing the diverse group of people who work in the building itself and next door.
“This is a test kitchen for us,” explained owner Andrew Kennedy, who took over the twelve-year-old business about fourteen months ago.
He’s busy streamlining processes – like removing the five-and-a-half-minute sandwich press and replacing it with a 90-second speedy oven – adding on a liquor license four weeks ago.
The end goal is to create a franchisable business model that could roll out into any office block.
Good processes start with “the mindset that you don’t want to disappoint anyone,” Kennedy explains.
Being a workplace canteen, the menu he has created “is about speed and the food being familiar.”
Every day you’ll find six pre-made salads, plus four sides and six main dishes in their hot food bar.
There’s also a little salad bar that Kennedy used as market research to create a salad range based upon his clients’ most popular choices.
The hot dishes, which ranged from sweet and sour pork to cannelloni, are served Build Your Own Plate ($12.90) style, with one protein-based dish and two sides.
Any leftovers go into creating tomorrow’s pie, which, in the case of the Thai chicken curry one I tried, allows the curry's flavours to develop before they are encased in buttery puff pastry and scattered with sesame seeds. The Thai red curry pie has a nice, lip tingling heat, with plenty of chicken and tender mushrooms to be found within. It’s served with your choice of salad – for me that was halloumi salad – mixed greens dotted with roasted vegetables and hunks of grilled cheese.
Burgers are well-priced and popular at The Lobby Café, either alone or as a Combo ($13.50) with chips.
The Chicken Katsu Burger ($9.50) sees deep-fried crumbed bird presented with a simple, well-drained ‘slaw and lettuce on a bun that isn’t sweet. The chips are pretty ordinary, but the oil they were cooked in is clean.
The coffee trade is brisk. The beans are roasted locally by Gypsy Coffee Roasters in Alexandria, and perform well across a Cappuccino ($3.50) and a Latte ($3.50).
We also get a bottle of Purezza sparkling water for free, with The Lobby Café opting to absorb the eight cents it costs per bottle. As you can see, they really do want their customers not to be disappointed by either quality or price.
The Lobby Cafe
Aero Building, 247 Coward Street, Mascot
Ph: (02) 9693 1007