Sunday, 12 January 2014

Breakfast Series - Billy Kart Kitchen

During the week, it was my nephew's third birthday, I know, it's a pretty big deal turning three, the world starts to make more sense and from an uncle/s perspective, the little tacker is a bit more interactive.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get over to see him on his big day and give him his totally awesome birthday present, so we arrange to head over on the Sunday morning.  Never letting an opportunity pass, we thought we would check out a new cafe on the south side for breakfast first.

Like a lot of areas around Brisbane, the south side is becoming a hot bed of cafe goodness with a heap of great cafes servicing the diners south of the CBD, so it wasn't an easy choice to select our breakfast destination.  While there were a number of choices that we would have been really happy with, my pragmatic side shone through and we picked a cafe that was pretty much halfway to my brother's house and therefore the most convenient.

We picked the new Ben O'Donoghue cafe with the cool name, Billy Kart Kitchen.  Most people would know Ben as the celebrity chef who partnered up the Curtis Stone on the television cooking show 'Surfing the Menu' as well as his prolific writing of cook books.  As well as doing his thing on TV, Ben has worked with some influential restaurateurs in the UK including Jamie Oliver and Oliver Peyton (who is kind of a big wig in the UK and a judge on my favourite cooking show Great British Menu).  Most importantly for a great chef is working in restaurants and Ben has worked in some of the UK's top restaurants, including The River Cafe and The Atlantic Bar and Grill - not to mention consulting with Brisbane's own The South Bank Surf Club (see post here).

Suburban Brisbane must seem a world away from his time in the UK, but Ben and wife Dee are using all of their industry experience to create something great for the residents of Annerley and Moorooka.  Located in a heavily renovated 1950's style building, the re-worked building has created quite a funky and open dining space, without detracting from it's original charm.  I was curious about why Ben had called his cafe Billy Kart Kitchen, but it seems as if it is homage to kids racing their billy karts in the suburb in the heyday of hill kart racing.  I'll have to check in with SC's parents about that as they lived in the area back in the day (around the corner in Clifton Hill).

We were up quite early again but by the time we arrived at Billy Kart at 7:30am, there were already plenty of seats taken and people enjoying an early breakfast.  There were still plenty of seats available for us though and we scored a great seat with views of the dining and kitchen areas.  It's a very open style cafe with room for about eighty seats and pretty much all of those inside have a good view of the kitchen.  While we were there, Ben was busy at work in the kitchen calling out covers and generally cooking up a storm.

We were given our menus to look over and asked by one of the many waitresses on hand if we wanted a drink. It was a coffee kind of morning so SC ordered her half strength latte, which in this case was a Campos coffee. When I asked if there were any smoothies on the menu I was let down gently, unfortunately there were only fresh juices, so I skipped and just settled on my glass of Brisbane's finest water.  

Some cafes have quite extensive breakfast menus and some don't.  Billy Kart Kitchen falls into the latter category with a very focussed breakfast menu that has about half a dozen options that are fairly traditional with a few Aussie style 'curveballs' thrown in.  SC's first instinct was to have the crispy corn fritters with grilled avocado and heirloom tomatoes but when it was crunch time to order, went with the much sweeter buttermilk and ricotta pancakes with banana and coconut caramel.  There were two large and fairly flat pancakes on the plate with some fried bananas and covered in a caramel sauce.  The pancakes were deceptively light and fluffy and had a wonderful flavour of buttermilk with an undercurrent of the ricotta.  Most amazing was the coconut flavour coming from the caramel sauce, which really did match the pancakes superbly.  My bite was great and SC must have loved it, the plate was just about licked clean!

It could be said that the Billy Kart Kitchen menu was basic, but I would never say that, it really did seem like it was put together for someone like me, i.e., simple tastes!  I chose the free range organic eggs, scrambled of course, with the addition of double smoked bacon, roasted portobello mushrooms and roasted roma plumb tomatoes.  I had mixed feelings when I saw the plate, it looked beautiful (for breakfast) and clearly had seasoning on the right ingredients, but the scrambled eggs looked a bit runny for my usual tastes.  Boy, I need to have more faith, the eggs were wonderful and the fact that they were a little runny really helped them soak into the sourdough toast, which I normally never eat.  The portobello mushrooms were also a highlight, with just the right amount of seasoning and I loved that there was a pistachio crumble sprinkled on my roasted tomatoes, the crumble added some nice texture.  I don't think I'm going off bacon but it's not exciting me on a breakfast like chorizo does, although this bacon did have a lovely smokey flavour and was a good addition to the plate.  SC commented that I must have been hungry or loved it as I cleaned it up too (it was a little of both)

It was great to go to a 'celebrity' diner and actually see the main guy in the kitchen doing the cooking, it really shows that there is care and passion in what they are doing.  That care and passion was clear to see on the plates of food that were put in front of us and indeed in the very high quality of the meals themselves.  It was just the little things, like the seasoning being perfect, the amazing pancakes and the extra little touches like the pistachio crumble on the tomato, just brilliant.

It's a funky little spot too and you can see the care and time that's been put into designing a cafe that just feels good to spend time in.  Billy Kart Kitchen is actually quite big for a cafe of this nature and it's just shows the pulling power of a celebrity chef.  The layout of the cafe is interesting, with big open windows that let the outside in, which was great on a sunny Sunday morning.  The staff working on the morning were friendly and provided excellent service, which is just what you want to see and really appreciated.  Probably the only thing that could have made the breakfast at Billy Kart Kitchen any better would have been a lovely and inventive smoothie.

We finished up and paid out bill, then went on our way, both really pumped from having a great breakfast.  Is it turns out, we'd needed it - phew hanging out with a three year old is exhausting (especially at birthday time).

There is lots of Ben O'Donoghue stuff for sale and on display
Superb breakfast and you can just see the seasoning - yum
The counter area with the juice of the day
Clifton Hill - ahh, that will bring back memories for the in-laws
Starting to fill up 
Lots of fresh stuff around and on display
Mmmmm - fresh jam donuts - they smelled great
Interesting light fittings, old glass bottles
Campos coffee is the order in Billy Kart
Extensive renovations mean that Billy Kart Kitchen stands out

Billy Kart Kitchen on UrbanspoonBilly Kart Kitchen

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