Kensington Street Social | Chippendale, Sydney

Michelin-starred, UK celebrity chef Jason Atherton knows a thing or two about running a restaurant. Chippendale’s Kensington Street Social isn’t his 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th restaurant – no, it’s his fifteenth. With this level of experience in flipping tables, one would expect seriously tasty fare.

I’ll just out this right now with two visits under my belt: you will not want to be social with your food at Kensington Street Social.

Date Last Visited: 6/11/2016 21/2/16
Address: The Old Clare Hotel, 1 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney
Price range: $20-$40

Kensington Street Social – November 2016 Visit

Kensington Street Social invited me in for my November 2016 visit, and thus the Usual Disclaimer applies for this particular section of the blog post. My February 2016 visit (further below) remains unaffected.

Kensington Street Social

The bar area – because it’s never too early for a drink

Goddamn it Chippendale, why is it that you’re getting so much of the good stuff? In the beginning, it was a humble gelateria called Anita (one of Sydney’s best, and my personal favourite). Then the blessings crashed upon Central Park’s shores in waves – Ippudo’s excellent ramen, Din Tai Fung’s top notch dumplings, the hawker experience that is Spice Alley, the much-hyped Automata and one-of-a-kind Koi Dessert Bar. Chippendale really has it all – especially with Kensington Street Social added to the mix.

Now, while I’ve already put the restaurant through its paces, I was certainly enough of a fan to accept an invitation to come back – and what better welcome than a few naughty drinks?

Kensington Street Social

Various liquids left to right -> down: 1) DJ saved my life – Don Julio reposado, yuzu curd, lime, honey, “cleansing ale” – $21 2) Wrong island iced tea – earl grey, apple, lemon, lapsang souchong – $8 3) Piccolo latte ($4?)

Well, okay – in my case, I was driving so I got myself a refreshingly zesty wrong island iced tea that didn’t hold back on the tea, plus a piccolo latte (served in the coolest ceramic cup might I add!) for that extra bit of a caffeine-powered wake up call.

I wasn’t expecting to devote any words to the coffee, but that piccolo was good. There was a silky, nutty unctuousness to the brew, highly enjoyable and surprisingly one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in recent times.

Kensington Street Social

The social dog: pork & fennel sausage, green apple, black pudding, cheddar, mustard – $15

A signature snack, the social dog is almost a bit of a misnomer – for it’s so small, sharing it would enrage me to the point where I definitely would not be considered social. It’s miniscule (just look at the size of the knife behind it), so take my advice and be antisocial with it.

We’re talking all kinds of goodness here – fragrant sausage, earthy black pudding, cheesy cheese (I don’t need no extensive vocabulary to describe cheddar thank you very much), with a hit of mustard coloured by the acidity of apple. It’s a great bite – and it literally is just that, so once again take my advice when I say don’t be social with it.

Kensington Street Social

Cross section of the social dog

Kensington Street Social

Tataki of hiramasa kingfish, dill, vermouth dressing & kale togarashi – $19

tataki of hiramasa kingfish is artfully plated and tasted almost as delightful. The fish was fresh, sporting perfectly even texture and was sufficiently – but not overly – seasoned. I didn’t really taste the vermouth in the dressing but I definitely got the dill hit. You’d better be a dill fan here, otherwise you may want to ensure your piece of fish is as green-free as possible.

Another particular flavour that stood out was how peppery the kale togarashi was. I quite enjoyed that aspect of the dish – it didn’t add fire per se, but there was sufficient contribution of spice that dialled this dish up from good to exciting.

Kensington Street Social

An obligatory top-down

Kensington Street Social

Grilled asparagus, egg yolk jam, smoked bread crumb, katsuobushi – $15

Grilled asparagus isn’t usually on my “must order list”, but when these were charred to perfection and slathered with egg yolk jam and katsuobushi, along with green goddess dressing, the equation changed completely. That egg yolk jam tasted as good as you would expect – gooey, mayo-like consistency, with rich, creamy flavour that’s as welcome in my mouth as it will inevitably be in my arteries.

