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

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

Two for the price of one – baked lamb meatballs and baked eggplant extravaganza

We recently had a (relatively) bloody cold day in Sydney, even though getting into summer the temperature should be hovering around the high twenties. Realising this was probably my last chance to eat warming, scrummy comfort food before the onslaught of what is an Australian summer hits, I took the opportunity to cook up a storm – baked lamb meatballs, and also what I would like to call a baked eggplant extravaganza. I give you good deal – two for the price of one.

I actually only took a picture of the lamb meatballs as both dishes looked approximately exactly the same – various delicious goods baked in a hearty tomato sauce and topped with stretchy, gooey mozzarella look the same – whaddaya know.

First up – the lamb.

You will need:
– Lamb! I baked enough for about 3 or 4 people and used about 500 grams of minced lamb
– 1 onion, diced (I used half in the meatballs and half in the tomato sauce)
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped (because everyone should get more bullish about garlic) – half for the meatballs, half for the sauce
– salt and pepper to taste
– a nice handful of basil
– 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
– a couple of those little baby eggplant (or half a big eggplant), cut into small (say, 1cm) chunks (optional)
– tomato paste
– 1 nice, hot red chilli (optional)
– mozzarella (however cheesey you like your food) – I used about 4 of those bocconcini (the smaller mozzarella) balls

Step 1 – mary had a little lamb: in a bowl, mix your lamb, half the onion, half the garlic, salt and pepper and half the basil. Get your hands in there and really give it a good mix. Roll these into little spheres – however big you like (I went for golf-ball sized) and, if you like, stuff a tiny cube of mozzarella into each ball. Make sure you seal the meat around the cheese well!

Gettin’ friendly

Step 2 – if at first you don’t succeed, then fry, fry again: heat some olive oil in a saucepan on a med-high heat and place your beautiful meatballs in to fry, turning as each side becomes golden.

Lamby goodness

Step 3 – mamma mia: once your meatballs are golden (don’t be too worried if they’re not cooked through at this stage), add your eggplants (if using) and fry off for a couple of minutes. Tip in a can of diced tomatoes, the remaining basil, some tomato paste and chilli, if you want a little heat. Let these simmer away for a few minutes until some of the liquid evaporates.

Simmer away, my little lamby friends

Step 4 – wakey bakey: you could stop at step 3 and have a delicious dish – a really great pasta sauce, even – but in the words of some wanky chef, somewhere, I’m going to take this one to the next level (I got this). Tip your meaty lamby mixture into a casserole dish, top with carelessly torn mozzarella, strewn at random, and bake at about 200 degrees celcius until the mozza is melty and slightly goldy.

Baked lamb droolballs

Second up… for those Sunday nights when the depression of the coming work week hits its hardest, you’ve come off the back of a busy, fun filled weekend of running around, hanging out in the sun and having a brewski or two…and all you want is dinner on a plate, in front of your, not in an hour… now.

You will need:
– the rest of that pack of baby eggplant you bought for the lamb meatballs recipe… (I used about 5 or so)
– bacon! I used about 5 rashers, chopped
– half an onion, chopped
– 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
– the rest of the mozzarella (if you like getting cheesey)
– a tin of diced tomatoes
– basil, a nice handful

Step 1 – there’s really only one step: heat a saucepan – you don’t really need oil, some will come from the bacon fat (yes, gross, but delicious). Chuck in your bacon and onion and fry until the onion is translucent and the bacon with nice little golden bits on it (oh, and until any bacon fat renders). Add your garlic at this point, and also the eggplants, halved. Fry your eggplants until they’re nice and golden and gettin’ squishy. Tip in your tomatoes and basil. Simmer until some of the water has evaporated. Then, if you like, tip into a baking dish, top with mozzarella and bake at 200 degrees until it all looks nicely golden and melty. That’s it! That’s all.