There comes a time in the life of even the most committed inner-Sydney hipster when one longs to relinquish those ways of their youth. A day when you no longer wish to perch precariously on old milk crates, the lines of plastic eating into your upper thighs, as you bend over a converted chest-table-contraption to sip a piccolo latte. When you long for clean water glasses and white walls rather than grimy vintage gin bottles and distressed concrete splattered with paint. When you want to drink a glass of crisp white wine with your lunch, you expect to be able to order a side of greens, and to be able to pay with AMEX at the end. Ladies and gentlemen, rest assured. When you reach this fine stage of life, Kepos Street will be waiting to welcome you with open arms.
Breaking the mould of the typical inner-south cafe (our beloved Shortlist, Clevelands et al), Kepos Street is more tres-chic than street-smart. The beards here are toted by polished men in long grey aprons who stroll the airy, white-washed Danish space with grace (and moccasins). Arriving for Saturday lunch, I feel a little like I’ve gone on a holiday to the Hamptons. Beech and white metal chairs are delicately arranged on floorboards and the banquette seating totes blue-striped cushions. Unexpectedly, the menu strikes a quirky contrast by transporting the reader to the middle east with falafels, hummous, salads with pomegranate seeds and harissa. Yet it stays true to the cafe’s mature vibe by accommodating business lunches with green bean or french fry sides and baked salmon mains. Drinks are kept simple, with coffee from the grounds roasters, freshly squeezed juices, artisan teas and san pellegrino sparkling. Staff are welcoming and attentive yet professional, reserved enough to add to the ambiance.
The only break in the formality is a chuckle when I exclaim excitedly as a fresh orange juice goes past. When I arrange to have my own delivered to the table, I’m glad to have broken the silence. It’s tart, fresh and delicious, as is the fresh carrot juice my companion chooses. An iced long black is smoky and complex, well handled by the barista although I’ll be the first to admit that The Grounds just isn’t my favourite roaster in Sydney. Being a little carb-overloaded, we shut our eyes as the stacked steak sandwiches ($19), wagyu burgers ($18) and falafels with schiacciata bread ($16) plus their french fry companions waft delicious scents in our direction from nearby tables. We turn instead to the salad section of the menu, which is pretty extensive, selecting the tabbouleh ($14), seared tuna with egg, potato and harissa dressing ($19), and cauliflower salad with wheat, mint, cranberries and pistachios ($14).
Our only regret is the tabbouleh, which is surprisingly bland given the clear middle-eastern bent of the menu. It’s mostly parsley, with a few pockets of crushed wheat and a less-than-generous amount of fried eggplant. The pomegranate pearls are a welcome addition, but they aren’t enough to lift the dish to something you’d order twice. Nonetheless, its blandness means that it blends well with the other two salads, which both have stand out flavour.
The tuna salad is a clear winner, coming out as a delectable mixture of chopped cucumber and tomato with a rich dressing of Harissa mixed with pulverised pieces of potato. The tuna itself has been seared only ever-so-slightly, and is perfectly tender and moist. It’s a hearty salad and rightly a meal in itself.
The cauliflower salad is more predictable but still pleasant. Chunks of roasted cauliflower are dressed generously in a citrusy olive oil dressing, their sweetness drawn out by cranberries with complimentary flavour from the toasted pistachios and walnut. All together, the salads are a delicious mess on my plate, reminiscent of long summer days and eclectic platefuls of salads at potluck barbecues.
Overall, the whole experience is reassuring. I know now that when I do come of age, Kepos Street will be waiting for me with open arms (and falafels). And next time I’m tired of enviously watching Carrie and the girls jet off to the Hamptons on Sex and the City, I’ll know where to go to get my fix of fresh juices, floor-to-ceiling windows and navy blue banquette seating.
Kepos Street Kitchen
96 Kepos Street Redfern
(02) 9319 3919
Best bits: an interesting menu you won’t find at many Sydney cafes (eschewing the ‘cafe classics’ for Middle-Eastern fare)
Worst bits: surprisingly bland tabbouleh, high prices for many menu items
Price Point: $$$
Coffee: The Grounds Roasters
Go here for… sophisticated cafe dining in a relaxing resort-style space
What you should know: save room for the pastries