When Kensington Street Social opened in Sydney in January 2016, it marked the arrival of Chef Jason Atherton's 19th restaurant. It joins an international network of restaurants that includes Pollen Street Social in London, The Clocktower in New York, Aberdeen Street Social in Hong Kong, Social Commune in Shanghai and Marina Social in Dubai. Atherton doesn't stop. Since then, he's opened a 20th restaurant, an izakaya-style restaurant, Sosharu, in London.
Kensington Street Social is his first foray into Australia, offering a menu that has been variously described as Modern British or British-Mediterranean. Atherton worked with Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White and Ferran Adria before a 10-year stint with Gordon Ramsay that included opening five Maze restaurants.
This is the third - and biggest - restaurant to take up residence in the The Old Clare Hotel. The 120 seat venue is significantly larger than Automata and Silvereye next door.
Kensington Street Social dining room
Soaring ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows mean the entire dining room is bathed in light by day. It's a cleverly designed space that lines up group tables along the window and high stools for couples and single diners around the bar and and open kitchen.
A mix of concrete columns, metal fixtures, warm timbers and leather furnishings soften the industrial chic effect. I'm particularly enamoured by the little touches like green glass water tumblers and copper cutlery stands on every table. The water tumblers are actually made from the bottom half of wine bottles!
Cutlery stands on each table
Today we're dining during the Sunday brunch session, probably the best time if you're after choice. Brunch includes the full breakfast menu plus sub-sections of snacks / sourdough flatbreads / raw and cured / vegetables / and fish, shellfish and meat.
Grass fed veal tartare, egg yolk jam, radish salad, sourdough $19
Our group of five means we can make some headway through the menu but even then we barely cover a third of all dishes. We start with the grass fed veal tartare, mixed through with cornichons and capers and garnished with radish batons. Buried in the centre is a 65C egg yolk, sous vide for two hours so the yolk has a thick and sticky consistency.
We mix it all up and savour dollops on crisp toast. The hand-cut veal is sweet and soft yet still has some resistance to the teeth. The blanket of rich egg yolk is countered by acidic pops of cornichon.
Trout roe and cucumber with squid ink crackers $10
The trout roe and cucumber is a light-as-air dip of cucumber foam dusted with dehydrated cucumber and pearls of trout roe.
Squid ink crackers
The colour contrast against the squid ink crackers is striking, wild curls of rice cracker tinted black with squid ink that look like they're blooming out of a wooden planter. The thin and fragile crackers tend to disintegrate easily but that only makes eating them more fun. Some of the crackers are a little on the oily side, but once they're piled generously the cucumber foam (with salty treats of trout roe), it's a ridiculously addictive snack.
Tongue 'n' cheek croquettes with piccalilli $15
Tongue 'n' cheek croquettes are a contrast of crunchy panko crumb surrounding tender shreds of cheek. We eat them with whisper thin slices of tongue and the most elegant assembly of piccalilli artfully strewn across the plate.
Tataki Hiramasa kingfish, dill, kale togarashi $19
Kale might feel ubiquitous these days, but I like the twist on togarashi here, converted to powder form and incorporated into a traditional Japanese pepper mix. It's sprinkled across plump slices of Hiramasa kingfish, seared tataki-style for what must have been the briefest of kisses on the grill. This turned out to be one of my favourite dishes of the meal.
Lightly smoked mackerel omelete, bacon, spring onion $17
From the breakfast menu we choose the lightly smoked mackerel omelette, an umami bomb of smoked mackerel bound up in a fluffy eiderdown of egg. Bonus finds of bacon add a smoky meatiness, tempered by a pile of crunchy beansprouts and finely shredded spring onion.
Mushrooms on rye, avocado, house Jersey milk ricotta $19
We also order the mushrooms on rye from the breakfast menu. It's a vegetarian-friendly mix of field and button mushrooms with a deliriously smooth puree of avocado on sturdy rye brad. But the real highlight of the dish are the smooth and creamy dollops of house Jersey milk ricotta.
