It’s the first day of Spring and the place is packed. Three chefs are toiling behind the pans in the open kitchen, and joggers are stretching by the door as they wait for their takeaway lattes. The locals, who’re on first name basis here, are heckling the chefs about football.
It’s been open less than eight months, but you’d think The Little Kitchen has been on the block for years. It's cosy. The room is decked out with weathered wooden tables - a long communal number down the middle - and dressed with a few little herb pots. A handful of tables outside. It’s relaxed and beachy without the wank. Akin to the food, really.
The menu’s clever. There’s variety but not enough to leave you dazed before you’ve finished perusing the page. It’s England meets Coogee. The bacon and egg Bap and Kedgeree have full-time work, while the rest of the menu shifts with the seasons. There’s avocado on toast with a couple of poached eggs, a generous dollop of lime curd, and some of the best roasted tomatoes you’ll find in Sydney. Try the confit Ocean Trout with scrambled eggs, a smattering of herbs, and a few deliciously sweet ribbons of pickled zucchini. I even love the French Toast. Spiced brioche, toasted nuts, a not-to-sweet berry compote and a little smear of yoghurt to finish. Not traditional but certainly fun. The Bap is layered with crisp, charry bacon, a runny sunny side-up egg, and plenty of HP sauce. Hot damn.
Everyone in Sydney’s doing baked eggs, but not the way they’re done here. This isn’t your regular Shakshuka. Winter weather’s still lingering and it’s only just spring, so tomatoes shouldn't be stealing the show. Neil’s a chef who understands produce and the importance of seasonality. The eggs are baked atop chickpeas and eggplant, runny again, and drizzled with yogurt and harissa. And there is, of course, a piece of that charry toast to swab it all up.
Mosey by at night early in the week and it’s dark; but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the house is full. The same quality of food at a good price. The lamb shoulder, big and tender and unctuous off the bone, sits on a paste of confit garlic. Add some parsnip, a little kale, real gravy, and you’re out of trouble for $60. That feeds two. Simple, well seasoned and great to share. The leftovers came home to fill a sanga the next day. Throw in a glass (oh, why not the bottle?) of Primo Estate 2012 Grenache. There's a choice of craft beers and ciders and a neat little wine list. Amy heads the floor, and service from the whole team is warm and relaxed and incredibly precise. It's what Coogee's been missing: top produce, a clever beverage list and stellar service to tie it all together.
It's only spring, but I've already planned the balmy season. Shorts and thongs, a dip in the beach, crab on toast. A couple of Batlow Apple Ciders and shared plates as the sun slips away. It's a little British, a dash of Coogee, and a recipe for success. Now, where's summer?