Shenkin Kitchen, Enmore

I found out, this morning, that we have a resident duck in the neighbourhood. I found this out because at the somewhat ungodly hour of 6:30am on a Sunday morning, that duck decided that it would bring out its inner rooster and let the neighbourhood know that morning had reared its ugly head. I mean, arrived.

But in my new attempt to see the good in everything, early Sunday mornings bring brisk morning walks in the cool, fresh air along quiet, uninterrupted streets. And brisk walks lead us to brunch spots. Uncrowded brunch spots.

Beating all of those suckers that wake up at 10am only to wait by the side of a bustling street for a tiny, wobbly chair in the middle of a kitchen-to-patron thoroughfare, we turned up at Shenkin Kitchen, fresh faced and rosy cheeked, with hardly a soul in sight. Brilliant.

Lovely

Lovely

No sooner had we stepped through the door, the ubiquitously-moustached wait staff had greeted us with a friendly g’day, and asked for our coffee order. Now that’s efficiency. Glancing across to the giant drinks blackboard across the room, we went for a caramel milkshake (typical dining friend behaviour – $5.50 – can’t believe he didn’t get the oreo cookie-filled “harlem shake”) and a coconut hot chocolate ($4.50).

Delish

Delish

DF, resident milkshake expert of years gone by, commented that they key to a winning milkshake is the combo of cold, cold milk (colder than a fridge; not as cold as a freezer) and ice cream. This caramel milkshake got the thumbs up.

So icy, so milky

So icy, so milky

I was super impressed with the coconut hot chocolate. A rich, chocolatey drink with more than a hint of coconut. Delicious. I’m not sure I’ll be able to go back to boring old regular hot chocolate after this.

Coco-nutso

Coco-nutso

We took a fair while to make our way through the lengthy breakfast menu. DF incredibly lamely went for the bacon and egg pita ($8), which – sadly – was not actually served on a pita, but rather a regular white roll. DF’s comments were, of course, “good, tasty, I liked it”. Basically it wasn’t particularly fancy – it did the job.

Egg and bacon non-pita

Egg and bacon non-pita

I had the Angelita special – $17 – a puff pastry semi-circle filled with a fried egg, a zingy little coriander sauce, their “famous shakshuka sauce” and then a generically square shaped slice of cheese. It was a pretty tasty morsel. I reckon it could’ve done with another egg in that little parcel and there was definitely something left to be desired in terms of presentation. But overall, not a bad way to start the day.

Angelita special

Angelita special

I like Shenkin Kitchen. Every time I’ve ever walked past there, it has been jam packed – hence grabbing an early Sunday morning brunch session like a bull’s horns. The staff were super friendly, there was a delicious-looking array of various cakes, muffins and slices on the countertop, the menu was nice and imaginative and the interior of the building is pretty cool and well-decked out. If I’m ever up that early again, I’ll be back.

Shenkin Kitchen
129 Enmore Road
Enmore, NSW 2042

Food? 7/10. Our meals weren’t crazy exciting and eye-poppingly amazing. They were good and solid. I’d really like to try some other things from the menu though. They look good and I was flustered with the extensive range
Drinks? 8/10. Two thumbs up for the milkshake and hot choc. They had a few other good-looking milkshakes and various frappes – not too bad at all
Atmosphere? 9/10. Cool interior, very rough and ready. Gets super-mega-busy by the time 9am rolls around so I can’t speak for it then

Shenkin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Vargabar, Newtown

It is an obvious consequence of having recently moved to Newtown, that my goal was going to have to be slowly, but surely, working my way down each and every restaurant along King St. The effort so far has been gallant, but when the opportunity came up to have a leisurely brunch catchup, I eagerly took it with two hands and a drooling mouth.

Slightly off the main drag, our chosen spot was Vargabar Espresso, Newtown. Absolutely tiny spot, with coffees popping out of a busy takeaway window, and patrons spilling onto the street – can’t be a bad sign. We luckily nabbed one of the last tables towards the back of the cafe and started with a latte (I’m pretty sure it was a latte…though it did look more like a flat white. I hear they also roast their own beans) ($3.50) and a home-made chai latte ($3.80). I hear their coffee is organic and fair trade; I can only speak for my chai, but despite looking like one of those ordinary syrupy blundering messes, this was a delicious, spicy, not too rich, packed full of flavour winner of a chai.

