You can expect “Burgers and Things” at The Milk Bar By Cafe Ish in Redfern, which opened on Thursday.
The menu allows you to mastermind many variations on this classic order – you can “double up”, or even extension-build further and go for a three-level beef pattie/cheese/pickle/ketchup/grilled-onion combination (watch out for the lockjaw).
You can also go multi-storey with the bacon cheeseburger ($16) or switch citizenship and go Hawaiian (grilled chicken, pineapple, sweet chilli and avocado), Japanese (pickled daikon, carrot, cabbage and wasabi mayo) and Italian (parmesan, rocket, tomato, aioli) – the latter endorsed by Will (“it was wrong in all the right ways”), while Tamara liked her “classic” one-level, no-DA-necessary cheeseburger. And vegetarians needn’t skip over the burger section, as chef/owner Joshua Nicholls will be adding a tofu option this coming week.
The “And Things” support list includes the Crab Omelette ($24), a dish with the odd megawatt of spotlight from its time as a signature dish in Cafe Ish’s previous incarnation in Surry Hills.
It’s nice to see Josh and his co-owner/barista wife Ai Mashima set up a new place, after the much-lamented closure of their former establishment last month. And while this venture is different from the old Cafe Ish – with its double life of cafe by day, izakaya by night – it still maintains the fun and inventive nature of what they were doing. There’s “Ai’s freaking awesome chicken wings” ($13), for instance, and a Porridge ($9), that comes with a jug of good Jersey cream and dish of even-better choc buds that you tip into the lovely disorder of stewed apples, warm milk, honey and raisins – watching the choc swirls melt into the mess and then getting to scoop up the fruit-sweet, spiced-choc, dairy jumble is a fine activity. Being a weirdo, I had this with a side of Roast Mushrooms ($4), which were garlicky and flavour-stacked; many wasabi-mayo-dipped fries and a bit of crumbed pineapple (which goes greatly when airdropped through the aforementioned mayonnaise, too).
Being a milk bar, there are killer shakes: the Red Racer ($7) is a get-you-to-the-finishing-line blitz of strawberry, rosewater, rosella and raspberry that tastes as good as a victory lap, while another option sees the salty-buttery-sweet multiple personality of miso getting on rather well, flavour-wise, with caramel and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. I’d like to try the Super Choc ($7), which is a triple-load of what it promises, in Milo, Lindt and ice-cream form.
Also making the most of milk-bar expectations, there is a jukebox, where a coin-drop grants you the chance to be mealtime DJ (after nerdish CD-scouring, I went for Beastie Boys, Franz Ferdinand, Cyndi Lauper, Blur, INXS, Outkast and some M83 for Will). The selection is oddly broad if you scan closely – there are a lot of cheesy chart-toppers and Dad Rock albums (which are great, undeniably), but also the chance to enjoy some “who knew this would be here?” picks – like Hermitude and Gerling.
Loose change will also score you a pixellated time-trip, as there’s an old-school arcade game with Galaga, Pacman, Mrs Pacman and 50-something more options. Appropriately enough, one of the choices is BurgerTime, where you competitively sling buns, lettuce and patties together. (I asked Will if he liked this game: “It was really hard,” he said. “I kept being killed by all the hot dogs.”)
There’s also a lolly counter (get your fill of bananas, jelly babies, Fantales, cola bottles and raspberries for $2.50/100g) and other items to bait your sweet tooth – Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Cookies ($3), Apple & Caramel Upside Down Cake ($5.50) and Lemon Cream Custard Tarts ($4.50), for instance. And the coffee, by Coffee Alchemy, is good. (The fact it’s made on a La Marzocco that cost as much as a small car probably is not a disadvantage.)
I have a feeling you’ll be hearing a bit about this place – if the amusing and unintentional traffic jam of bloggers today was anything to go by. One post to look out for – Chocolate Suze‘s write-up (incidentally, it was nice to meet her after blog-following her all these years).
Another reason you’ll notice The Milk Bar by Cafe Ish – it’s one of many examples of how Redfern really is starting to light up with new, interesting establishments in such quick succession – Hustle & Flow is opening two doors door, around the corner is The Dock (which is less than a year old) and a few footsteps further, they’re building The Martian Embassy, which is the gift shop and intergalatic entry point for The Sydney Story Factory – and while that isn’t a venture geared around appetites or drinking habits, it’s going to add a lot, creatively, to this part of town. And note-worthy, too, is the excellent bar, Arcadia Liquors, which started operating across the road in June.
Another case for The Milk Bar By Cafe Ish’s deserving of attention is the fact it’s wholeheartedly a fun place to dine. And with the eventual inclusion of Chiko Rolls on the menu, the only thing missing, really, is a burger phone.
The Milk Bar by Cafe Ish, 105 Regent St, Redfern. Follow The Milk Bar By Cafe Ish on Twitter.