The only way you’re ever going to get me to learn geography is through food. That’s how I went cooing for Cooh Cafe – originally from the suburb of Curl Curl. The heck? I suppose as a resident of Sydney’s South, it’s just a little bit out of reach for me, just like 20kg bicep curls.
My horrid experiences with weight training aside, Cooh is a cafe that’s anything but. And even better, you don’t even have to make the trek to Curl Curl any more – because these guys have recently moved to a newly renovated warehouse location in Alexandria, dishing up a variety of fare that you won’t readily find in every corner cafe down every other street. Cooh’s got its own spin on things, and it’s worth a shot!
Date Last Visited: 8/11/15
Address: 90-96 Bourke Road,Alexandria, Sydney
Recommended Dish(es): tuna steak burger, Moroccan lamb salad, vegan gelato
As usual, my policy of upfront disclosure applies – I was invited to Cooh Cafe by its staff, and so I loudly bring forth The Usual Disclaimer!
If you look up Cooh’s address, you’ll notice something that may…impact the cafe. There’s a patch of land only a two-minute walk away and plays host to an establishment so famous, it is its own tourist attraction. It’s so popular in fact, that I’ve actually made a point to avoid the place more often than not, simply because it’s so difficult to have an enjoyable experience there.
Of course, I am talking about The Grounds of Alexandria.
That Cooh has the gall to set up shop so close to the powerhouse that is The Grounds is saying something. But to take a little bit of the edge off of the drama, the existence of The Grounds doesn’t necessarily mean less traffic for Cooh – approaches could hardly be called dsimilar, and The Grounds is always so crowded, Cooh might just be clever enough to entice disgruntled patrons waiting too long for The Grounds. The layout of Cooh certainly beckons – it’s quite spacious, and very inviting. The place must easily seat more than a hundred people, and in a show of faith for the space – Cooh even conducts dinner service!
Cooh’s menu has a bent on healthy eating, but without the accompanying implied restrictions. That is, meat is still on the menu, burgers continue to be something you can order, and yes, even ice cream is available for your consumption. But how is this possible? I’m glad you asked – you’ll have to keep reading to find out!
But take your time, for one little annoyance on my visit was that the food took an eon to come out. At least, an eon in my time – over 40 minutes. The kitchen didn’t seem to be hammered as the cafe wasn’t at capacity (though it was close), so I wasn’t sure what caused it. While it could be a one off, I’m obliged to disclose it. Anyone get reports of slow service, let me know!
In my wanderings about Cooh’s vast space, I noticed a limited selection of pastries by the kitchen counter. While I didn’t order any, I present the photo anyway. Note however, that their pastry cabinet has a far larger selection of sweet bites. Unfortunately, as this was a late afternoon visit on a Sunday, most of it was already empty. Perhaps a tragedy, or maybe not – for that meant stomach space for the spread below!
Cooh’s menu is tight and focussed – the four dishes above represent well over a third of the substantial items on the menu. This is a good thing – I always feel more confident when I see a cafe menu that can be printed in legible font on one page. This suggests a kitchen that knows what it’s good at, and sticking to it.
Now, time to validate that assumption – and why not start that off with a burger?
2015 has been a year of crazy burgers. Indeed, friends have remarked that my Instagram account is halfway to becoming a burger appreciation feed. I can’t really deny this, have a look for yourself.
That said, no regrets – burgers are, quite frankly, delicious. I’ll concede that they need to be enjoyed in moderation, but one burger you could consistently go back for over and over again is Cooh’s tuna steak burger. This is exactly what it looks and sounds like, and the key highlight is a generous slab of seared tuna steak, left raw in the centre as the way it’s meant to be. The seared exterior provides a nice crusty layer to satisfy texture cravings, while the tender inners is simply the best expression of the fish. Saucing up the burger is a healthy spread of avocado aioli and jalapeno salsa – delivering creaminess in spades, and of course, flavour.
The bun is what I would usually consider poor quality, were it to be matched to a traditional beef burger. However its “breadiness” and toughness – a huge contrast to the soft, pillowy milk/brioche buns we so love in our burgers in this day and age – is actually quite suited to this particular tuna burger. I can’t really explain it, it just works.