But most importantly, the brunch. My dining friend and I both went for the corn fritters with bacon, two poached eggs, spinach and spoked chilli sauce ($16.50), although there were a great number of delicious-looking treats on the brunch menu (breakfast burrito, pesto scrambled eggs, braised pork breakfast bruschetta and baked eggs to name a few…). I was quite impressed. The fritters were packed full of corn and quite flavoursome. I did think they could have done with a little more cooking, both to add a little more colour and to overcome the ever so slightly doughy texture that remained. Nevertheless, pretty delicious. The bacon was plentiful, the spinach was…spinach. The eggs were poached perfectly and runny (with none of that gross vinegar taste), and the whole dish was topped off with a nice little chilli kick at the end. Whether it was actually “smoked” or not does remain open to debate.

I fritter this will be delicious (get it?)

I fritter this will be delicious (get it?)

I used the excuse of it being a warm start to the morning to indulge in a very tasty and very refreshing pineapple, mango and passionfruit frappe ($6). Served in a large mason jar, it was plentiful, had sporadic chunks of fruit and was just bloody good, really.

Like a snow party in my mouth

Like a snow party in my mouth

Vargabar has a great, friendly atmosphere and some pretty delicious-looking morsels on its menu. It doesn’t skimp on creativity in the drinks department either, which creations like maple lattes, cherry ripe hot chocolates and banana walnut chai milkshakes). And they claim that everything is home made. Although it was very busy, our food and drinks arrived fairly quickly and despite being a small spot, it can accommodate a surprising number of people. Definitely keen to head back on the guise of “catching up with friends” for more brunch!

Vargabar Espresso
10 Wilson St
Newtown NSW 2042

Food? 9/10
Drinks? 10/10
Atmosphere? 9/10

Vargabar Espresso on Urbanspoon

Silverbean Cafe, Enmore

In an effort to calm the rage that was bubbling after having to pick up my recently purchased bike for the 4th time from repairs, and also bribe my dining friend to drive me to said bike shop, I decided that a nice, hearty brunch was in order for what was also a wild and woolly Saturday morning.

Strolling untrodden streets (well, untrodden for me, anyway), we spotted a funky looking eatery across the road – Silverbean. I’m fairly big on the old tattoo, so having a distinctly old school tattoo-ish sign on the window was definitely a drawcard. Not so much for my friend – “ew, why would you tarnish pure skin with crappy drawings?” – but that’s a story for another day and another blog.

Silverbean

Anyway. Silverbean. You know how you see someone and you automatically conjure this idea in your head of how that person would be? I do. For some reason, whenever I see people dressed in that sort of “pin up” style, with the short fringe and the tattoos on the arms, my brain bizarrely tells me that they will be mean and rude. For the waiters at Silverbean, I apologise for any misconception my brain generated. The staff were open and warm and friendly and welcoming. So much for pre-first impressions!

Silverbean boasts a sort of old school, southern American drawling slang feel. Imagine this hot Louisiana afternoon, the mozzies buzzing, the crocs snapping….Old tables with those metal foot rests, pictures of guitars, cool old-looking cabinets and a feeling that the staff are really into the whole mindset of it all.

I started off with a…wait for it…chai ($4). It was great. Not too sweet, nice and strong. I hear they brew it themselves and they should definitely be commended for it.

Chai-licious

DF had a caramel milkshake (I think it was $5) and it was mindblowing. As mindblowing as any good milkshake can be. But seriously, it was really good. Unlike the normal sickly sweet caramel, this one was a sort of butterscotch-y – I want to say “burnt” but don’t want to leave the image of bitter – it was a very well rounded, full, butterscotch-y, delicious milkshake. AND the cutest addition, a little jug of the excess milkshake on the side – perfect. As one of my first revisits to caramel after a South American-induced dulce de leche coma, it was a nice re-entry to the market.

