On our visit to Bourke Street Bakery a few weeks back, we drove past The Book Kitchen, a cafe spilling over with patrons inside and out. It looked intriguing and there's nothing more enticing than a busy cafe so we made a mental note to come back. Looking a their website featuring organic and bio dynamic produce (http://www.thebookkitchen.com.au/) we knew just who we would take here -my husband's vegetarian, health loving family. So after some tandem bike riding in Centennial Park, appetites well and truly worked up, we descended. In some minor miracle, parking in Surry Hills was not a nightmare and we found two spots right outside The Book Kitchen. Inside we stake out our spot on one side of the large square communal table and order. It appears that everyone likes the sound of the same dishes so we all agree to share dishes, such is our curiosity.
We order our drinks and settle back to choose from the amazing variety of books-mostly food related with some design books thrown in for good measure. I feel like I've come home to my dream library and I'm picking up book after book. I've got Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, my husband has a design book on Industrial Interiors, A&D have a book solely devoted to potatoes including some incredible and bizzare looking Peruvian ones and Anneli is looking for her favourite cookbook -the I Hate to Cook Book.
Mixed berry frappe $5
Our drinks arrive first and the Mixed berry frappe ($5) with Berries, apple juice and lemon sorbet is refreshingly good, especially for a sweltering day like this. Its not too sweet courtesy of the lemon sorbet but still resonant with antioxidant berries.
Sunshine shake $5
The dairy free Sunshine shake ($5) with rockmelon, honey, orange juice is delicious-its very creamy and fruity so should sate any lactose intolerant people and fool their food demons! We barely notice the time that it takes for our food to arrive, from reading reviews, its reported to be very slow but the food arrives before we know it thanks to our reading entertainment-a clever trick to keep the hungry boys occupied.
Avocado, sour toast, Persian feta, poached egg, rocket, and lemon infused olive oil $14
I try the Avocado, sour toast, Persian feta, poached egg, rocket, and lemon infused olive oil ($14) and I am in raptures. The sourdough toast is lacey and the lemon infused olive oil gives it a piquant lift. The persian feta (surely stuff that food fantasies are made of) is gorgeously rich with the crusty lemon scented sourdough and the dreamily soft poached egg and avocado. Even though I'm not even remotely qualified to be a vegetarian, I could happily order this again without feeling as if I'm missing out.
Homemade brioche, Bio dynamic scrambled eggs, salmon gravlax $16
On a high, next I try the Homemade brioche, Bio dynamic scrambled eggs, salmon gravlax ($16). The Salmon gravlax is almost like it has been left out in the heat for too long. I try a little but not too much as it doesn't smell quite right to me. I usually love gravlax so I can only put it down to this. The biodynamic scrambled eggs need a smattering of the fine pink salt flakes provided and are fairly buttery although any goodness in these is offset against the home made broiche which is bizarrely like rice bread not resembling in the remotest way the sweet pillowy brioche loaves that one is used to at all. I find this a tad disappointing and the crumbly rice bread texture does not do it any favours.
Crispy duck salad, roast peaches, pink peppercorn, and a red wine vinaigrette $16
What is much better is the Crispy duck salad, roast peaches, pink peppercorn, and a red wine vinaigrette ($16) which has a duck confit drumstick and several smaller pieces of duck torn throughout the salad. The baby salad leaves, roast peaches and mild red wine vinaigrette are lovely background players for the delicious crispy duck.
Poached Petuna ocean trout, baby tatsoi, kipfler potatoes, olives, poached egg, herbs, olive oil $16
As a Petuna trout lover, I didn't realise that Poached Petuna ocean trout, baby tatsoi, kipfler potatoes, olives, poached egg, herbs, olive oil ($16) was actually a salad so when it arrives, the trout in small pieces atop baby spinach leaves, crushed kipflers and a poached egg I'm a little disappointed that I don't have an elegant fillet of trout. I am consoled in the taste however where the delicate poached fish pieces are never overwhelmed by the other ingredients with the delicious poached egg yolk bursting free and giving the salad an unctuous, creamy dressing.
Pork and fennel sausages $4.50
We ordered a side order of Pork and fennel sausages ($4.50) as this seems to be the popular sausage combination and whilst we get two rather long impressive sausages, the filling only had the faintest trace of fennel with it mostly being a rather plain pork inner. There were also large lumps of fat inside which I wanted to spit out but couldn't do so decorously so gulp, I reluctantly swallowed them.
Ricotta hot cakes, caramelized banana, roast rhubarb and honey $14
We've saved the most interesting til last, the Ricotta hot cakes, caramelized banana, roast rhubarb and honey ($14). I've had Bill's hotcakes, both in his cafe as well as made at home and they're good. What I'm interested in is whether they are using the same recipe here. I dig in and the hot cakes (two of them) are quite different, not as light or fluffy as Bill's but very good. The ricotta is actually on top and I presume also in the hotcakes but I would guess inside to a lesser extent than at Bill's. It also has a slight doughnutty taste here, of which I am in Homer Simpson fashion, very enamoured of. The caramelised banana, sticky sweet rhubarb, honey and ricotta combined with the thick hot cakes are delectable. Even though I am full, I want more. Comparing this to Bill's, I would definitely prefer these although at Bill's you do get three hot cakes (for $16.60).
We're in no hurry to leave with our stomach's full and the shelves of books to read. We're not hurried with the bill, our waitress being the very friendly and lovely sort so we're just happy to relax and read more and feed our minds now that our stomaches have been well fed. The boys are for once happy to linger and eager to come back at another time which just shows, the way to a man's heart is not just through his stomach, but also through his mind.
The Book Kitchen
255 Devonshire Street Surry Hills, NSW, 2010 (between Crown St and Bourke St)
Tel: +61 (02) 9310 1003
Fax: +61 (02) 9310 1085
Open 7 days until late