The green goddess dressing was new to me. It’s made from egg whites, smoked oil, chervil, tarragon, parsley, chardonnay vinegar, lots of chives & lots of parsley. It’s like the refreshing alter ego of the egg yolk jam – just as tasty in its own way, but much more vegetal and dare I say it, fresh?

Kensington Street Social

The spears are marching…towards my stomach

Kensington Street Social

Breakfast rice, slow cooked hen’s egg, shiitake mushroom, pork belly, bacon dashi – $18

My favourite dish of this meal, the breakfast rice w/bacon dashi ticked all of the right boxes. My first thought was that this is very similar to the various breakfast ramen (ref 1, ref 2) I’ve had over the years, except the difference this time was that rice was the carb of choice.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think in this instance – rice is the correct carb. The “soft and gooey on the outside, al dente on the inside” granules of rice were the perfect vessel to take on the flavours of the bacon dashi, while remaining texturally sound and retaining a toothsome bite. The dashi itself was full-flavoured, but as it’s a clear soup, was never overpowering or overly rich. The hen’s egg did add some volume and depth to the broth when mixed in, but it’s of the good kind – one yolk was all that was needed. Chewy shiitake mushies reinforced the Asian influence of the dish, and big pieces of the pork belly rounded things out.

Kensington Street Social

So gooood

I loved this dish to bits. The only part I wished would be different was the pork belly – the fattiness was a bit too much for me, and the lean portions tasted a little bit overcooked (tough). A minor gripe in an otherwise stellar bowl – I could’ve completely eschewed the pork belly, to be honest.

Kensington Street Social

The ‘Full English’ sourdough flatbread – egg, beans, tomato, bacon, black pudding – $17

A slightly different section to Kensington Street Social’s menu are their sourdough flatbreads. Essentially pizzas with sourdough bases, ours was the Full English: loaded with egg, beans, bacon and black pudding – and of course, lots and lots and lots and lots of cheese.

The downside was that it was a bit oily and salty, but the upside was everything else: the flatbread was thin, crusty, with lots of flavour. The ingredients on top all worked together to give mouthful after mouthful of flavour, with tomato and baked beans particularly prominent. You’d better be a fan of your SPC, coz this is straight up that can.

Kensington Street Social

Pizza game is on point

Kensington Street Social

Lamb rump, bacon, broad beans, Jerusalem artichokes, pea tendrils – $35

As if “lol jks we’re still not full”, we were served one last savoury dish of lamb rump w/bacon & beans.

Joke’s on our stomachs – this dish was good enough that we almost cleaned the entire plate. Well-cooked beans are always fun to eat and Kensington Street Social’s were no exception. Borlotti beans duked it out with broad beans, but the ultimate winner was me.

As for the lamb, it was very tender, with skin redolent of delicious char. The mint dressing really helped the lamb along, a classic flavour pairing executed without too much toying around.

Kensington Street Social

Chocolate & peanut bar, caramel & banana ice cream – $16

We didn’t have much room left by this point, so a chocolate & peanut bar seemed to be an appropriate sendoff. It’s actually not a hard bar, rather taking minimal effort to get through the peanut-flavour outer layer to reach the smooth caramel within. There’s no fanciness here, just good, delicious chocolate that hit the sweet spot after 6 courses of savouries. Thankfully it wasn’t all just chocolate – the caramel & banana ice cream provided that extra lift at the end, even though it tasted more like banana than caramel.

Kensington Street Social

This was a darn good bar

I daresay that this visit to Kensington Street Social was even better than the February one – the dishes served were all simply delicious plates and for that, I was more than content – I almost felt a little bit social.

The Good:

  • Food that’s redolent with flavour, simply delicious
  • Breakfast rice w/bacon dashi is a bomb of a dish
  • Great coffee!

The Bad:

  • Portion sizes are still quite small – good for two but any more and it’s bites apiece

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.

