I’ll just put it out there: I’m out qualified to review newly-opened Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar. I don’t regularly visit bars, and I’m about as authoritative on tea as I am on cooking. That is to say, I a murderer in the kitchen. So I should probably stop here, and cut my losses before I make a fool of myself.
But where’s the fun in that? Besides, if something’s going to get me to up my intake of a healthy beverage, it’s got to be good. Besides, did you know that they serve food too? Man, there’s just no shortage of surprises here. Who knows what I’ll find, down the Rabbit Hole we go!
Date Last Visited: 7/11/15
Address: 146 Abercrombie Street, Redfern, Sydney
Recommended Dish(es): tea marbled egg & kimchi topped toast
Okay, let’s get some serious talk out of the way. The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar is a cafe that – you guessed it – has a strong focus on all things tea. Its website even has a tea subscription service, and the cafe itself runs tea tasting/brewing workshops during peak hours, all in the name of disseminating knowledge of this wonderful family of leaves.
Not that I’d know anything about tea – I drink it only on occasion, and usually matcha at that. For someone who is not into tea, the cafe is not going to be your be all and end all, however I wouldn’t write off the place just yet. After all, as mentioned, the Rabbit Hole does have a fully-featured, if somewhat-eclectic food menu, with sections devoted to “topped toasts”, sandwiches, as well as a wide selection of desserts.
The one thing they all have in common? An element of tea. Most dishes involve some kind of tea flavour infusion, but not all – it’s up to you to determine whether or not you want to keep your tea as a drink.
The vibe of the place is as nice as it is Nordic: a two-section, mostly white, open space with outdoor seating available, there should be a spot no matter how you’d like to be placed.
Let me highlight something here – treat this review with care, because in any blog post of mine, food always carries the most weight. Thus, if you’re an absolute tea fanatic, you will derive far more enjoyment out of The Rabbit Hole Tea Bar than I will. In fact, you may not even care for the food. Thus, this post is for those who are interested in how this tea specialist’s eats fares. If this is your goal, you have come to the right place! Like tea as well? Bonus!
Break all rules: dessert doesn’t have to follow mains. As we ordered our food, we noticed the frequently-instagrammed matcha whoopie pie in the pastries counter, begging to be ordered. As this was plated first, it wasn’t going to stand a chance.
If you’ve ever had whoopie pies before, you’ll feel right at home. This is a whoopie pie in every sense, except of course, with a matcha filling instead of standard cream/frosting in between. Given how matcha-obsessed I am, I would call this an improvement, if anything. It’s not an “I absolutely must order this at all costs” kind of dessert, but if it’s in the pastries cabinet and you’re feeling even slightly curious, go for gold – uh, I mean green. The soft crumbliness of the biscuit and creaminess of the matcha is a classic that never went out of style.
The matcha could have been a bit stronger though, but I like it stronger than most!
That was just a taster, here comes the food stampede – brought to you by tea!
You don’t need me to tell you in words that Rabbit Hole Tea Bar’s topped toasts are works of beauty. Hungry? We were, and thus forcing my friends to wait while I took photos carried the risk of getting lynched by them. I think that was worth it *rubs neck*.
But first, we got some tea. Not traditional hot teas in pots, mind you – we already have a ton of that at home which I don’t drink, and I figured that Rabbit Hole’s copious selection would already be meeting expectations for a tea bar. Rather, we opted for more interesting sparkling teas and a curiously named London Fog latte. With four+ pages of menu space devoted to tea, there’s certainly a lot of variety to choose from.
First, and the weirdest thing of all – my red-coloured tea is actually meant to be a matcha sparkling tea, but it’s…red. What? Maybe it was because of this, but I could not taste any matcha in it, instead receiving strong hints of berry sweetness. Our waiter told me that the colour (and flavour) is due to a raspberry shot, and while a nice drink in general, is uh, highly divergent from what I ordered. I almost thought my order was mistaken.
As for the yellow-coloured tea, we don’t even remember its name. However, upon tasting, I received hints of jasmine and strong notes of ginger. It’s far less sweeter than my green tea shrub, allowing more astringency from the tea to leap out.
My favourite out of the three drinks would go to the London Fog latte. Warm, vanilla and tangy notes of Earl Grey give this one an easy victory.
We probably should have stuck with the standard stuff – there’s a reason tea in a pot has lasted almost as long as humans have. Sparkling? Only if you’re really daring.
