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

Baja Cantina, Glebe

I love a cheeky little Mexican on a Friday night. Their food is pretty good too. Ba-dum-chhhhh! Ok, well that was an obvious joke, but not bad for a Sunday night, right?

My dining friend and I recently went to visit an old favourite, Baja Cantina on the perpetually bustling Glebe Point Road. Bookings are relatively necessary or so it would seem, with the restaurant full by about 7pm (there are two sittings, 6/6:30 and 8:30) and sorry punters being turned away. I’d always been impressed during previous visits so expectations remained high this time around.

Baja Cantina - decked out as any tex mex restaurant should be

Baja Cantina – decked out as any tex mex restaurant should be

We started with a (very) standard entree – chips and guac. I liked how their chips were made on site and fried fresh. The guac was decent. Well flavoured, various little chunks of onion here and there. A solid serve for $9 (large, $14). I have to say I would otherwise have gone for the queso fundido – even the name is screams enjoyment. A TEDs – boooringgg ( a very reasonable $4.50) and a Dos Equis Amber ($7) were also ordered, although buyers remorse briefly overcame me as I saw a brightly coloured jug of sangria arrive at our neighbouring table ($16).

Can't go wrong

Can’t go wrong

Immediately entering the town of Regretsville, I could feel fullness rearing its ugly head even before the mains arrived. What started off as mild fullness courtesy of a delicious pork belly for a team work lunch was only perpetuated by my lack of control over abovementioned corn chips.

It actually worked well that we had to wait really quite a long time for our mains – as in, a good half hour / 40 mins notwithstanding said busy-ness of the restaurant.

My dining friend’s steak fajitas ($25.90) arrived theatrically. An army-sized plate of black beans, cheese, tomato, rice, guac, sour cream and lettuce arrived, together with an hilariously small and unbalanced serve of three tortillas, as well as a bowl of salsa. Mere moments later a great sizzling behemoth of a plate of steak, capsicums and onions arrived. So apart from the obvious tortilla to filling debacle, I have to say that the steak was pretty tough, though the capsicum/onion combo was pretty tasty. It wasn’t really cut across the grain and it was a little fatty. The quantity was enormous – but actually just made me think of the unfortunate wastage of the situation. A human of epic sized proportion still could not have finished this dish.

fa-jeetas, mate

fa-jeetas, mate

My enchirito with shredded beef ($22.90) was similarly man-mountain sized. Tragically, it had clearly been sitting around for a good 10 minutes or so, I estimate! It was cool and juices had visibly run out, mixing with the enchilada sauce. Though the waitress speedily whisked the enchirito away to be reheated at my request, it was mildly frustrating that a dish had been let out of the kitchen, cold. It came back steaming hot and on a new plate, which was appreciated. The filling was pretty rice-y, which I don’t remember having been the case last time (I’m pretty on point with the rice to meat ratio). A sad experience, indeed.

Entrada, enchirito

Entrada, enchirito

Overall, Baja Cantina offered a fairly glum experience! So different from the experiences of Mexican dinners past. Weirdly, the food portions appear to be growing – in stark contrast to food portion sizes of many restaurants out there. I still want to try the Baja fish tacos…but it might take a few more dinners to forget this experience 😦

Baja Cantina
43-45 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

Food? 5/10. Credit given for past visits; deductions for cold food and tough steak
Drinks? 9/10. Put it this way, 1 page of their 2-page menu is dedicated to drinks. Various beers, cocktails, wines and a whole lotta tequila
Atmosphere? 8/10. Lively and decked out like any tex-mex restaurant should be. We were unfortunately seated right next to the entrance, which meant a constantly opening and non-closing door, but that was more just circumstance – every restaurant needs a door! The waiters were ever present and friendly and the restaurant boisterous and bustling.

Baja Cantina on Urbanspoon

El Jannah, Granville (aka moar chickin!)

The scent wafted delicately… wait, no no, definitely scrap that. The smoke fell heavily? Engulfed? Was the very definition of ubiquitous? Either way, we got off the train at Granville one Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks back and it smelled pretty bloody charcoaly.

It was one mission and one mission only that we had in mind that day, and that was chicken. Charcoal chicken. Nabbing one of the last free tables at the very busy restaurant we dove straight in, ordering a quarter chicken (approx $9 eat in) and also a serve of three felafel ($4.50).

Served with the again ubiquitous lebanese flat bread, as well as vibrant, almost glowing pink pickles and gherkins…and, of course, that famous garlic sauce (toum, I think it’s called)…it was a dish of high expectation.

