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A Shoebox of Originality: No. 9 Café

Kings Cross is bordered by foodie heaven. In Potts Point, you have the sweet delights of Yellow Bistro & Food Store, Macleay Street Bistro and delis filled with the who’s who of food. In Darlinghurst you have, well, too many delicious restaurants to count. But there’s one side of Kings Cross that until now has only been home to apartment buildings and one oddly placed aquarium – Ward Avenue. Here, you can find a tiny little hole-in-the-wall that’s as far from the shabby strip as you can get. On the outside, No. 9 Café is so demure only the trained eye would notice it. But once you step over its threshold, you will be greeted by a shoebox that has an old school charm and exuberant waiters.

Filled with old world portraits, hunting scenes and bookshelf wallpaper, the restaurant is a quirky take on the old English gentlemen’s club (think Mayfair, not Kings Cross). In an impressive use of space, a tiny, carpeted staircase leads to the above floor. With only enough room for two tables, upstairs is more of an indoor balcony than a second level, and the tables are as densely packed downstairs. The lighting may be low and intimate but conversations are not, so be prepared to listen to everything your neighbour has to say. Despite that, the geniality of the service and sweet interiors make this an enjoyable experience before you’ve even taken a bite.

It’s rare to like the look of everything on a menu; it’s even more rare for all the desserts to be gluten-free. Both miracles occur here. The food is creative, balanced and Mod Oz (although ‘international’ seems more in tune with the restaurant’s design). You can tell they are having fun with the menu, with unexpected beacons of originality and surprising food combinations (coffee and pineapple, anyone?), but fussy-eaters shouldn’t be afraid because there are also a few simple dishes. The menu is limited with only four options for each course but it’s all killer, no filler.

For starters, I try seared scallops wrapped with prosciutto, crushed hazelnuts and curried cauliflower. It’s a strange combination but it works surprisingly well; scallops tend to be treated delicately with light flavours but here they draw on the meatiness of the scallop and make a robust dish. Next, I sample the duck breast with marinated shimeji mushrooms and port vinaigrette. Tender and juicy, the delicate pink meat is perfectly cooked. Its flavour is perfectly complimented by the tart sweetness of the vinaigrette. Sadly, I’m unenthusiastic about its accompaniment ‘duck hash’ (duck and kipfler potato mashed with herbs) ,which manages to be both a little boring and weird. However my fellow foodie happily wolves it down when I swap it for potato-artichoke gratiné (delicious). Her sirloin is also perfectly tender.

Waiting for our final course, I listen with envy to our rowdy neighbours’ travel plans. However my bitterness soon evaporates after I receive my espresso brûlée with pineapple flambé and marscapone. Although I love crème brûlée, this is first time I’ve been able to finish one. The espresso cuts through the richness of the dish and the sugary shards softly compliment it instead of over powering it. The pineapple flambé turns out to be a slice of caramelised pineapple with a spoonful of vanilla marscapone. While I expected something more dramatic, it makes up for theatrics in flavour; espresso and pineapple may not be the most obvious pairing, but in this sweet and creamy form they are the perfect couple.

Well, No. 9’s originality certainly impressed me. I was surprised by how perfectly everything was made – from the meat to the thickness of the crème brûlée’s sugary roof. It was perfectly portioned; generous and balanced. While the packed tables rule this restaurant out for any discreet meetings, if you’re looking for an excellent meal, you will find more than one here.

Open for dinner Thursday to Saturday
Lunch Tuesday to Sunday
Breakfast Tuesday to Sunday

9 Ward Avenue, Potts Point

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words: Susannah Singh


June 28, 2010 at 7:55 PM animals in australia said...

Kings Cross is an inner-city locality of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Kings Cross Sydney is located approximately 2 kilometres east of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area of the City of Sydney. It is bounded by the suburbs of Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Rushcutters Bay and Darlinghurst. Kings Cross is colloquially known as The Cross.

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