The Oceanic Cafe on Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills is living history, drop in for a rissole while you still can.
It's a freezing cold winter's day and I'm in Surry Hills on my way to Chinatown for a feed. I walk past the Oceanic Cafe, that ancient relic of the past with the sign out the front offering lambs fry for $5. I normally only stop in here out of a sense of nostalgia or irony. But on this freezing cold day I could really do with some old fashioned Aussie tucker.
The first time I dropped into the Oceanic Cafe a few years ago I was apprehensive: the place is usually empty so you have to wonder what sort of turnover they have on the food. But there's only a few things on the menu, it's actually quite clean, and people do eat here. I had the rissoles and walked out alive, and have done so a few more times since.
Oceanic Cafe is run by a wonderful old mother and daughter duo. The daughter takes the orders and runs the meals. She's as deaf as a post and is always shocked to see me walk in. Mother seems to hang back in the kitchen but today she came out and we discussed the weather. They seem very shy but lovely.
Apart from the occasional coat of paint, this place hasn't changed in decades. I read in an amazing blog post by foodie queen Not Quite Nigella that Oceanic Cafe has been open since the 1930s. The groovy table tops were added in the 1950s.
History oozes from the walls in this place, I find myself in a wee trance staring out the window. Passers-by stare back, "omg people actually eat in there?".
I usually get the rissoles but they have sold out today. So I go for sausages in onion gravy, surprisingly tasty. The chips are hand cut not manufactured, and who doesn't love peas? It's yesterday's bread and the chips are a bit cold but hey, it's $5. The nostalgia value is priceless: the food reminds me of counter lunches at the pub with my parents as a kid, all I need is a raspberry & lemonade with a plastic giraffe.
White Tip Top bread and marg comes out first. How can something so simple make me so happy?
A cup of instant for a $1. Lovely.
I try to get the old dears talking about the history of the place, but all they would say as that they have been open for a lifetime, and will be open for another lifetime.
Again, I implore you to check out Not Quite Nigella's amazing Oceanic Cafe post for some Oceanic Cafe history. Also check out some of the comments from Grab Your Fork's visit, very interesting stuff!
Oceanic Cafe is at 312 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills, it always seems to be open for lunch on weekdays, I've been there on a Saturday too.
This place isn't always going to be here, the ladies aren't getting any younger, drop in and swim in history while you still can. Yes it's dodgy but it won't kill you :-)