Tag Archives: Elizabeth Fenech

Kepos Street Kitchen: The happiest cafe on earth?

The first thing you notice about Kepos Street Kitchen (KSK) is the vibe. Maybe it’s the sunlight that pours through the huge front window or the lime green cups from The Grounds that are carried away by a steady stream of locals. All we know is, people here are smiling. Not the clients (they’re positively beaming), but the staff. In a Sydney cafe that’s pumping on a Sunday morning, that’s got to be some kind of record.

Tucked away on a quiet corner in Redfern

Tucked away on a quiet corner in Redfern

We think the positive chi comes from Chef and owner, Michael Rantissi, who can be seen in the open kitchen assembling Israeli-inspired dishes like a machine as he banters with the clientele. Michael, formerly Sous Chef at Bathers’ Pavilion, makes the kind of food you didn’t realise you’d been craving until you see it on the menu. Middle Eastern flavours play a huge role in keeping things interesting at Kepos Street. While the rest of Sydney felt privileged to choose between having their eggs boiled or fried, we departed from cafe food altogether with “dad’s favourite breaky”: a dish which combines hunks of schiacciata bread, falafel, hummus, a hardboiled egg, labneh and a pretty tomato salad with mint, sesame and olive oil dressing.

We loved Dad’s favourite breaky: schiacciata bread, falafel, hummus, a hardboiled egg, labneh and a pretty tomato salad

“Dad’s favourite breaky”: schiacciata , falafel, hummus,  egg, labneh and a tomato salad

From the falafel and hummus to the tabouleh and baharat tomato jam, everything here is lovingly made in house by Michael and his team. The rest of the menu is a showcase of inspired Israeli twists. Think za’atar with smoked salmon or a strawberry salad dressed with pomegranate pearls, mint and rosewater yoghurt. On a scale of one to delicious, I found myself texting friends between mouthfuls of falafel to say, “Get down to KSK for breakfast. Seriously. Now.”

Strawberry salad with mint, rosewater, yoghurt and pomegranate pearls

Strawberry salad with mint, rosewater, yoghurt and pomegranate pearls

Oh, and also, the coffee goes down a treat, but if you’re after a fruity pick-me-up, the kitchen makes lemonade from scratch and mocktails that arrive in cute jam jars with handles.

Cafes in Sydney, take note, this is how breakfast is done. We can’t wait to come back for dinner. What’s not to be happy about?

Elizabeth Fenech

Read more about Kepos Street Kitchen here
Kepos Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Kepos Street Kitchen, Redfern, Reviews

Keep calm and eat chocolate

The Sydney food scene is serious business. Even hip, casual restaurants seem to warble in a state of self-reflection. Are we hip enough? Please notice our designer light fittings. That’s why it’s so refreshing to go to a place with a bit of carefree whimsy.

Max Brenner is like wonderland for grown-ups. A place where you can check your cool in at the door and wear a gaping grin as you wander past huge vats of warm chocolate and follow the maze of pipes that run across the ceiling with markings assuring you that their contents are “100% chocolate”. One corner of the Broadway store is styled as a vintage sweet shop, like something you’d find in Diagon Alley or at the end of the yellow brick road.

Max Brenner is like wonderland for grown-ups

Max Brenner is like wonderland for grown-ups

A place with a motto like “Chocolate by the Bald Man,” may seem ditsy, but this guy approaches the humble cacao bean with precision, innovation and overwhelming affection. For those of us who find ourselves mindlessly polishing off a packet of Tim Tams in front of the telly, Max Brenner’s brand of chocolate appreciation is a new world.

The restaurant has developed its own cutlery and crockery specifically for the needs of the chocolate connoisseur; a hug mug allows you to caress your hot chocolate made by the professionals or you can take a stab at concocting your own with the Suckao, a mug with a tea light candle beneath it, served with a jug of milk and a small mountain of chocolate drops for experimenting. It is Max Brenner’s signature straw-spoon, however, that is quite possibly the best thing since sliced bread. What could be more ingenious than an implement enabling you to drink chocolate milk through a straw, but also scrape the gooey chocolate goodness that’s left behind at the end?