Caramel milkshake heaven

Meal-wise, DF went for the incredibly reasonably priced “Croc Monster” ($10). A large and delicious ham and cheese toastie with an abundant supply of cheese (not necessarily a bad thing!), a fried egg and a nicely dressed side salad. DF said the ham was very flavourful and the egg was perfectly cooked.

Croc-monster

My brunch was a crunchy toastedbreakfast burrito ($12), filled with incredibly tender lamb, chunky avocado, black beans, cheese and a nice dollop of sour cream on the side. The flavours were really very nice. It seemed like a lot of care had been taken in pairing various ingredients together. The cheese was melty, the salad was crisp, the burrito was crunch and the beans had a slight kickand the tenderness of the lamb showed the length of time it had spent in the cooker.

Epic lamb breakfast burrito

Overall, it was such a pleasant experience. The staff were so friendly and efficient and welcoming. The food really tasted like care had been put into it, the prices were incredibly reasonable. When you think of food from the South, I seem to think of these heavy, carby, often fried and just BIG meals. But here, you still get that nourishing “soul” feel about it, it’s just that there’s a bit of freshness and modern-ness involved. You get these great flavours, but still feel like you can actually walk afterwards. They also had a great selection of little muffins and cupcakes and some of the specials of the day (including corn bread) made me wish I had a second (or fourth) stomach. I’ll certainly be back.

Silverbean
99 Enmore Road
Enmore  NSW 2024

Food: 8/10
Drinks: 9/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Recommend? Absolutely, for a nourishing, warm, welcoming brunch on lazy morning

Silverbean on Urbanspoon

Bangbang, Surry Hills

Despite the fact that uni students go to class for about 12 hours a week, when I was going through my uni years, there was always something happening. Sport…doing an assignment…working a part-time job…studying like the nerd I was (am)…recovering from a big night out. I always thought to myself “I can’t wait until I start work, apart from the working week I’ll have so much time to myself on weekends”. I’m sure I never told a grown-up person that, because they probably would have scoffed at me, mercilessly.

Now that I am a real, bona fide grown up, myself, I finally realise that those days of leisure during uni are only to be repeated the day I retire. So, for the first weekend in far too many weekends that I had nothing planned, I thought “what the hell” and treated myself to a deliciously, delightfully, care free lazy brunch.

My housemate and I went to a spot halfway down the hill from hell, Bangbang espresso bar and cafe, in Surry Hills.

11:30am in Surry Hills and its prime trendy brunch time. We had actually planned on going to Rueben Hills, a couple of streets over, but facing what was looking like a 40+ minute wait we brought out our ghetto voices, saying “hellllll no” and cantered off to Bangbang. I’ll admit I was sceptical upon seeing it. The interior looked sort of like there weren’t enough tables/chairs to fill the place and create that sought-after “buzz” and the cake cabinet looked overpriced ($4.50 for a bite-sized gluten free cake??) and nothing special (chocolate crackles. Cute, but really?).

I ate my words as soon as I saw the menu. In my rush of hunger and drool I failed to take a picture of it, thinking I could later return to their website (…there is none) and describe some of the fantastic-sounding dishes. From memory…potato rosti with spinach and poached egg, muesli “trifle”, the standard bacon and eggs, a big breakfast, a scottish breakfast (complete with black pudding!), french toast with mascarpone and fruit. With this being one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make all week (first world problems), I (and my housemate) settled on toasted brioche with onion jam, chorizo, avocado and coriander mash and rocket ($16.50) as well as a soy cappucino and a chai latte (…obviously).

No complaints about the coffee. Apparently the milk was not “nutty” as other soy caps have been in the past. My chai latte was fantastic.

More so a picture of the cup than the actual chai…

Somewhat bizzarely, it tasted exactly like the Punjabi Chai I bought from Mrs Oldbuck’s pantry in Berrima (…as you do), which I really do love. It had such a nice spicy flavour and plenty of ginger. Brewed in the pot, it was a very generous serve, filling 2 glasses and served with a cute pot of honey and a strainer on the side.

There was a bit of a wait for the brunches, but I’m fairly certain the cooks were about to collapse from the sheer business of the morning, so I’ll cut them a bit of slack for that.

