The Goldfish Bowl Bakery, Armidale, NSW

Emma Ryan — 2 September 2017

A slice of Melbourne in Armidale.

It takes a number of factors to create a great café – excellent coffee, naturally, closely followed by an inspired and tempting menu, friendly staff and great ambience.

There’s nowhere for a poor blend or bad technique to hide in a double-shot latte, and this offering, served ever so swiftly at the Goldfish Bowl, was smooth and delicious – and pretty to boot. That’s one tick.

Next, the food. The Goldfish Bowl’s oft-changing menu is displayed on an enormous blackboard, its creative offerings dependent on the season with a huge variety of local ingredients included.

And there are some seriously luxurious inclusions, even on the brekky menu. A smiling waitress recommended the locally grown king oyster mushrooms, served on wood-fired sourdough fresh from the onsite oven, with generous lashings of tallegio and truffle béchamel. Holy mother of yum!

Classic eggs Florentine rounded off the menu, with a generous yet delicately presented serve of smoked salmon offset by a subtle and delicious hollandaise.

The lunch menu is an inspiring take on classic café fare. The soup du jour was a carrot and du puy lentil number, the steak sandwich did away with minute steak in favour of a 200g grass-fed cut served with caramelized onion, vintage cheddar and homemade chutney, again on the GFB’s homemade wood-fired sourdough.

The linguine with Coffs Harbour cuttlefish and free-range pork pancetta showed off the chef’s creativity and focus on local, ethically sourced produce, a theme that recurs throughout this mature and at times bold menu.

So we’ve got great coffee, friendly staff and delicious food ticked off. What about ambience? This hip little joint has that in bucket loads, too. The interior is dominated by the exposed-brick wood-fired oven, which supplies the cabinet with tasty pastries and the shelves with loaves of bread. Naked Edison globes hang over the front bench, where bearded and bantering baristas work their magic and entertain their customers.

There’s also a charming vine-framed and dog-friendly courtyard, whose colourfully painted mismatched tables and chairs spill onto the footpath, while casually arranged repurposed milk crates don handmade cushions, and a bike rack secures the locals’ transport.

The Goldfish Bowl wouldn’t be out of place hidden in a hip Melbourne suburb laneway that only the locals know about.