I’m going to be honest. When it comes to the dining scene, I have no fugjen clue what’s going on in Sydney. It’s been a source of serious frustration since moving here a few months ago. Especially when the first word of your blog’s name is ‘Eat’. At the moment, I feel like my knowledge of Sydney restaurants is right up there with my knowledge of trigonometry.
Annoyingly my brain is this teledex of places to eat in Melbourne – perhaps something I should have had an Antiques Roadshow-style valuation done on before deciding to move city. But my culinary knowledge of Melbourne means didly pickle in Sydney, so I’ve been taking night classes to expedite the learning process. This is how I ended up at Kensington Street Social.
The story behind Kensington Street Social…
Kensington Street Social is located in the cute spot that is Kensington Street (it’s hard to imagine this area in Chippendale was once a grotty industrial park – long before it’s recent nip, tuck and total facelift).
Opening its doors last year, it’s the brainchild of British Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton. Adding his 19th restaurant to his stable of ‘Socials’ around the world (joining London’s Pollen Street Social and Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Street Social), this is Atherton’s first foray into Australia. Yet Sydneysiders are in experienced hands – this guy has awards coming out of his laundry cupboard.
Found at the base of the also very cute Old Clare Hotel, Kensington Street Social is full warehouse-style, an ode to its heritage-listed past as the Carlton & United Brewery administration building. There’s an excess of concrete, louvered glass and metal, and ceilings that are as tall as Jack’s beanstalk.
It’s a cross between a restaurant and a bar, and there’s a definite vibe. A Melbourne-esque atmosphere that made me feel at home. Helping create this bustly atmosphere is the open kitchen, whopping 120-seater dining space and an after-dark DJ.
A mix of high and low dining
It was the ‘Social dog’ of pork and fennel sausage loaded with green apple, black pudding, cheddar and mustard that I had at Taste of Sydney that first convinced me I needed to expedite a visit to Chippendale to check out the source. It was one gutsy mouthful.
With its Mediterranean-inspired menu meant to be shared, Kensington Street Social is a mix of high and low dining. The hot dog is joined by the likes of a Jack’s Creek MBS 3+ dry aged sirloin on the bone.
Jude and I jumped straight towards the sharing menu made up of seven dishes ($75pp) – our dining default. Although it was probably a bit ill advised given I didn’t eat any of the tongue ‘n’ cheek croquettes or the lamb rump – both dangerously too meaty for me – and there’s also no cost saving in doing the chef’s selection. To make it worthwhile you need to be 100% committed to all seven dishes.
As we’ve established that my judgment is all out of whack, I’m just going to let the pictures do the talking.
What I will add is that I scoffed down the Basil Fawlty dessert like it was my job. The pile of yoghurt mousse with a centre of lemon curd, malt and basil meringue is weirdly good and quite refreshing to finish on. Also the vanella buratta was almost dessert-like, in an amazingly good way. While the ridiculously fresh kingfish was bang on – an absolute must try.
Kensington Street Social is…
Word of warning: Don’t come to Kensington Street Social with an empty belly or empty wallet. The portions are on the small side. Jude kept asking if we should order a couple of extra sourdough flatbreads or some social dogs. We didn’t and may have had Lord of the Fries on the way home. Despite this, the bill still ended up at a hefty $250 (which did include the most amazing bottle of Sparkling Rosé).
However, I still believe Kensington Street Social is a sure bet. You’re going to have an impressive experience here, you just might leave a little hungry. There’s definitely an energetic atmosphere to enjoy, with an underline of the word ‘social’. Late into the evening it’s not your typical restaurant packing up for the night, with diners moving on from their meals, hanging about the bar, enjoying the DJ and sticking their finger up at Sydney’s lock-out laws.
Part of my sub-major in deducing Sydney’s dining scene was to find an alternative to the swanky, atmosphere-lacking, over priced restaurants that clearly capitalise on the tourist and corporate dining dollar in this city. I’ve been on a mission to find something closer to the authentic, real and fun restaurants I’m used to in Melbourne – your Hawker Halls, Supernormals and Chin Chins. Kensington Street Social is definitely more in that direction.
Kensington Street Social | 3 Kensington Street, Chippendale, New South Wales
Phone: (02) 8277 8533