From marshmallow covered tabletops to porcelain bunny rabbits hidden in secret crevices, Addie’s Speciality Tea Room is a dip into Wonderland.
The tiny tea room located in a quiet suburb of South West Sydney does not boast a full menu of exotic mains, but rather features a small selection of home-baked scones, slices, and cakes, all lovingly prepared by its owner, Caroline Kourlouris.
“I bake whatever I feel like, anything out the front is not a given… it’s just what I feel like baking,” Caroline said, adding that Addie’s is “basically a pancake parlour that sells some toasted sandwiches and bacon and eggs,”
This unpredictability gives Addie’s its unique sample of daily treats, which keep its customers coming from all over Sydney.
“The other day we had women from Mona Vale, which is huge.”
Found opposite St. Anne’s Church in Hammondville, Addie’s Speciality Tea Room is a picturesque setting; completed by the candy-striped walls and delicate artwork.
Nicole Panetta, a local mother and an employee of Caroline since February 2016, adores the tranquillity that Addie’s and its surrounds gives her after 33 years in the travel industry.
“It’s very welcoming…and just lovely.”
Yet the reality of getting Addie’s Speciality Tea Room off the ground has not been the dream that Caroline once thought it would be.
Initially Caroline Kourlouris wanted something very different from the Wonderland-themed tea room that now poses between a residential area and a carpark. In 2007 Caroline and her sister began their original adventure as children party stylists, under the name Addie and Me. From Mosman to Canberra the pair would travel, when the strain of such distance just grew too much.
Thus Caroline began looking for a permanent place to house her parties of wonder and delight for children. In 2010 a block of shops was set to be developed only a few minutes away from Caroline’s front door. Caroline signed for the premise of Addie’s that year, but it was another three years before the she was able to move in.
Addie and Me came to Hammondville in 2013, however at this point it was not a tea room, but a children’s party parlour; a set and local location to Caroline’s established business as a party host. The newly designed Addie’s boasted floral décor and handmade dolls that lined the shelves; a true children’s Wonderland.
“Why sometimes I’ve believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” This quote from Lewis Carroll adorns the wall above the marshmallow tables.
And it seemed, briefly, like Caroline’s Wonderland had truly come to fruition. But it was not the end of trials and tribulations that Addie’s would have to overcome to be the delightful spot for local chit chat and coffee that it is today.
“[Addie and Me] didn’t work as a children’s party place, we found the room was too small. We tried to make it as big as we could, within what we had…we decided that the children’s events just weren’t going to work so we decided to make it a tea room, which works a little better than that, except that the kitchen is not equipped… but here we are.”
Despite this struggle of theme and space, Caroline forges ahead, and gives her food everything she can.
“I love baking, and I love it when someone loves what I bake.”
From the delectable three stack of pancakes, served with ice cream, chocolate sauce and strawberries to the locally-famous BRAT sandwich, made up of bacon, rocket, avocado and tomato on toasted sourdough, it seems that despite the difficulties Addie’s Speciality Tea Room is serving up some gourmet food, for homemade prices.
This deliciousness has not gone completely unawares in the community either. Only the second café to sprout in the rapidly redeveloping area of Hammondville, Addie’s Speciality Tea Room has provided a magical place for the residents of the area, especially for the parents of children who attend Hammondville Primary School, located across the road from Addie’s.
“I think [Addie’s] brought a wonderful meeting place to the community,” Said Nicole of the impact of Addie’s on the local community.
“Mum’s can catch up for a quick coffee…I think it’s added a lot to the community.”
And yet, despite this relative success, Caroline is not out of the woods yet. The battle to run her business single-handedly, and raise four children is one she is not winning. As she describes it, “It’s difficult, difficult. I’m in trouble with everyone. Everyday, everyday I’m in the poop with someone.”
The harmony of Caroline’s life in Wonderland has steadily faded.
“Whether it’s a customer that is pissed off that my avocadoes are not soft enough, or my kids that didn’t get what they wanted in their lunches.”
This strain between business and family is evident at Addie’s; which is not open on Sunday or Monday and only opens at 9am on other days.
“I’m not equipped as a single owner of this, to put the hours in of a normal coffee shop, because I’ve got four kids.” This teetering balance has had a huge impact on the success of Addie’s Speciality Tea Room; whose local rival is able to snatch up those early morning coffee customers.
Location is also playing a role in the overall success of Caroline’s venture.
“A normal day is hit and miss, it’s never predictable. We are not in a great location for a tea room.”
Despite the lovely views of the neighbouring church, Addie’s location on the outer edge of the local Hammondville shops prevents the usual foot traffic that could boost the tea room’s customer base.
“A lot of people don’t know what we are. A lot of people, local people have never been in…”
Yet even all the odds in the world won’t stop Caroline from pursuing her greatest passion; baking. “[Addie’s] allows you to be creative with food… I love baking.”
And people love her baking, as Nicole Panetta describes her favourite treats from Addie’s display, “The scones… oh no that’s hard, the lemon syrup…both.”
Although, according to Caroline, the most popular item on the menu is one of Sydney’s greatest trends of 2016, the avocado smash. Made at Addie’s with homemade chilli jam, avocado, and sourdough, this one might actually be the best in Sydney.
Hopefully one day soon the rest of the world will see Addie’s Speciality Tea Room for the Wonderland that it truly is.
As Lewis Carroll put it: “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”