F7.5 | S(N/A) | A2
7.5/10 Caesars

Kensington Street Social – February 2016 Visit

Kensington Street Social

English breakfast tea & toast – wild mushroom tea, gentleman’s relish, bone marrow toast – $14 (shown is a portion for 3ppl, usually serves 2)

Specifically, Atherton’s English breakfast tea. But if you were expecting an actual brew, you’d better get to ordering a pot of the authentic article. Otherwise, you might be twice as shocked as I was on the experiential umami encounter that assails the palate, in the best possible way.

It’s essentially a mushroom soup, and yes, there is actual tea in there so it can be technically called as such. It’s akin to a savoury consomme, or dashi, and it’s delicious. The flavour is rich and earthy, whilst the tea remains clear and clean, with the parmesan foam on top adding even more crack-like savouriness – and that’s only the beginning.

Kensington Street Social

Give me a gallon of this stuff

Then there’s the bone marrow butter on sourdough crisp. While you don’t get actual bone marrow (which would be truly decadent), its buttery analogue carries the party pretty well by itself. Creamy and intense, there’s just the right amount not for it to become overwhelming. Gentlemen’s relish is an anchovy paste, which is the second, darker dollop on top of the crisp. This is a fair bit saltier and just as creamy as the bone marrow butter, but is also kept to a minimum to give the tastebuds a break.

The only real downside is the sourdough crisp itself – it’s quite greasy and surprisingly rich for what it is. On the plus side, there’s very little of it – all is portioned quite well.

On the whole, this is a dish I wouldn’t mind ordering again – it’s an unadulterated flavour bomb that dutifully serves its purpose as a palate-opening snack. That it’s plated on a cool-looking rack (with feet!) just adds to the appeal.

Kensington Street Social

Squid ink crackers, trout roe, cucumber – $10

On the breakfast menu, there are only three snack options. The English tea was one, and the squid ink crackers are the second.

Paper-thin crisps aren’t anything new, but it is my first time witnessing them donned in pitch-black squid ink. I see it as more for visual impact than anything else, but boy an impact does it make. They are exceedingly crunchy, and have enough flavour that I could eat them separately.

The real magic starts when I use the crisps to scoop up generous portions of that trout roe & cucumber mayonnaise. This stuff begged to clog my arteries, but in exchange it does a helluva job in getting my happy hormones gushing. Real creamy yet curiously airy (far lighter than the condiments on the English tea), the seemingly-large amount of mayo was finished before I could think “boy, could we actually finish that much mayo?” In fact, we ran out of it before we ran out of crisps!

As far as the definition of a “snack” goes, this fits the bill perfectly – the crackers are crack.

Kensington Street Social

The social dog – pork & fennel sausage, green apple, black pudding, cheddar, mustard – $15

I wouldn’t have expected a hot dog to be listed under the snack category, but when we beheld Kensington Street Social’s social dog in all its minute glory, I understood why. Heck, this would be a snack even as a portion for one, let alone the two friends I shared it with. It’s probably no more than 15cm long, and could sit in the palm of my hand. Literally a 3-bite affair, it’s a package that leaves me wanting more.

Kensington Street Social

A portion suitable for Ant Man.

In a way, that speaks to how tasty this sausage sandwich really is. The meat is juicy and fragrant in spice, with daring black pudding and unctuous cheddar to liven things up. As if that weren’t enough, a somewhat potent mustard rounds out the “hot dog” experience, while all is ensconced within a lightly sweet bread roll that enhances, not steals from the action.

If all that’s a bit too much, take heed in knowing that the green apple does a half-decent job at cutting through the richness of it all. For me, it threw off the flavour balance a little bit, but I can appreciate why it’s there.

What a dressy hot dog, but it sure does impress in many areas – though not for its size.

Kensington Street Social

Slow cooked organic hen’s egg, sweetcorn, seaweed, parmesan sage, chicken scratchings – $16

With the snacks having played their role in getting our appetites whetted, we move onto the proper brunch dishes, though looking at the slow cooked organic hen’s egg, you would be forgiven in thinking that it’s yet another snack.

