While many cafes have recently embraced congee (Porch and Parlour, Hills Bros and Bread and Circus, they’ve done so with an updated, trendy spin; using ingredients such as brown rice, bacon jam, poached pears and onsen eggs. Bistro Kent House has taken a much braver approach. It serves it the old-school, Taiwanese way, just simple rice porridge with a bit of stock, a chunk of century egg on top and sides of pork floss, pickled ginger and fried pork skin. “In Taiwan we always have a plain bowl of congee with a lot of condiments to choose from,” says owner Chang-Yun Chiang.
It’s surprising because Bistro Kent House looks exactly like the kind of place an experimental congee would be served. The old Ms Murray site has all the hallmarks of a modern cafe – white tiles, open kitchen, a wooden bar, bright timber seating and scattered greenery. But Chiang has too much pride in his Taiwanese heritage to mess with congee. “The reason I opened this and Bao Dao was so our culture can be shared with people who are interested in it.” He also loves Thai food. “Our focus is to introduce Asian breakfast dishes. Also, our chef is Thai and I don't want to waste her talent,” he says.
The result of these influences is (surely) the only place in Sydney to get a Thai breakfast, a Taiwanese congee, classic Aus-cafe-style eggs on toast and a few dishes that mix all three cuisines. On the menu now there is a French-toast stack with pandan custard, grilled banana, crushed macadamias and bacon; Thai-influenced breakfast rolls; and a chicken and pineapple burger that tastes like a Penang curry. “Obviously the presentation changes but the flavour will be staying traditional and authentic,” says Chiang. From the Thai side there’s a gado-gado-like kaek salad; a coconut and sago pudding; and kanom pang na (Thai pork toast)-style dish with in-house cured salmon and eggs.
From the coffee counter there’s beans from Double Barrel Roasters and sweet Thai milk teas. In the next few weeks Kent House will also be open for dinner. “It will stay as a Thai menu but it will be tapas and we'll be more flexible to more twists,” Chiang says.
Bistro Kent House
88 Liverpool Street, Sydney
(02) 8387 5513
Mon to Wed 7.30am–4pm
Thurs to Sat 7.30am–11pm