My stomach drops a bit when I realise that to find The Woods Pantry, I have to drive into the enormous Bunnings car park at Villawood. It wasn’t quite where I was expecting to find this little pocket of 'hipster in the suburbs' café. After circuiting the hardware giant and driving through another gate, I find the café dwarfed in a cluster of indoor climbing, laser skirmish, bowling and go-kart racing centres.
I start to breathe easier when I spy Astroturf, a casually parked lime green bicycle and Campos umbrellas – the signs and signifiers of an environment that is much more my speed...
The interior is airy and spacious, with orderly white tiles juxtaposed against exposed multi-shade bricks, and polished concrete floors softened by hanging basket ferns.
I only wish they’d gone the full street art route rather than relying on kitsch kitchen illustrations to draw your eye away from the windows looking onto the car park surrounds.
While my dining companion sticks with the advertised Campos in the form of a clean-tasting glass of Cold Drip ($5.00), I’m tempted into their daily fresh juice by friendly staff. The vividly orange blend of Carrot, Apple and Orange Juice ($7) is vibrant and refreshing, and a perfect companion to the Toasted Cauliflower Salad ($15).
Turmeric-tinged cauliflower on a bed of pearl cous cous and hummus is kept interesting with toasted almonds, dried apricots, bright green baby spinach leaves and bright magenta pomegranate arils.
The menu – in case you hadn’t already surmised – is classic café brunch fare with an Arabic twist. Appropriately they’ve swapped out bacon and pork for Moroccan lamb, and sujuk, a dry, spicy Turkish beef sausage. Even your standard Smashed Avocado ($16) has been given a more exotic edge with the addition of tabouli, dukkah, sumac and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses over the (sadly set) poached eggs.
A tart collection of passionfruit, blueberries and pomegranate with a dab of tangy yoghurt helps to prevent the Vanilla French Toast ($15.50) from descending into over-sweet. Apple matchsticks and pistachios add some crunch, with seasonally appropriate blueberries rounding out the pretty dish at this cafe which punches above what you might expect in a suburban family entertainment precinct car park.
The Woods Pantry
Unit 5A 824-850 Woodville Road, Villawood
Ph: (02) 9727 4753