Outside Kansas City Shuffle has two windows fronting Gloucester Street. In a clever design move, the barista area is right behind the windows, facing outwards serving take away coffees, facing inwards for Kansas City Shuffle (hereby known as KCS) front of house to serve the dual dining rooms of the café.
The take-away signage and pricing, like the eat-in menu itself, seems simple enough. Caffeine dosage comes in a variety of ways. First there is the predictable though predictably good Single Origin Roasters coffee from the machine, described and priced as black, milk, magic, extras. I've always wondered about all those white coffee complications. Latte is just Italian for milk, after all. Inside on one simple clipboard sheet of black on white paper, the right hand side is given over to drinks, and wine. Caffeine also comes as a delicious filter hot in a glass, or as cold drip poured from its brown glass bottle. These already had my attention, and I drank both hot and cold. Then, I went for fizzy. I present you with the Strange Love Smoked Cola. Strangely smoky. Also infectiously delicious. KCS drinks also lists options of iced coffee, or affogato- with or without Frangelico.
Yet a girl cannot live on beverages alone. And who would want to. Thankfully for a past midday breakfast I was in the right place.
Nice KCS breakfast options start the day and the menu: toast; eggs; sides (get thick cut free range bacon, hot smoked NZ salmon, confit tomatoes + feta, avocado + lemon, potato + pea hash); acai, granola, yoghurt; chia pudding, seasonal berries, puffed grains, hazelnuts- as the kitchen opens at 7am. For late risers or late eaters like myself, these offerings are available until the kitchen closes at 3pm.
Pottery plates of heartier lunches are intriguingly good. One lunch plate seems like just three things. Looks simple. Look closer. I devoured the sensational KCS style beef brisket & waffles, smoked chilli butter & a poached egg ($20). Peeking in the open kitchen, I spied with my little eye, a waffle iron. Yeup. Waffles are made on the premises. When I dug deeper, I uncovered the secret to the rich and complex fall apart melt-in-your-mouth full-flavoursome glory of the beef. Try this. The beef is dry cured over night in salt and pepper, swathed in a tea towel to absorb the extruding moisture. Then, the beef brisket is hot smoked over red wine soaked hickory chips. Next step, while it still sits enclosed in its house of smoke, the beef is slowly cooked at 120 degrees for six hours. Yeup. There is complexity in the seeming simplicity. Top this with poached egg; break it open to discover a fabulously running yolk. And kapow! Boom. Amazing. Wins the satisfying and sensuous games.
The KCS opening menu has a handful of other savoury sensations, all crafted with kitchen skill using amazing produce. KCS Cuban sandwich ($17) uses Berkshire pork belly, ham off the bone, cheese, pickles and mustard. Ah ha- yes a bit like a ploughman's plate between carbs. I'm so pining for this, I've inked it on the back of my hand to make sure I go back soon.
Other plates - from Berkshire pork with braised lentils, leeks, brioche & poached egg; to Toasted pumpkin bread, avo, whipped feta, heirloom tomato & toasted seeds; and Spring lamb with black barley salad, smoked eggplant, yoghurt & dukkah - grace the left hand side of the page.
Next to me on the shared table, my mate has a Fried chicken sandwich ($17). So it comes on a donut bun, piled high what 'slaw and jalapeno aioli. And there's pickles. Again all is right in the world. The menu says sandwich. You might think 'burger 'cause of the bun. But a hamburger is a beef patty- right? Like the thinking. A man knows his sandwich. I didn't get to try it. I forgot to ask how it was. The tell tale silence as we ate and wouldn't share said it all. It looked mighty!
Just because he wouldn't share, I finished with something sweet, which could have been enough in itself for early eaters to afternoon tea timers. Meet the Pancake. Well it says it's a pancake. But it tasted not even like a hotcake to me. It was unctuosly richer like a butter (pound) cake. But actually I found out it is Chiffon cake recipe, using yoghurt not buttermilk. This is a substantial breakfast dish. And maybe you could get me to share this with you, not because it isn't marvellously good, but because it is huge. Huge value too for seventeen bucks, because I reckon four girls could share this one for dessert. Only if, it wasn't gobbled as a main, mind you. It was lush with the molten cream cheese, offset with the sweet house made lemon curd, laden with blueberries, finished with smoked almonds. Hugely good is a better description.
The KCS understanding of ingredients, and how to treat them, extended to the new millennium and transformed into Café In Wonderland is no surprise when you understand history. We've got this clever clogs Melbourne Chef who created magic at Proud Marys cross the border. Kayne Mordini has balanced a contemporary menu which finally says Sydney CBD can get it right.
Yeah, I know the address says The Rocks, but really- Kansas City Shuffle (oops I did say I would only use KCS) is just a hop skip and a jump from our Sydney financial hub and easy walking distance from Grosvenor Place and adjacent office food courts. Though no suits were present at lunch, they would be well advised to make KCS a lunchtime destination. Maybe, unless they are fashionably hand-stitched, they just wouldn't get it- Cafe 2.0, forward trend, en point, let's not use that 'h' word, urban edge, bloody delicious food and drinks, sitting in contemporary post industrial design excellence.
So, I asked about the design and was told it was all done by owner Benny Sweeten himself. So, I asked Ben Sweeten (aka Mr. Joe Black) and he said it was all built by his brother Jimmy. Smiling he went on to proudly describe all aspects of the interior from the tiling on the central share table, to the finding of all the reclaimed timber. They all - like the customers - sit comfortably within the scrubbed back exposed brick walls, edgy black modern vertical blinds, upholstered round booths, and cushioned metal frame chairs. Bravo boys!