I do like Surry Hills and its vibrant community – the mix of students, professionals, gays and hipsters do play their parts to contribute to the exciting food scene here. Restaurants and cafes are abundant, but more importantly if you are a coffee drinker like myself, then you will never have trouble to find a good cup of coffee almost every corner of the street in this suburb. They are not just cafes serving coffees, good coffees need good coffee beans and also good baristas to brew them – and the only way to achieve that is to roast their own beans on the premises. Reuben Hills does exactly that.
Reuben Hills is already packed with office workers and creative types by the time I arrive at 12.20pm, but lucky enough to score the last two seats at the communal table right at the back of the cafe. It does have its advantage to sit at the back with the roller door up, which opens the space out to the laneway that offers a breath of fresh air.
Sadly now I just feel like I have slept with Steve Buscemi, even though he told me his real name was Brad Pitt.
I order myself a cup of coffee to kill some time while waiting for my lunch date to arrive, but the menu itself is enough to keep me entertained. “Really fucking great what?”…. “NOT a reuben?”… and “Doggs breakfast?”, these are just a few wacky names on the menu. Yes, there are a couple of “fucking” on the menu enough to make it PG15+ rated.
The flat white costs a little more than the usual $3.50 but they do know their coffee here. The robustness and smooth finish on every sip is well worth every penny. But then, I am also a sucker for a good latte art. If you are serious about coffee, they even offer a weekly public coffee cuppings on Friday at 10am.
I’d define the menu as an all-day brunch menu with a touch of Mexican flavours which covers light brekky from yogurt, rice pudding to something a little heavier like sandwiches, fried chicken and tacos. I like fried chicken, but when it is boldly stating “Really fucking great Fried Chicken” on the menu, it is crying out loud to be tasted, and tested.
Inside the red plastic serving basket are strips of chicken breast, deep fried in a spicy coating of batter which is more of a soft skin rather than the earth shattering crunch that I was hoping for. Even though the chicken is a little on the greasy side, the overnight marination offers a surprisingly tender and succulent breast meat. Two dipping sauces of chilli mayonnaise and herb & chilli salsa, pickled jalapenos and a squeeze of lime juice instantly offers a Mexican twist to the fried chicken.
It is good, not great; and definitely not “fucking great“.
Next item we share is wagyu salt brisket on rye bread. I refuse to use the word ‘reuben’, because as the menu suggests, it is NOT reuben. And so, thin slices of slow-cooked wagyu brisket are drenched in pickled slaw that threatens to drip everywhere, I can’t really taste the presence of manchego as it says on the menu, horseradish cream is also very subtle, overpowered by the slaw.
The most disappointing item that we order is possibly the chorizo grits. From the name itself, we were expecting a puddle of soft grits with slightly charred grilled chorizo on top, but we seriously thought the waitress has brought us the wrong dish as it comes as a bowl of nachos. There are shards of tortilla corn chips dressed in salsa and avocado, as we dig deeper to discover cubes of chorizo buried in black beans mash covered with white queso fresco sauce. So, no grits, but nachos; and we eat it anyway. If it’s called nachos, I probably would have considered it as one of the better nachos I’ve tasted, but sadly now I just feel like I have slept with Steve Buscemi, even though he told me his real name was Brad Pitt.
61 Albion St
Surry Hills NSW 2010