Alex: Leisurely long lunches, what other way is there to spend a beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon? Café Birkenhead, nestled inside the Birkenhead shopping complex with stunning views of the Parramatta River, not your average dining destination for a quick bite to eat in between some serious shopping. With a seriously classy revamp, by day Café Birkehead offers the staple café fixtures, entrees, salads, sandwiches, burgers as well as substantial mains. By night, it can transform into a destination location for weddings, functions and parties.
We were warmly greeted upon arrival and shown to a table just under the large, almost full length, floor to ceiling windows. We each decided to order a round of freshly squeezed juices of which Café Birkenhead has a juice for almost every taste, all priced at $6.50 each. Alex opted for the ‘Energy Booster’ – a combination of watermelon & mint. Refreshing and easy to drink, this is one juice that we’d be happy to have any day. Vanessa got the ‘Digestion Plus’ – with pineapple, apple, mint & ginger. A great combination of tropical and traditional run of the mill juice flavours, with all the food that was to come, anything with digestion in the title was sure to peak our interest. Feeling like the effervescent perpetual child, I couldn’t go past the ‘Pink Lady – a mix of Apple, pineapple, strawberry & ginger. I enjoyed the fruity, refreshing flavours – perfect for a summers day. In all the photo taking hubbub, all the juices were switched, Alex mistakenly getting mine took, a sip of the pink lady and expressed his dislike. He was a little put off by the thick texture, perhaps due to the pureed strawberries. That happened to be my favourite part of the juice, each to their own.
As we walked into the restaurant, Vanessa caught a glance of the Nacho’s on a patrons table, it was pretty much guaranteed from then on that would be on our target list today. To share we had a serving of the ‘Crispy squid, chilli, lemon thyme salt & aioli. $14.90. We tend to always get this crowd pleaser, who doesn’t love some good ol fried squid. The squid, was slightly thinner than the usual run of the mill offering, incredibly crunchy but very tender. Important for any calamari or squid dish. We enjoyed the slight hit of the chilli and the squid paired extremely well with the infused aioli, the only drawback was the oiliness. First instincts are usually on point, so we succumbed to the ‘Nachos – with beef mince, chilli beans topped with cheese, guacamole, sour cream & jalapenos. $19.95. On the whole a very tasty dish, we all enjoyed the beef and bean chilli mix, sometimes a nacho can be overpowered and ruined by the protein mixture. Not the case here. Definitely a recommended dish for those that love their nachos.
We each went back and forth between a few dishes when deciding on a main. We all pretty much deviated from our original choices, which may have led to a few disappointments. Vanessa got the ‘Grilled Moroccan Lamb Salad’ – with roast pumpkin, cous cous beetroot & baby spinach with a mint & coriander dressing. $21.95. Surprisingly hearty for a salad, the generous pieces of lamb were perfectly cooked and very tender, Vanessa did mention that it was slightly oily which can sometimes detract from a good salad, especially for those considering it to be a lighter and healthier alternative to other items on the menu.
Alex went with the ‘Crumbed Chicken Breast Burger’ – with sesame seeds & almond flakes, fennel radish, watercress & seeded mayo served with a side basket of chips. $20.95. Unanimously we all enjoyed this jazzed up schnitzel, we loved the addition of the toasted sesame seeds and almonds in the breadcrumbs. Burgers generally are quite heavy but this one (at least) didn’t feel like a heart attack on a plate. The fennel, radish and watercress lightened the whole dish up. The chips were another stand-out, perfectly crunchy and dangerously Moreish.
For myself, I was pining for the Beef Burger but a little stern talking to myself, I went with the ‘Pulled Pork, cabbage, apple, fennel, & aioli sandwich. Served on Quinoa & Soya bean bread. $15.95. Sadly this was one of those cases where usually your gut instinct is right. The pulled pork was rather dry and was overwhelmed by the vegetable elements on the dish, it definitely could have used an extra few squeezes of aioli. I did however, love the bread, it’s great to see café’s offering a variety of artisan breads as alternatives to sour-dough.
By this point we were well and truly at tipping point. Alex, taking after our mum, can’t end a meal without some sort of ‘sweet ending’ our version of a food ‘happy ending’. He managed to sweet talk us (see what I did there..) into getting the ‘Lemon Citrus Tart’ $8.50. We were slightly puzzled when it was brought to the table, it looked very similar to a Ricotta cake. Our first few bites quickly corrected our uncertainness, it was a rather subdued citrus tart, a little heavy on the pastry with mild citrus notes. We also loved the Vanilla ice-cream served alongside the slice, it added some needed creaminess.
We were quite impressed with the fit out and the food on the whole. You certainly don’t feel like your smack bam in the middle of an outlet shopping complex and with gorgeous views out over Birkenhead point and Parramatta River. What’s not to like.
Photos by Alex
*For Food’s Sake were invited to Café Birkenhead by Sacha Biddle of Platinum Restaurant Group, a very special thank you to Lisa for looking after us. All views expressed are independent and our own.