When most people think of a cafe, certain preconceived notions come to mind. The heady aroma of the brewed coffee; the hiss & gurgle of the steam nozzle as it froths and heats jugs of milk.
With the ubiquity of espresso machines and the cafe culture that is built on the foundation of these devices, you can sometimes takes for granted that coffee can be produced and served in other ways.
As pleasantly surprised as I was about the presentation of what amounts to be a Turkish-style coffee, I didn’t actually come for the coffee. What I was actually after was some Greek food, and Kafenes is not a bad place for it.
When I think of Marrickville, there are two primary cultural groups that come to mind – the Vietnamese and the Greek. Aside from a couple of fine yeeros stores, to my surprise, there weren’t that many Greek restaurants around.
Not wanting to end my brief house sitting stint in Marrickville without a proper Greek meal, and having been very disappointed with lunch at the Corinthian Rotisserie (though I take some responsibility for that – a story for another time), I made my way just outside of Marrickville to Kafenes, a Greek cafe/restaurant in Enmore, close to the outer fringes of Newtown’s food district.
Kafenes, which follows the theme of businesses with unimaginative literal names related to what they serve, translates to “small coffee house that serves mezedes“, according to the introduction on the restaurant’s menu. Mezedes are small plates of food, similar in fashion to mezze or tapas.
Though there are a number such mezedes on the menu, listed primarily under Appetisers, I’d stuck to the tried and true format of the entree, main & dessert.
Zucchini Dumplings ($10) are served with a garlic sauce cut with potato mash, which has a consistency reminiscent of some versions of the beloved Lebanese garlic sauce toum, albeit with a softer texture and milder flavour. The dumplings themselves have a light, crispy crust with a fluffy savoury interior, with an accent of sweetness brought on by the zucchini.
These were good. The garlic sauce really makes this dish for me, but then again I love garlic!
Roast Lamb ($28.00), served with roasted potatoes, tzatziki (cucumber yogurt sauce classically paired with lamb), a cabbage slaw with an oil-based dressing and a standard, run-o-the-mill garden salad.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this dish. It’s a nice enough meal with a generous portion size. From what I understand, Greeks aren’t generally known for being stingy with food, so no surprise there.
The lamb is quite tender, though lacking a little in seasoning. The interior of the roast potatoes are firm but cooked through. However, the exterior is a little on the leathery side. The cabbage slaw is crunchy & a bit zingy while the garden salad is, well, sort of dull & boring.
This dish looks & tastes like a home cooked meal, much like what I’d expect from a Sunday roast dinner. It’s simple, comfort food, with its unrefined elements lending a somewhat charming quality. Whether you’d want to pay $28 for that experience in a restaurant or not is a question I leave for you to answer.
Though I’m sure that this would be the perfect thing for a homesick Greek person, personally it was a bit of a letdown.
Loukoumades ($8), freshly fried balls of dough (much like a doughnut) coated in a honey cinnamon syrup scattered with crushed walnuts.
Desserts, for me, can make or break the experience of a meal. Have a lacklustre dessert at the end of an otherwise wonderful meal and it brings down the rest of the meal. Have a great dessert after a lacklustre meal and you end on a high. This dessert made my evening.
The loukoumades are crisp on the outside with a soft, slightly chewy interior. The honey & cinnamon bring a pleasant aromatic quality with just the right amount of sweetness, which pairs especially well with the Greek coffee pictured at the start of the post. The crushed walnuts provide a nice textural contrast.
Like the roti tisu at Mamak, ribs at Cafe Ish & South, and fried dough sticks with pandan at Chat Thai, the loukoumades at Kafenes is one of those dishes that will guarantee my custom in future. Perhaps not for a full meal, but certainly for coffee and dessert.
Having attempted to eat what would amount to a meal of two, there was a fair amount of food that was doggie bagged for later consumption. Incidentally, loukoumades cut into chunks topped with vanilla ice cream makes for an awesome late night supper or as a dessert on the following evening.
I’m not going to say which…
Kafenes Cafe Restaurant
149 Enmore Rd, Enmore
(02) 9557 7580
Tues – Sat: 5:30pm til late
Sun, Mon: Closed