The chicken, I have to say, was just a little too charcoaly. Parts of it were a little dry and my carcinogen-fearing mother would have chucked a fit. I don’t know where they’re buying these miniature chickens from, either. The garlic sauce was pretty bloody fantastic. It was kind of an aioli on overdrive – not a place to go on a first date, that’s for sure. But garlicky, rich and creamy, it was all I needed.

Eat moar chickin

Eat moar chickin

The felafel was the surprise hit of the day for me. Three crunchy and – finally – not overly dry and salty – felafel came in somewhat of a theatric form. I had expected, well, three felafel on a plate. Instead, there was lettuce, tomato, a great but liquidy hommus and an onion/parsley salad. Oh, and more pickles.

Fantastic felafel

Fantastic felafel

Of course, lunch ain’t lunch without a spot of dessert. Ok, that’s definitely a lie but with the famous Abla’s Pastries around the corner, why not? Some of the best baklava I’ve ever had, and trust me, I’ve had a fair bit in my time. The plate in the picture cost about $8.50

Brilliant baklava

Brilliant baklava

Overall, a good day and a restaurant worth checking out. It’s been around for more than a couple of years and it’s absolutely packed – how could that many people be wrong?

El Jannah
4-6 South Street
Granville NSW 2142

Abla’s Pastries
48-52 Railway Parade
Granville NSW 2142

Cafe Pacifico, Darlinghurst

So the other day, I made my inaugural purchase of an Entertainment Book, having previously been a little skeptical dog on the concept. I’ve swiftly realised the false economy – that you order to compensate for any discount you’re receiving. Anyway, spotting Cafe Pacifico in said book, I took up the opportunity to check out a cool-looking Mexican restaurant / tequila bar a couple of nights ago.

Skeptical dog

Up a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flight of stairs, we were greeted with smiles and a pulley system attached to the door, which would send a bony skeletal hand flying up and down. Having arrived at the painfully un-hip hour of 6pm on a Friday night (apparently I’m 80 these days), we were seated immediately and plonked upon our table was a serve of complimentary chips and salsa.

Wanna chip bro?

Wanna chip bro?

The chips were…chips, nothing special. The salsa had a surprising kick for what otherwise looked like a soupy saucy bowl of red.

Proceeding to commence the Friday night-unwind, we got stuck into a pitcher (1L-ish) of Mexican Sangria ($34), which seemed to get increasingly strong towards the end of the jug. Fruit was sparse – a little orange here, a little apple there, spice was somewhat uninspiring, but it was decent, and boy did it help us unwind.

Quit yer wining

Quit yer wining

Enough talking. Onto the food. Having been to a chicken abattoir the day before, I went for the beef enchiladas ($22.9) with optional sour cream ($23.9), while my dining friend went for the beef burrito ($22.9).

Is that a burrito in your pocket?

Is that a burrito in your pocket?

I think my dining friend’s comment summed it up succinctly as our mains arrived – “I though we ordered different things”. They just sort of looked same-y. And beige. They were quite tasty – plentiful, tender shredded beef, topped with melty, oozy cheese and the promised sour cream. Both came with refried beans and what I’d usually expect to be a cilantro-lime rice thing (but what was instead a sort of orange-y tasting rice), but it was essentially just the same save for mine coming in the shape of two rolled tortillas, and his coming in one burrito.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a burrito? Is it an enchilada?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a burrito? No, it’s an enchilada

I was probably hoping for something with a little more of an innovative twist; something a little funky. Anything. Cafe Pacifico is in the trendiest of trendy areas, after all. This reminded me more of a local, suburban Mexican dig – definitely not bad, but nothing particularly exciting to speak of. Nevertheless, it was good, hearty fare, which hit the spot on a cold Friday night. And service was fantastic as well.

As we retreated into the night – at the out of control hour of 7:30pm – the bar had begun to fill up, bartenders were yelling and whooping, tequila was being shotted and the party was just getting started.

Cafe Pacifico
95 Riley St,
Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Food? 6/10 – sorry guys! It’s probably not the best value for money – at $24 for a suburban enchiladas, I’ve had better!
Drinks? 7/10 – Sangria was pretty unimaginative, but they did have a wiiiide selection of tequila and were also touting their “famous margarita”
Atmosphere? 9/10 – very cool. It’s set upstairs in what would have once been an old, unloved warehouse. Now decked out with Mexican paraphernalia, posters, candles, beer boxes and a huge bar, it’s lively, quick and a lot of fun.

Cafe Pacifico on Urbanspoon

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