There's a huge art to a really good salad. Who gets excited by vegetables when there's fried chicken to be had? Even Homer and Bart Simpson declared "you don't win friends with salad". That's where The Black Groodle steps in, a new addition to the cafe scene in Ultimo that's likely to get you all excited about eating your greens again.
The Black Groodle only opened in August this year but has already gathered a loyal following from local workers, residents and students. Its industrial chic like fit-out combines reclaimed wooden furniture, exposed brickwork and eclectic touches like church pews as bench seating. The name comes from the owner's own black groodle (poodle x golden retriever), Jed.
The menu changes each day, written in felt pen on subway tiles behind the service counter. Their menu trumpets "Street food. Local style" although there's a strong emphasis on Middle Eastern dishes. That means marinated grilled meats like lamb kafta, chicken tawook, beef shawarma and falafels. They also run with daily specials: we've seen everything from red bean stew with lamb shanks to cabbage rolls to kafta bil sanieh, a Lebanese dish of baked meatballs with potato.
Roasting eggplants over flames on the gas stove
Everything is impressively made on-site. They've got a gas burner stove and oven tucked behind the salad counter, all in full view of patrons. We watch as cakes are removed from the oven for cooling, and eggplants are roasted whole over naked flames.
The salad counter is eye-catching with its rainbow of colours. You can let me them plate up a random combination of salads or choose your own, cafeteria-style.
Rice with mushrooms
The choice and range is bewildering, but staff are generally accommodating and will practically let you point at everything if it fits on the plate.
Choosing your salads at the counter
There's everything here from raw crunchy cabbage to soft and tender beans simmered in tomato to carbolicious rice with mushrooms or lentils. It all tastes fresh and homemade with enough attention to seasoning, colour and texture to keep all your senses happy.
Green beans with tomato sauce
Kale and chickpea salad
Lamb kafta and salad plate $14
A meat and salad plate is $14 eat-in or $12 if you take away.
Mixed vegetarian combination salad $14
It's the same price for a vegetarian plate, but mine was piled with so much food I could barely fit in dessert (I said barely). Each plate comes with a dollop of hummus and a side plate of fresh Lebanese bread for all your scooping and wrapping requirements.
Beef shawarma wrap $9
The wraps are a little cheaper, a round of Lebanese bread rolled up with lamb kafta, chicken tawook, beef shawarma or falafel with salad.
Pulled pork panini $10.50
We visited on a day they had pulled pork panini as a sandwich special too.
Pulled pork with slaw
The sandwich arrives ten minutes after the salad but the wait is worth it. The pulled pork is juicy and tasty, crammed into a toasted panini with plenty of slaw.
And the distinctive plates? They're stamped with Kazbah on the bottom but when we ask if the cafe is related, the owner laughs and says "no, we're just cousins. Literally".
Strong flat white coffee made with Little Marionette coffee beans
The coffee is commendable too, using coffee beans roasted by Little Marionette.
Save space for dessert. I manage to squeeze in a slice of their homemade knafeh, a baked cheese dessert soaked with rose sugar syrup and topped with a crust of semolina.
They'll heat it up for you so the cheese becomes a stretchy goo. It's an intense sugar hit to finish with, but hey after all that salad you deserve it, right?
Cakes and desserts
The Black Groodle
55 Mountain Street, Ultimo, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 9161
Monday to Friday 7am-4pm
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12/03/2014 01:36:00 am