Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Standout sourdough bread in hidden Little India cafe

Sideways' bone marrow with a side of sourdough bread.
Sideways' bone marrow with a side of sourdough bread.ST PHOTO: ANJALI RAGURAMAN

Little India may be better known as the home of a plethora of Indian flatbreads, whether you are looking for naan, chapati or prata.

So I am surprised to find delicious sourdough bread made in a wood-fired oven in a cafe hidden among the neat alleyways of Rowell Road.

Perhaps the name of the cafe, Sideways, comes from how you have to pull the metal door sideways to enter the narrow space, formerly occupied by Broadcast HQ, which comprised a cafe, bar, record store and dance floor.

Or maybe it's the left field idea of baking Western-style bread in Little India.

Either way, the rustic sourdough bread, which has a beautiful rise and crust ($4+ for four slices), is the highlight of the Mediterranean-themed and small plates menu at Sideways, which is run by the same people behind Sarnies, a cafe in Telok Ayer, and The Hangar in Arab Street.

While those are mainly coffee-centric cafes, the focus of the 30-seat bistro, which opened earlier this month, is the food.

The owners use a variety of rosewood for the fire, which imparts a distinct fragrance and smoky flavour to the bread and dishes, many of which pass through the oven.

This includes the generous hunk of bone marrow ($12+), which comes sprinkled with garlicky breadcrumbs.

You can taste the char from the fire in the creamy marrow, which pairs perfectly with slices of sourdough that it comes with.

It is all a little salty, but washes down perfectly with an Aperol spritz ($14+) off the small cocktail menu.

There is also a selection of main dishes that are fired up on the spot, but you can fill up on just the dips.

The standouts are the mint and feta dip ($9+), which is fresh and light, and almost pesto-like with the pine nuts that are blitzed in as well. The smoked eggplant and peppers dip ($7+), on the other hand, has an almost chutney-like spice to it, perhaps a nod to the Little India neighbourhood.

The black bean hummus ($8), however, is a little too watery for my liking, though the capers studded in the mixture add a lovely, salty hit.

With the quirky soundtrack (when I am there, an Argentine ska band called Los Fabulosos Cadillacs is playing on the stereo), the environmentally friendly metal straws, graffitied walls and the owners sorting out bills and staff schedules at the next table, it almost feels like I'm in Melbourne.

I would've preferred not to hear about the inner workings of their business over my dinner, but that said, I would return just for the bread.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 29, 2018, with the headline 'Standout sourdough'. Print Edition | Subscribe