Food lovers and businessmen are uniting in Sydney’s newest Concrete Jungle.
Already host to some of the cities most experimental eateries, Chippendale now houses Concrete Jungle Café, where diner nourishment is almost as important as Instagram aesthetic.
On trendy Kensington Street, we search for Concrete Jungle Café for a few minutes, while the aromas fleeing Spice Alley gather around us. Soon enough we find it, a fishbowl at the bottom of the modern apartment suite.
After leaving Harry’s Bar & Dining in Bondi, head chef, Bryan O’Callaghan, and owner, Moe Mrad, opened their open kitchen with little fanfare at the beginning of April. Far from the Sunday hustle found close to the sands of Bondi, the midweek lunchtime crowd at Concrete Jungle Café is moderate but constant for the duration of our visit.
Beneath a hanging garden and under the determined eye of O’Callaghan, perched in his tight open kitchen, we are seated at low standing bar tables. Open doors beckon tables to spill outside, but the friendly staff are not overwhelmed by the expansive seating arrangement.
The all day breakfast and lunch menu is extensive. So much so we choose to gorge on a selection of dishes from either side of the foodie fence. By the time the first dish is placed in front of us our phones seem to have naturally levitated into our hands. In addition to nourishing superfoods, Concrete Jungle Café serves up food porn on every plate.
To begin we are welcomed by a pool of bright algae. At $3 per gram, the blue algae spirulina isn’t something Concrete Jungle Café is hiding from food safety regulators. The basis of the Blue Majik Smoothie Bowl ($17.50) is the spirulina and visually intoxicating. Sadly it doesn’t last long as soon our bowl is transformed into an endless ocean, a melted mess. The slightly frozen berries bobbing atop of the blue pool add a welcome sweet burst to the banana and mango flavour undertones in the smoothie. Coconut flakes and a side serving of granola provide a much needed crunch, especially as the bowl turns to liquid.
Next up is the Dragonfruit Chia Pudding ($17.50). Dragonfruit is sponged amongst the mound of pink chia. Despite adding edible flowers, the pudding fails to trounce the expectations set by its visual triumph. The coconut flavour that dominates the dish instantly washes away, leaving you with nothing more than a full stomach. Served in a side bowl, the buckwheat granola garnish could easily stand as its own meal. However, the buckwheat to chia ratio is a little uneven.
Opting to go savoury, the Nourish Bowl ($19.50) is the next pop of colour to hit the table. A larger than life addition to the menu, this gardenbed of goodness is sprawling with individual elements that scream as loud as the bowl’s vibrant presentation.
Lathered over one half of the plate, the beetroot hummus gives a subtle kick of the root vegetable and is the perfect partner to all the other components. Soaked in tahini and dribbled under a tamari dressing, kale rarely tastes this good. Meanwhile, the sauce gives the ready cut hasselback potato extra character.
Buried below the unnecessary inclusion of cherry tomatoes and red cabbage, a tasty bed of quinoa mixed with pomegranate seeds is unnoticed and, almost, untouched. Nevertheless, by pairing all the elements of the dish together the Nourish Bowl will please any wannabe healthy eater.
Bellies almost bursting, its time for the Tuna Tartare ($22). A taste of Concrete Jungle Café’s lunch list, the dish proves to be the standout, albeit the least worthy of social media attention. The superbly prepared chunks of tuna and fresh avocado circle the nucleus of the dish: mixed shards of kohlrabi and apple. These shards were left uneaten as we searched for the remainder of the glorious miso sauce with our left-over protein bits. Dotted around the plate, the salty sauce gives a welcome kick to the unexpectedly creamy tuna and avocado pairing.
Served on the side, dark and mysterious teff crackers offer a hit of childhood nostalgia. Reminiscent of pork crackers and popcorn, the wafers of teff more than earn the right to be listed independently on the menu.
From a soft opening, to refusing to plant its roots in a particular cuisine, Concrete Jungle Café isn’t shying away from being inventive. The superfood loving café has the advantage of being completely unique in an area laden with suit-wearers and oriental flavours.
Yet, when it comes to deciding on a meal, shut down your Instagram feed and choose with your head.
Large portions, affordable prices and fast service make all hallmarks of a successful café. Time will tell if Concrete Jungle Café’s unique menu is enough to sustain support from locals, once social media fanatics move on to their next food craving.
Concrete Jungle Café
58 Kensington Street, Chippendale
0449 771 081
Open Mon-Fri: 7am-3pm, Sat-Sun 7am-4pm