If my insane birthday week didn’t already show it, I do believe birthday celebrations always call for a little something special. That’s why tonight we find ourselves checking out the next newest restaurant on colourful Kensington Street for my dining partner’s birthday. Kensington Street Social (KSS) is situated next door to the great Automata, across Spice Alley and just up the road from KOI. Our seats are at the bar counter allowing us to peer into a busy kitchen, paying particular attention to this one kitchen hand who seemed to be making most of our food.
Sydney rock oyster, mountain pepper berry mignonette granite ($4 each)
I’m a tad bit (read: a lot) grumpy from being hungry. So I’m initially perplexed that we’re ordering oysters, as much as I love them, because I don’t think they’re a true test of what this new up and coming restaurant can offer. I negotiate to have 2 out of the half dozen we order to save space for our later dishes. Upon the arrival of the oysters though I’m quick to claim back my rightful 3rd shuck. Sydney rock oysters aren’t usually my go to but each mouthful of these was a creamy brine of awesome. I love the dressing although I think they’re a little heavy handed with the olive oil. What really makes this is the granita/granite mix that is offered in abundance in a bowl in the middle of the plate. It’s both sweet and tangy and has me yearning to shovel it into my mouth long after we’ve gotten through the oysters.
‘English breakfast tea and toast’, wild mushroom tea, gentleman’s relish, bone marrow toast (for two) $14
The tea and toast is probably one of the quirkier dishes to come out of KSS. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to order it because hey it sounds cute plus I absolutely heart anything with mushrooms. The cup comes already filled with some kind of froth (going to go out on a limb and say porcini? We had a fantastically attentive and knowledgeable waiter that night who explained things but an agitated Sam who just wanted to eat) and the idea is that you’re meant to pour the mushroom “tea” broth from the teapot into the cups and spread the “jam” on the toast. You then raise your pinky and sip at it while nibbling on the sourdough crisp.
I’m not the biggest fan of the sourdough crisp and I think that’s just a personal preference, I don’t even like croutons. Even though I’m not super partial to marrow I am still a little disappointed that it’s just bone marrow butter and not actual marrow, as it didn’t seem like there was a lot of wow flavours going on with that part of the tea set. The broth however is incredibly flavourful, tasting like the strength of a million woodland mushrooms. I could easily have a large bowl of this stuff. Even though the menu specifies that it serves two, I feel like I could have easily subdued my dining partner and had them both.
Grass fed veal tartar, egg yolk jam, radish salad, sourdough $19
Post-dinner, I send Jeff a photo of the receipt so he could see what we ordered.
“You chose the oysters, tartar and hapuka *eye roll*”
I’m starting to feel a little embarrassed about how predictable I am becoming with the things I will order when I’m out but when I see the word tartar, I don’t even read the rest of it. I liked the texture of the meat and the stickiness of it all when it comes together. It’s a little less watery than most tartares because of the yolk jam rather than the usual normal yolk. The radish was great to cut through it all and give it some added crunch. While KSS’s rendition definitely passes the test, I’m still looking for the one tartar to beat Bennelong’s!
Paroo Kangaroo, soured sweet potato, cider poached pear, wattle seed, land cress $33
I’ve had kangaroo before and while I don’t mind it, it’s not something I would usually order as I’m more partial to eating other mammals. KSS’s roo is cooked a bloody medium rare, “perfection” for this particularly lean meat and I’m loving the reduction that’s been poured onto it. Soured sweet potato sounds off quite literally but I’m pleasantly surprised as to how well campari works to season the puree. I enjoyed this dish for its uniqueness and for the fact it’s not another plate of tartar that I’ve ordered. Coming back on my own I probably wouldn’t order this again as I think you really need to enjoy kangaroo to enjoy this. My dining partner had three out of the four slabs.
Hapuka, cauliflower cheese puree, gin, seaweed, kohlrabi $32
My favourite dish of the night, this bouncy, soft, gently cooked fish. My only complaint about the cauliflower cheese is that there wasn’t enough! Bring me a bowl please.
Chocolate and peanut bar, caramel ice cream $16
I teased my dining partner for being a basic bitch because he always gets the dessert most akin to a kid’s candy bar. The moment it arrives though I am in silence and continue to shut said mouth until the plate is licked clean. Despite each component sounding super rich, the bar itself is actually quite airy. Eating each mouthful with a little of the caramel ice cream (that seems to also have hints of banana?) gives it a little more body and the flavours all just work. It is nothing like a glorified expensive Mars bar that I had envisioned in my head.
I also need to commend our waiter again for completely getting the word “surprise” in surprise dessert with a candle. You’d really be shocked as to how many restaurants just don’t know how to do that. As a bonus, the restaurant threw in a lemon cake to take home because we had a birthday amongst us. Very cool!
Last but not least is the complimentary chicken fat toffee. I think the name says it all. Rather than imagining actual clumps of fat sitting on toffee, think of it more like a crumbled bouillon cube. It all works surprisingly well and if you think about it, it’s just a different kind of thick salted caramel.
I’ve come to the end of my KSS post and I’m already aching to write a re-visit post because there’s so much more on the menu I would love to try. Here’s looking at you squid ink crackers and sea urchin rice. Coupled with my new personal favourite Ester, Sydneysiders you need not ever venture beyond Chippendale for great food across a spectrum of prices.
All photos by Robert Newey.