My one complaint? The avocado aioli diminishes the natural flavour of the tuna itself – admittedly very easy to do since tuna exhibits only the subtlest of flavours. Still, my favourite savoury at Cooh.
Coming in at easily half the calories of an equivalently-sized beef burger w/cheese, this is the burger that truly deserves the title of “healthy burgers”, while compromising pretty much nothing on taste. Step aside Grill’d!
You know a cafe’s found the right balance between health and wellbeing when it offers not only bacon, but nitrate-free bacon at that. Quite topical, given the World Health Organisation’s recent assertions on the link between processed meats and cancer. At Cooh, you can be free of that trouble with an order of zucchini buckwheat fritters. And of course, you could opt for ocean trout, if bacon was never up your alley.
Nitrate-free bacon doesn’t really taste any different from normal bacon – it’s just as “bacon-y” and crispy as the rest, thank goodness for that! They are definitely the highlight of the dish, and while a bit too fatty for my liking (I prefer mostly lean bacon), take the proverbial cake as the best element of the dish.
Yes, that unfortunately means I wasn’t as much a fan of the fritters. I like fritters with a bit of exterior crisp, and these were anything but. Instead, they are consistently soft throughout, chewy and quite moreish to eat my way through. In fact, its mouthfeel is enhanced with the smooth & creamy avocado mash – which is good enough to eat by itself. While consistency is usually nice, I wanted my crunch, and so the fritters don’t really get into my good books. 🙁
Ah well, back to the bacon then!
My second-favourite savoury at Cooh is the Moroccan lamb & quinoa salad. A dish with a distinctly Mediterranean feel, this captured my interest (and my tastebuds) with deliciously tender and toothsome slices of Moroccan lamb. I always did believe a good dish could be identified by being able to enjoy the key element even if all ancillary features of the dish were removed. Such is the case with this lamb – its tenderness and smokiness (from the grilling on the outside) speaks for itself. Not many cafes do lamb, and fewer do it well, but Cooh is part of the rarefied latter group.
Not that the lamb has to stand alone, even if it could have. Plenty of quinoa, mushy sweet potato, sweet currants, tangy mint and a heady mint yoghurt complete the picture, and yield a dish that not only looks pretty, but tastes gobsmackingly good. I particularly like how the bursts of sweetness from the currants complement the yoghurt and lamb – classically Middle Eastern.
A no-guilt lunch feed that’ll keep energy levels up for hours to come!
Alas, these fries are baked not fried, and while that is the undisputedly healthier option, it was definitely the less tasty one. The chips were rather limp, and while not quite soggy, were soft enough such that the adjective did cross my mind. No crisp, no crunch, just maceration chunks of sweet potato. Still, I’ll admit I had more than a few – it’s still sweet potato after all, and that stuff’s delicious!
But let’s forget about those and talk about curve balls.
Specifically, the curveball that is the vegan gelato (coconut & caramel). I was very, very apprehensive because while I have no beef (heh) with the vegan movement, I just can’t quite bring myself to like vegan food on the same level as…well…meat products.
One thing I can definitely count as evidence against me is the vegan gelato. Made with dairy-free “cocowhip“, this is gelato that manages to main much of the creaminess that makes ice cream taste so good in the first place. I was initially pleasantly surprised, which quickly morphed into abject greed, as I was fighting to get down to the last scoop. Sorry ladies, but I don’t share good ice cream.
And this is good ice cream. Worth the order, for sure.
So there you have it – Alexandria’s newest cafe that’s worth a visit or two. I’ll definitely be back at some point for that tuna burger, and perhaps a sneaky scoop or two of the vegan gelato. Perhaps the Morrocan lamb as well. Dang, I wonder if I ever get full?
Let me know what you think about the cafe when/if you visit, my loyal readers! 🙂
This post is based on a paid-for visit to Cooh Organic Cafe, Alexandria.
- A breath of fresh air in Alexandria’s ever-developing food scene
- An alternative to a 90-minute wait at The Grounds of Alexandria
- These guys do a mean tuna burger
- Service was very slow – we waited 40min for our food to arrive at the table
- The Grounds is so very near…
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F7 | S2 | A2