Dom Ossa, an English expat with an influential German grandmother, opened a hairdressing salon called “Das” on Ebenezer Place in Adelaide’s East End with his partner Saffy and fellow hairdresser Adam Hadley Darrie in 2009.
“Back then, there was nothing in the street apart from a couple of vintage shops,” he says.
“Nano’s had only just opened and we were sick of Italian and French-style cafes. We thought: ‘Why do we have to have themed cafes when we have our own style of culture in food? Why couldn’t we have a café that was Australian?’
“So we let Steve Maras [Ebenezer Place property owner] know that if the shop next door comes up for rent we would take it.”
Two years later, the shop came up and Sad:café opened. Dom left the others to manage the salon while he got Sad:café up and running.
The name Sad is not ’70s slang for “good”, although it is really good. “It’s just the reverse of Das, German for ‘the’ and a connection to the salon next door – and we kind of like the irony.”
The Sad:café menu offers sesame, poppy seed and blueberry bagels with a variety of fillings, and breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes including organic granola, banana hotcakes, curried “scrambly” eggs, cheese and mushroom quesadillas, and a chicken and samphire salad.
“The menu is pretty classic, but there’s always an Australian twist,” says Ossa. “I have always written the menu and I’m pretty fanatical.
“I eat meat very rarely, only when it’s special, and we only use good produce, so there’s a definite emphasis on vegetarian dishes and we always have a couple of vegan options.
“We wanted the prices to be reasonable – you can spend 20 bucks and have a really good lunch and a good coffee. We do that by keeping it local and simple.”
A while after the cafe opened, long-time friend and barista Nick Suggit got behind the coffee machine.
“Like a lot of cafes, we locked ourselves into local and SA coffee only,” explains Ossa. “It was limited and I realised I needed something higher quality, more on a specialty level.
“We had a sample roaster so Nick and I used to roast small batches two or three nights a week in the shed.”
They decided to start their own specialist coffee roastery, Dawn Patrol, working with fully traceable, ethically and sustainably produced single-origin beans from all over the world.
“Sad’s always been the testing ground for our coffee,” says Ossa. “We’re always putting different singles [single-origin coffees] on and making daily blends. It’s a bit of a no-no in the coffee world because people like consistency, but our customers seem to like it and we get lots of feedback.”
These days Ossa also has some help in the kitchen, with chef Ed Heysen now behind the stoves.
“Ed is our first actual chef, so now I have someone to bounce things off. Ed and I now collaborate on the menu.”
Seating around 20 indoors and 12 outdoors, Sad:café is a tiny space that is pretty intense, with people eating, drinking and working on laptops and lining up for takeaways.
Asked about the possibility of moving to a larger space, Ossa says: “I’ve grown it as much as I can and squeezed out every last inch. I’m scared that by moving to a larger space, it would change the dynamic of Sad – some of the best stuff comes out a small kitchen and I kind of like that. I think Ebeneezer’s a bit like that.”
Favourite dish: Grilled Ocean Trout (pictured top; $13.50). Pan-seared to blacken the spiced skin and warm the orange hot-smoked flesh, this generous piece of Harris ocean trout was served with a soft-poached egg and a well-dressed and seasoned salad of cos lettuce, fennel slices, orange segments, and a sprinkling of chopped fennel leaves and toasted pine nuts. This is luxury, comfort, health, flavour and economy on a plate.
Other dishes: Mashed Peas & Grilled Mushrooms ($10.50; haloumi extra $3). Two pieces of toasted sourdough topped with mashed spiced green peas, pan-fried sliced Swiss brown mushrooms and haloumi cheese, roasted heirloom carrots and seeds, and a sprinkling of dukkah. The mash is apparently made with real fresh – not frozen – green peas.
The Sad Burger ($11). A vegan burger including a sweet potato hashbrown, smoked mozzarella, avocado, cucumber and snow-pea salsa, with avocado mayonnaise on a Kaiser roll. “We started doing the Sad Burger in response to Burger Theory opening a couple of doors down, so people had a vegetarian option in the street. The sweet potato patty has a loose connection to my grandmother’s rosti.”
Something sweet/to drink: “Sad doesn’t make any sweets in-house. The zeppole come from Andre’s Cucina, and Sweet Lola does some of them. I used to make the bagels myself, but now we buy them in.”
Sad:café does Dawn Patrol coffee in varieties of espresso, cold drip, batch brew and pour over.
We were particularly taken with Dawn Patrol’s new sparkling cold-brew coffee. “It’s a take on Japanese iced coffee, but we do it on a bigger scale, taking hot-extracted, single-origin coffee, instantly cooling it in stainless-steel tubs, kegging it and force-carbonating it, like beer,” says Ossa. “When you extract it hot and cool, it instantly sweetens up and brings out the fruit notes; the carbonation cleanses the palate.”
We tried a bottle of the South American single-origin from Sao Judas in Brazil. It was light, refreshing, sweet and citrusy with not a trace of bitterness – similar to drinking a cool glass of natural cola.
There is also a list of exotic pure-leaf teas and herb tisanes including aniseed, fennel seed, lime flower, rose petal and ginseng.
Shop 4, 4-10 Ebenezer Place, Adelaide, 8232 8539
Open Monday to Thursday, 8am to 4pm; Fridays, 8am to 6.30pm; Saturdays, 9am to 4pm.
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