Pork w/spicy mayo – Burger or sandwich? While I think it’s a bona fide burger, the folks at Rabbit Hole reckon this goes under the folio of sandwich. Semantics aside, burgers are actually a subset of sandwiches, but it’s still a bit hilarious to see the look on my friend’s face as he received this very, very burger-like sandwich.
I didn’t get to have a taste in the end, but feedback has it that the mango chutney threw out the balance of the burger, as the mango was cut too thickly, and there was enough of it that the the dominant flavour profile is that of sweetness. While I don’t mind a bit of sweet foil in my savoury, this sounds like a case of the balance tipping the wrong way. Should you order it, dear reader? I can’t say – I didn’t taste it, but let me know if you agree with the “too sweet” sentiment if you do decide to get it.
My own order of the tea marbled egg w/kimchi is, in my (ahem) totally unbiased opinion, the best dish I tasted that day. To start, it’s a work of art – plating is something that the staff at Rabbit Hole are obviously meticulous about. Secondly, that toast – it’s delicious. I’m unsure if they bake their bread in house, but it wouldn’t be surprise me if they got it from Brickfields bakery just down the road. There’s no shame in this – Brickfields is excellent.
Besides, it’s what they do on top of the superb slice that really tickles my fancy. Oodles of spicy, crunchy kimchi, a very savoury tea egg (Chinese readers: this is 茶葉蛋), and creamy mayo to tie everything together. While I did wish the tea shone through more in the egg, I was nonetheless happy with how fully flavoured it was, and frankly, I’m already chuffed that Chinese and Korean come together wonderfully on this plate.
Easily the best dish at Rabbit Hole Tea Bar for me.
The Lady’s order was a slow-cooked beef sandwich, albeit with a twist being that the beef is cooked in black tea. Alas, the tea is actually so subtle, I couldn’t taste it at all. I think my mind was trying to convince me that I could taste the tea based on the menu description, but the reality is if I was plated this sandwich without being told there was tea in it, I would not have thought about it at all.
But there’s another way of looking at this – in that it’s simply a nice sandwich. The bread is a delicious sourdough – crusty and doughy, while the beef is soft and hardly an effort to chew. The amount of pickles was a bit too much for the balance of flavours, but creamy, savoury cheddar always helps to ease the tang.
Up the tea, reduce the pickles, and this would make for a fine sandwich indeed.
Contending for prettiest and most instagrammable dish of the year is definitely the almond butter & banana topped toast. I’ll just let this one sink in for a bit, like you would for a piece of fine art.
Ah, you’re back! Let’s get down to it. While it’s literally as pretty as a (very pretty) picture, it didn’t really live up to expectations with respect to taste. Oddly enough, the bread was quite tough to cut (given the other dishes, this is a surprise), the almond butter & crumbed almonds didn’t make a strong enough showing on the palate, and the chia only really added a sticky texture without it being too sweet. The whole dish, from a flavour perspective, felt too subdued, as if there was a flavour knob that could be turned up to 11, but stops at only 5. You know flavour needs a bit of oomph when the banana is the sweetest and most flavoursome element on the plate.
This dish could be as good as it looks, but it only tastes tepid to my palate – perhaps I was just too smitten by its visual demeanor to the point where there was no way it could have wowed me in taste.
Would I come back to The Rabbit Hole? Perhaps – there’s plenty more on the menu I haven’t tried, and I definitely could use some actual tea rather than something too left-field. Tea is after all, best treated with the KIS(S) principle – Keep it Simple, (Stupid)!
The food? It’s unique, and offers something new to the Redfern cafe scene. The kimchi & marbled topped toast is top notch, but other dishes could use some work. I believe there’s significant ground to be made here, but improving with time is part of the journey.
They’re still new, so let’s see where we end up, as we take our chances down The Rabbit Hole.
This post is based on an independently paid-for visit to The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar
Have a different take on The Rabbit Hole? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below!
- A cafe that heavily focuses on tea can only be a good thing for aficionados of the leaf
- Some seriously pretty food will make all your Instagram followers jealous
- Genuinely delicious bread, a very well-executed Chinese-Korean dish
- The teas we tried were too ill-suited for our traditional tea palates
- The food is mostly subpar, with lots of space for improvements
- The focus on tea flavour in food could be upped
- As much as I hate to say it, a tea bar that operates as a cafe with table service absolutely must get food right in order to survive
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.
F5 | S4 | A3