Titti-frutti waffle – warm Belgian waffle, melted chocolate, ice cream,  strawberries and banana.

Titti-frutti waffle – warm Belgian waffle, melted chocolate, ice cream, strawberries and banana.

The chocolate dishes, too, are developed with imagination, but executed with a flair that comes with knowing how to handle the glorious bean. Of course, there are Belgian waffles drizzled in chocolate sauce and served with strawberries, ice cream and banana. There is a rich chocolate soufflé, oozing molten chocolate from its centre. Look out for the exploding chocolate shots, which involve popping candies suspended in melted chocolate. Then there’s the nostalgia-inducing I Scream Max-Wich, an enormous hunk of vanilla ice cream bookended by giant soft-baked chocolate cookies, served with melted chocolate and hundreds-and-thousands. It’s every (big) kid’s sweet dream.

A word of warning for the uninitiated; the servings at Max Brenner are very generous and it’s likely that your eyes will be bigger than your stomach (piles of sweets tend to have that effect on us, too). Bring a friend and wear stretchy pants, because everywhere you look, the Bald Man entices you to share in his love story. It’s a calorific affair, but hey, you only live once.

Elizabeth Fenech

Read more about Max Brenner in Paddington here
Max Brenner Chocolate Bar on Urbanspoon

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The hard-working, straight-talking, blue-collar-Party-supporting… the launch of The Workers

Entering The Workers is something akin to approaching a secret Masonic Temple. You pass under a nondescript doorway flanked by wrought iron lamps and travel up a narrow timber staircase that opens out into a large hall. Dark timber beams run overhead and exposed brick walls are plastered with graffitied political slogans and artfully crumbling concrete. Giant pictures of Labour party greats smile down on patrons and give the impression that the building Australian workers come “home” to has been loved by generations of locals. And, of course, it has.

Everything at The Workers comes with a cheeky aside

The Darling Street home of The Workers was a trades and labour hall in the 1890s and is steeped in Labour Party history. Conscious of its place in the narrative of the hard-working, straight-talking, blue collar Party, everything at The Workers comes with a cheeky aside. The menu cries, “Viva La Tacos!” and guarantees the bartenders will “whet your whistle.” Indeed, The Workers satisfies at both the bar and in the Canteen, aka the kitchen.

Guests sampled prawn tacos – along with a selection of Mexican bar food

Following a stellar opening by former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, who was as irreverent and down-to-earth as an old school politician should be, we sampled a variety of sliders, including Alaskan crab cakes with yellow pepper, preserved lemon and caper mayo, crispy buttermilk fried chicken wings and the show-stopping “mini mac” which is just like its big brother, only cooler. All the food has a definite Mexican twist, with enough spice to keep things interesting but not enough to see you grab your glass. You’ll be keen to reach for a drink for other reasons though; The Workers’ quality wines hail from Australia, France and Italy and the bartenders mix up drinks inspired by such diverse pop culture icons as Rudolph Valentino, Carrie Bradshaw, The Bronx (the Zoo, not the Borough). Like any working man’s watering hole, beer is on the menu in a big way, and patrons will find a vast array of local and international labels bottled and on tap.

A DJ mixes trendy house tunes behind the bar and patrons can sit at communal tables down the centre of the room or in the cosier booths that run around the perimeter. Opening night saw The Whitlams’ Tim Freedman woo the crowd and The Workers promises regular live gigs to keep the plebs entertained. Venturing through a wall of foliage takes you to a funky astro-turfed open air balcony, strung with coloured lights and candy-coloured garden furniture. For patrons looking for a quieter, more intimate place to chill out, a series of “private” rooms are fitted out in a style reminiscent of an office of a ‘60s Prime Minister, all tartan carpet and distressed leather armchairs.

Down the trendy, restaurant- laden of Balmain, it’s refreshing to find a bar that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you’re a local, we can see The Workers becoming your regular watering hole. Hell, even if you’re not, you’re guaranteed to feel right at home.

Elizabeth Fenech

Read more about The Workers here

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Filed under Balmain, Events, Reviews, The Workers