For me, Rosebery has always been a suburb defined by speed bumps and 40 kph limits. It’s where I learned to drive as a teenager and it was full of L-plated kids being overly sensitive with the accelerator pedal. Driving instructors loved Rosebery’s enforced slowness; even wildcard adolescents couldn’t help but keep their teacher’s car – and blood pressure – safe.
The Mike in question is Michael McEnearney, formerly a head chef at Rockpool; more recently he’s spent Sundays running his Mike’s Table pop-up dinners. His new operation is a bit of a Rockpool reunion (his head chef is Jeffrey De Rome, who used to work there; and manager George also spent years at Neil Perry’s flagship restaurant). But it’s actually London’s Ottolenghi, with its hyperfocus on fresh, seasonal flavours and its hand-crafted approach, that has been a big influence on Kitchen By Mike.
Accordingly, at Michael’s new eatery, there are salads so vibrant-looking and recently made that they’re full of pixel-bursting, high-resolution colour; there’s the snap and crunch of the Green Beans, Snow Peas, Hazelnuts and Orange ($3.50 per scoop) or the gorgeous Woodfired Vegetables ($3.50 per scoop), so thoroughly cooked through with lemon and marjoram that the taste of the roasted squash, capsicum and onion ends up ultra-sweet and concentrated (unless you love the full-squirm, tart-as-hell flavour of baked lemon though, watch out for those citrus wedges – otherwise experiencing this salad can be a game of Lemon-Eating Roulette). There’s also a summery Tomato, Watermelon and Mint dish ($5 per scoop), as well as Green Figs with Blue Cheese, Cured Ham and Honey ($7 per scoop) and Pulled Pork with Mango and Coconut Chutney. Simplicity is the no-brainer appeal of the Margarita Pizza ($8.50 per slice), with its classic tomato-basil topping and well-puffed crust.
One of my favourite things at Kitchen By Mike is the Crunchie Banana Smoothie ($4.50), a liquid jackpot of full-cream milk, yogurt, honey, banana and roasted muesli – it’s so good that it’s worth the inevitable Smoothie Moustache you get from gulping it so quickly.
This rustic eatery also serves fresh-baked sweets – Walnut Cookies with Apple Jam ($1), Rosewater & Pistachio Meringues ($2), Gluten-Free Jaffa Cakes – and sells Iggy’s bread, four-spice salt and a selection of jams, fruit and meat. The space itself is quite cool – tables are typographically branded with large numbers, oversized wicker lights dominate the room and the open kitchen is good for people/chef-watching. The rustic, farmhouse atmosphere is apt considering that Kitchen By Mike aims to eventually have a vegie plot and beehive outside.
Kitchen By Mike reminds me a little of Bread & Circus, which recently opened in neighbouring Alexandria. Both places reclaim the idea of healthy eating from the Diet ‘n’ Detox Fun Police and reinstate a little wonder into plates of food that might actually be good for you. If these cafes prove to be trend-starters, I’ll be very happy. The upsides of eating well without trading off on flavour or enjoyment levels – Kitchen By Mike taps into this beautifully.
Kitchen By Mike, 85 Dunning Ave, Rosebery NSW (02) 9045 0910 www.kitchenbymike.com.au