Breakfast rice, slow cooked hen's egg, oyster mushroom, smoked bacon, bacon dashi $18
Breakfast rice is the most luxe version of congee you can imagine. A bed of rice porridge is laden with oyster mushrooms, a 65C egg and thick slices of intensely smoky bacon. Bacon dashi is poured at the table enveloping everything in an umami smokiness. I hadn't expected to be so taken by this dish but it just goes to show the power of bacon. It's so flavourful yet masterfully balanced.
Rangers Valley Black Angus rib eye, fried egg, chips, tarragon bearnaise $36
There's no such thing as a humble steak and chips here. Instead we get Rangers Valley Black Angus rib eye cooked to a textbook shade of medium rare pink. The meat is succulent and tender, flooding our mouth with fat and juices with each chew. We pierce the fried egg on top and mop up the oozing yolk.
A tumbler of chips are every bit as crunchy as we could hope for. Need more fat? We dip those chips into the tarragon bearnaise for extra goodness. The grilled tomato offers acidic salvation.
Sourdough flatbread with pulled lamb, basil pesto, baby zucchini, Jersey milk ricotta and pecorino $17
There are three different fillings to choose on the sourdough flatbreads. We go with the pulled lamb, smothered in grated pecorino and dotted with Jersey milk ricotta clouds.
Jersey milk ricotta and pecorino on the pulled lamb sourdough flatbread
The flatbread eats much like a pizza but has none of that heavy doughy consistency. I like how the richness of lamb is lightened by the inclusion of basil pesto and grated baby zucchini.
Counter seating overlooking the open kitchen
Yoghurt mousse, lemon curd, malt meringue, basil $16
There are five desserts on the menu and there's a moment of glee when we tell our waitress "We'll have one of each".
The yoghurt mousse is the lightest dessert, a snowball of whipped yoghurt mousse hiding a core of lemon curd, basil and malt meringue. The sweet spiciness of basil is a little strange to get used to at first, but it makes for a terrific palate refresher once your brain catches up with your tastebuds.
Chocolate and peanut bar, caramel and banana ice cream $16
The chocolate and peanut bar, on the other hand, is much more familiar territory. There's some clever nuancing here that saves this dessert from being the usual sickly sweet overload. Bitter chocolate, salted peanut and caramel work so well together. A quenelle of creamy banana ice cream is soothing.
Buffalo ricotta, lemon thyme peaches and honeycomb $16
Our buffalo ricotta dessert is completely hidden by a huge sheet of golden honeycomb.
Cracking the honeycomb sheet to reveal the buffalo ricotta and lemon thyme peaches beneath
One vigorous thwack later and the broken shards reveal the dessert beneath. We take a dab of peach sorbet here, a dab of buffalo ricotta there. Thin slices of lemon thyme peaches are a last echo of summer, and every now and then we nibble on the sweet honeycomb, as pretty as sunlight streaming through a stained glass window.
East Rydge Grove arbequina olive oil cake, coconut sorbet, spiced mango and passionfruit ice $16
The East Rydge Grove arbquina olive oil cake is a celebration of yellow, spanning multiple shades of sunshine in mango cubes, passionfruit and cake itself. The olive oil cake is particularly fragrant, and noticeably tasting of olive oil, as though it had been drenched with an olive oil syrup.
Meringue shards and a coconut sorbet add contrasting shades of white. It's like a collision of the Mediterranean and the tropics - in the best way possible.
Baked caramelised apple puff pastry, cider vinegar ice cream and pickled apple $17
We finish with the baked caramelised apple puff pastry, served upside down with the most tantalising crust of golden toffee. We break through the toffee to reveal buttery layers of pastry and soft cooked apples. Adding multiple layers of apple applications - a zingy cider vinegar ice cream and paper-thin scrolls of pickled apple - is both delicious and palate-cleansing.
There's plenty to like about Kensington Street Social. I may have have devastated that the English breakfast tea and toast wasn't available when we visited but I've just noticed it's back on the menu again. Bone marrow butter on toast... I'm coming back for you.
Kensington Street Social
3 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8277 8533
Breakfast (no reservations)
Monday to Friday 7am-10.30am
Saturday and Sunday 8am-10.30am
Monday to Saturday 12pm-2.30pm
Sunday 11am-2.30pm (reservations from 12pm only)
Monday to Saturday 6pm-10pm
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4/28/2016 01:22:00 am