I love pretty much any dish with slow-cooked egg, and so I’m not at all surprised that this proves to be another winner in the “yolkporn” category. Liquid gold, juicy bursts of corn, cheesy parmesan and crispy chook scratchings all make for a wondrously textural bowl that is worth ordering for that fact alone. It does get a little bit salty after awhile, but then again, the portion is so small you’d never get to that point anyway.

The only problem? This “to-share” dish would be an entree at a fine dining restaurant.

Kensington Street Social

Lightly smoked mackerel omelette, bacon, spring onion – $17

One of the larger dishes on the menu is a lightly smoked mackerel omelette. For me, this is the most average dish out of everything we ordered – boilerplate stuff. It’s a well-made omelette, but I struggle to praise it above that as it is essentially something any decent amateur cook could whip up at home.

Not that I’m saying I could do it – but then again that’s why we ordered it, right? 😛

Kensington Street Social

The mackerel – almost like bacon

However, credit where credit is due – the smoked mackerel does liven things up somewhat. It adds another savoury dimension to the other protein – bacon – that’s also part of the dish. You can taste a difference in texture, though I was forced to conclude that the bacon overwhelmed the mackerel from a flavour perspective.

Not a terribly exciting dish for me, but at the same time, no breakfast menu would be complete without an omelette.

Kensington Street Social

Queensland blue pumpkin, oyster & portobello mushrooms, blue cheese & walnut on sourdough flatbread – $16

There is a section on Kensington Street Social’s breakfast menu titled “sourdough flatbread”. Not in a million years would I have been able to guess that this is a left-field reference to a series of mini-pizzas with a variety of topping combinations. Being moderately indifferent, I allowed my friends to pick the QLD blue pumpkin w/oysters, portobello mushrooms & blue cheese option. Despite its apparent paucity of meat, it packed quite the flavour hit.

The flatbread base itself is warm, doughy and a little bit fluffy. It does well to soak up the flavour of the blue cheese on top, which, contrary to what I was expecting, wasn’t particularly pungent. The mushrooms are haphazardly cut, however retain a good amount of juiciness, taking on the flavour of the cheese in which it’s covered. I barely detected the oyster – if it was there at all (the mushrooms and cheese stole the spotlight), and the walnut makes itself known in the aftertaste in providing an earthen aroma.

Kensington Street Social

i.e. “pizza”

It’s quite good, and I’d be happy to return to try some of the other, meatier alternatives. I witnessed other tables getting them, and you bet my envy was as thick as the pizza’s base.

Kensington Street Social

I will definitely be back

Kensington Street Social is full of culinary talent – much of the food represent blue-chip rock-solid flavour sensations, and one could easily power through a good chunk of its breakfast menu for one heck of a high-octane brunch experience.

On the downside, the portions are far too small – by far my biggest criticism of the place. At the beginning of the post I said you will not want to be social with your food at Kensington Street Social. Yes, it is delicious enough not to share – but really it’s because there’s not enough of a dish to even consider sharing.

In extrapolating costs, I figured I’d need to spend at least $40 to leave with a satisfied belly. That said, the restaurant is likely to score a chef’s hat (I’d wager it), so the price premium might be inevitable in permanence. I can now only wonder – with a strong sense of curiosity – what the food at lunch/dinner will be like. Stay tuned.

This post is based on an independently paid visit to Kensington Street Social

Anyone been for lunch or dinner yet? Let me know how it compares!

The Good:

  • Food that’s redolent with flavour, simply delicious

The Bad:

  • The portion sizes leave a lot to be desired
  • Service was a bit inconsistent – we had to ask for menus multiple times from multiple waiters

The Ugly:

  • Big appetites and small wallets need not apply

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 | S3 | A2
7/10 Caesars

Kensington Street Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

4 comments on “Kensington Street Social | Chippendale, Sydney”

  1. Drew Reply

    The flatbreads are delicious! The one you had didn’t have oysters on it, they’re oyster mushrooms.. That’s why you couldn’t taste it

  2. grabyourfork Reply

    Ooh I am quite partial to a bit of marrowbone toast with my cup of tea!

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