Back in 2012, Orit and Ram Stern, rescued a beautiful piece of municipal architecture in Alexandria, and subsequently got others to see the value in it.
The utilitarian building in question – Electricity Substation No. 152 – was erected by Sydney Municipal Council in 1924. Despite being granted permission to knock down the simply detailed, purpose-designed building, upon seeing its potential, Orit and Ram decided to renovate the space, originally bought as storage for their other business, Pizza Chefs.
What emerged was Sub-Station Café, a well-designed oasis from the light-industrial eyesore that is McEvoy Street. Café-goers weren’t the only ones to notice this jewel in Alexandria’s thorny crown – heritage listing for the beautiful façade followed in 2016.
Working with such a compact space has its ups and downs. To get to their storage area, there’s a wall-mounted ladder that Ram and his team must go ascend and descend when things run out.
The menu, which walks the line between healthy food and dishes you’ll really enjoy eating, is also kept simple by necessity. The tiny kitchen lacks the space to prepare complex saucing. While some baking, like the muffins Ram makes daily, is done in-house, the rest are sourced from local experts, Luxe and Sonoma.
One place that Ram won’t compromise is with his fruit – he freezes his own, to ensure it’s all grown in Australia.
After pulling up a table in the cosy courtyard, next to the green wall of herbs and succulents, we let Ram’s passion for homegrown fruit incline us into a Tropical Sunrise Juice ($7).
Served in a clear plastic container with two fat bendy straws, the juice is tangy and fresh. The disposable packaging wasn’t quite what I was expecting while dining in, but when so much of their business is takeaway and space really is at a premium, it’s hard to gripe. Smooth and satiny, my Latte ($3.60) made on Single Origin beans, did come in a glass.
White quinoa scrubs up very well in a Salmon Salad ($15.50), chosen from the daily specials, which are all displayed on kitchen counter in their finished form. My body appreciates this diverse celebration of greenery, running from juicy green peas to zucchini to dill and other fresh herbs, with a poached egg and a lime cheek to complement the smoked salmon.
One of Ram’s own inventions, Kashkaval Eggs ($16.50), sees two free-range baked eggs set in a skillet with panfried tomatoes and Kashkaval cheese. Garnished with fresh herbs, it’s served with super-soft flat bread, and is tasty without being heavy.
The Chicken Schnitzel Platter ($15) takes the pub classic somewhere a bit more posh without losing the essence of the dish. You’ll receive yours on a wooden board with homey, skin-on potato wedges, a great red cabbage and capsicum salad, and a grilled nectarine, with lemon and mayonnaise to add, or cut, the fat as you see fit.
It’s a clever way to put a Sub-Station spin onto a menu that has to please all comers – from the health conscious craving vegan, gluten free Bliss Balls ($4/each) to local tradies grabbing a complete breakfast in a roll they can eat with one hand on the way to a job site.
While I do prefer a less crumbly, more buttery Cookie ($4) – maybe vegan cookies aren’t for me - both my dining companion and I were impressed with Ram's house-made Plum Tart ($5.50). It was a pleasant end to a lunch that gave us respite from the traffic noise and construction that plagues Alexandria, bar from the occasional shower of builders' dust.
124 McEvoy Street, Alexandria
Ph: (02) 9557 9868
NOTE: You can see a previous review for this venue HERE.