Toasted brioche, onion jam, chorizo, poached egg and avocado and coriander mash

Upon first glance, it was a fairly small serve. But thinking about it, I’d call it an appropriately-sized, non-obese serve. But I tell you what, the flavours just exploded. The avocado mash was chunky, generous and fresh, packed with fresh coriander leaves.

The brioche was ever so slightly on the oily side, but was topped with a sweet, dense, caramelly onion jam and topped with charred, thick slices of spicy chorizo and a perfectly poached egg. The decent handful of spicy rocket on top was a nice touch. The charred wedge of lime that accompanied was a nice, caramelly addition, which really freshened the whole dish and really worked to make the slightly oily brioche far less noticeable.

The great things about Bangbang were that all of the dishes looked incredible – I may actually break my no-restaurant-repeats rule and go back and try some of the other brunches (the lunch menu, from 12pm-3pm held its own as well!); the staff were still polite and efficient, and despite the rush we were given as much time as we wanted, without feeling pressured to get the hell out of there (as so many busy restaurants make you feel).

Bangbang, I was sceptical at first, but boy did I change my mind. You know what? I will definitely be back.

Bangbang Espresso Bar and Cafe
113 Reservoir Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010

Food: 7/10
Drinks: 8/10
Atmostphere: 6/10
Recommend? Absolutely

Bangbang Espresso Bar and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ecabar, Darlinghurst

‘Twas an excited party of diners (DFs) last Saturday morn, awake with long-weekend-excitements since it broke dawn. To the snow we were headed for adventures a-plenty, and it was….going to be epic. (What even rhymes with a-plenty?)

Anyway. Facing a five hour drive, we had to divert the hunger that had been a-brewing by mid-morning. Our party of six did this by heading on over to Ecabar in Darlinghurst.

We started off with a couple of chai lattes, a flat white, a latte and an orange juice. The juice conversation had gone something like this:

One of the DFs: “could I please see the juice menu?”
The waiter: “Sure, it’s orange, carrot, apple, pineapple…etc, etc, etc”
One of the DFs: “uhh, so…early…to…be…making…decisions…orange”

My chai – if you remember from my Tripod Cafe review, I admitted my snobbish ways with the great drink of chai. I’m going to have to say that I didn’t love this one. It was very…white. It sort of tasted like warm milk with a jar of cinnamon waved in the general vicinity with a decent stack of sugar lumped in afterwards. No complaints from the coffee drinkers though.

I can confirm the presence of cinnamon

Next up, I painfully made everyone wait to dig in while I photographed their brunches. We had perused the menu for a decent while and I noticed that a number of the more interesting dishes on their website were not on the menu. We settled on an eggs benedict with smoked ham ($15.50),

Eggs benny

a ham, cheese, tomato and dijon mustard toastie ($8.50),

So arty with the shadows and the triangles and stuff

a….toast with vegemite (lame! $5) and three dukkah spiced eggs ($15)

Dukkah spiced eggs

The toast was as you’d expect it. Toast. Two pieces of it. With a smack of vegemite and butter.

The dukkah spiced eggs…Ecabar seemed to take the same approach to this one as they did with their chai: not actually flavouring the main ingredient with spices, but rather, waving spices over the main ingredient’s general vicinity. Here, I guess I was expecting some form of eggs baked in a terracotta pot with deep, spicy, flavourful dukkah throughout a rich tomato-y sauce as opposed to two largely vinegary poached eggs with a sprinkle of the spice dumped on top (oh, and an artsy line across another part of the plate). I was also expecting a little more effort from the avocado/hummus mix underneath the eggs rather than literally avocado smashed up and mixed with hummus. It was as described, I guess, but at the same time, I was probably expecting more than a little bit of toast, a smoosh of avocado and two vinegary eggs for 15 bucks.

No complaints from the other parties (how wrong can you really go with toast?), though the eggs benedict looked like it had been sitting around for a good 5 minutes and had developed that custardy skin on the top.

Ecabar…I probably won’t be back. We want our brunches full of excitement – deep flavours, warming undertones, surprising freshness. Or at least comfort. Big, warming bowls of comfort. Not flat, boring, small, un-innovative serves of blandness. Sorry, Ecabar…

Ecabar Cafe and Wine Bar
2/128 Darlinghurst Road
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Ecabar Cafe and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon