Cafe Rumah- Surry Hills

Come on down! There’s plenty of room at Café Rumah!

A couple of months back my wife was catching up with a girlfriend for brunch and they wanted a café recommendation from me – so I naturally whipped out my ‘Dining List’, a spreadsheet of all the restaurants  and cafes I’ve yet to try, and sent her a list of 5 to choose from. The one which they opted for was Café Rumah in Surry Hills, and after they came back, they were both raving on about how good it was – my wife eager for us to go back so I could try it for myself.

So fast forward 2-3 months and stuck for a lunch idea we headed into Surry Hills (it’s just crossing Elizabeth St), where I had my first taste of kopitiam meets café.

As we were walking up the hill, I asked my wife “Is there going to be room for us?” Being a Saturday lunch-time and all, and we didn’t have a reservation. But although they were doing a swift trade, there was still room for us, as the café occupied two front rooms of a converted Surry Hills terrace home. Seated on round wooden stools we studied the menu and ordered:

The 1AM Ramly Special ($12.00 +$3.00 to make it a double beef patty burger) – $15.00; Tom Yum Chicken Congee- $15.00; Rumah Special drink- $6.00; and Madeleine’s- $6.00.

Taking in the atmosphere of the place, it definitely felt like Surry Hills, we were definitely no longer in da city. As after all, we were sitting in a cafe which was located in a converted home. There was a lot of wood, wooden floor boards, wooden stools, wooden tables, and there was a long wooden staircase which led upstairs to the clothing store. Yeah, it was a café/clothing store. Eavesdropping on the conversation between the boss and her friends who occupied the table behind us, it sounded like Café Rumah had just opened up a clothing store in the Darling Square precinct, a female clothing store- while the one above us was purely men’s fashion.

The first to arrive at our table was our Rumah Special.

Rosewater syrup, milk and soda were the elements which made up our drink. It was nice and sweet from the rosewater, nutty and creamy from the milk, and effervescent from the soda. Mmmmm. It was nice, and quite a lot of drink in the end. We were passing it back and forth saying “No, no, you have the rest” but there was always too much for one to finish.

Then it was my wife’s Tom Yum Chicken Congee which touched down on our table. The last time, my wife’s friend ordered the congee and in a possible case of ‘food envy’- my wife ordered it for herself this time.

And in a deep bowl, she was served up a thicker style of congee, filled with chicken pieces, black fungus shreds, spring onion, and ginger. It was a little spicy – my wife ranked it as a 2 from 3 chilli level dish, but it was just at the right levels where it got the nose running a bit, but not to the extent where your tongue was on fire. All in all, a tasty home-style congee.

I was craving burgers today, as it had been a while since we’ve been going around Sydney doing our Burger Vs Burger challenge. And the Café Rumah burger looked like the ideal bun-stack to break the drought!

It presented itself as a cheeseburger-like stack, but where it differed from your regular cheeseburgers was the sauce – described as a ‘House seasoning’, but methinks it was a mayo which had a home made chilli sauce mixed through it. Everything was a bit compressed together, so it was a little difficult to tease out each element of the burger. But there were 2 slices of beef patties – each well-seasoned and tasted flame-grilled; a crunchy slice of cheese- which tasted like it had been deep fried; a really thin layer of omelette- almost paper thin; two thin slices of pickles- a bit lost in between the layers; a generous smothering of the previously described house sauce; and two thin layers of milk bun. It was served inside a paper bag- which it def needed as it was quite messy. But I had never eaten a burger which was so freshly constructed, have you ever seen a burger which gave off steam? All in all very tasty indeed, and very moreish!

And just as we were finishing up the last morsels of our mains, our madeleines were served up.

3 for $6, they were baked to order! Again steaming hot from the oven- with a smear of kaya jam on top to give it the South Asian make-over. They were good; not too sweet, buttery, and crispy on the outside!

Our end verdict, 4.5 Stars from 5! (2.5 from 3 for Food (Everything was very tasty, cooked and brought out to us piping hot, and I can’t wait to try more of their regular lunch menu!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were all efficient and friendly); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (there’s something charming about eating in a converted home- it just feels so homely); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (everything was priced at a level we were happy to pay for)).

In the end, it’s a strong indicator of something special when someone dines here and they immediately want to bring back their friends (or significant other), or when you’re still eating and you’re already thinking about when can you come back and try more things on  their menu. They have an all-day breakfast menu, a lunch special menu (which changes all the time), and a regular lunch menu. And it’s a bakery as well, so a whole selection of baked treats for you to try! Plenty of room at Café Rumah- where you can experience for yourself what it means for kopitiam to meet café i.e. where East meets West! And after having your tummies filled, you can mosey on upstairs and check out 15sheets, the men’s clothing store- everything was 70% off today, pretty funky Ben Sherman -like clothing.

Café Rumah- Saturday 26 October (4.5 Stars).

Ph: (02) 9280 2289

71-73 Campbell Street, Surry Hills

Mon – Fri 7.30am – 4pm

Sat 9am – 4pm

Sun Closed

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