A café display case is an unpredictable beast. It has the potential to hold the perfect poached-chicken sandwich, or the saddest piece of days-old banana bread – it’s always a gamble.
But rest easy, weary travellers, for the cabinet at Palomino is a veritable gold mine of homemade sweets, rustic savouries and fist-sized pockets of pastry glory. Jammy Bakewell tarts, brownies made with Belgian chocolate, raspberry and coconut muffins, apple slice and chocolate-chip, peanut-butter cookies are crammed in amongst fresh sambos, felafel wraps and quiche. It’s looks like every nan in a six-suburb radius dusted off their best Women’s Weekly recipe books and spent the night baking just so that the city’s workforce could lunch with love.
If this is a one-off visit we’re inclined to say get three courses of cake. But if you’re likely to become a regular, starting with something savoury is probably better advice. The steak sandwich is made to order, but they’re pretty snappy here and our tender steak pieces topped with caramelised onion on chewy sourdough with aioli, rocket and tomato appears before we know it.
The Palomino pies are the kind of rustic-looking pastry parcels you would expect to see cooling on a windowsill. The chunky chicken and spinach version has a subtle green curry flavour to it. They don’t pad their fillings with extra gravy here, and they’re not afraid to use the good bits.
If you’re pressed for time, the house-made pretzels are about two-thirds the size of a bagel, and come ready filled with cream cheese, Spanish onions, smoked salmon and capers. It’s like a mini-lunch, which conveniently means you save room for dessert.
The carrot-cake cupcakes are moist and light, though we’d trade the fluffy white icing for a more traditional cream cheese version. Or if you like a different orange vegetable in your sweets, they also do a spiced pumpkin pie with cream.
Down for a liquid lunch? You can choose the virtuous path with the green power – a zingy mixed juice with apple, lemon, kale and spinach – or just cave to comfort food with a salt caramel milkshake... your call.
Whoever said that the CBD lacked cafés with heart is clearly yet to discover Palomino Espresso.