Plate It Forward, the social enterprise behind Coyoacan Social, Colombo Social and Kabul Social, continues its commendable mission of change through food with the opening of its latest eatery, Kyiv Social.
The Ukrainian restaurant in Chippendale is currently run by 23 Ukrainian refugees who’ve found a home in Sydney. “These are people who have never worked in hospitality venues before,” founder Shaun Christie-David tells Broadsheet. “We’ve got an aeronautical engineer, we’ve got a pilot, we’ve got an economist, we’ve got an IT professional.”
The casual spot sits in the heritage-listed building once home to the English Scottish & Australian Bank and, more recently, fellow social enterprise restaurant The Two Wolves. Parquetry floors, splashes of blues and yellows, and shimmering chandeliers have brightened up the interior of the sandstone building on the buzzing Broadway corner.
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On the menu are traditional home-style Ukrainian dishes, all reimagined for a restaurant setting. The share-style set menu brings The Chicken Kyiv, a generous double-breasted Bannockburn chook dressed more-ishly in garlic butter. This same flavourful butter also features in other dishes, like the famous Ukrainian pampushka, a soft and fluffy garlic roll with a crispy exterior. There are handmade dumplings, daily handrolled holubtsi (cabbage rolls), sorrel-laden green borscht soup and a bangers and mash that features a lightly smoked beef-and-pork sausage, spiced up with caraway and coriander, by LP’s Quality Meats.
The drinks menu stars a deep, malty lager by Young Henrys. Dubbed the Beloved Ukrainian Lager, it was brewed exclusively for Kyiv Social using all-European ingredients. On the “cocktail list” is small-batch vodka Blue Krane – a spirit by inner west coffee roasters The Little Marionette – served neat. If you need to take the edge off, there are infused pours too, in sorrel, chilli and cherry. The vodka also features in twisted classics like the Chergroni (a cherry-laced spin on a Negroni), Sorrel Martini and Beetroot Sling. All wines are sustainably sourced, including Kindzmarauli, a drop from Bowral’s Tractorless Vineyard, which uses a native Ukrainian red grape variety.
Keeping with the Plate It Forward ethos, everything created for Kyiv Social – from the concept, to the design, to the food – was done so with the guidance of the Ukrainian community. Nadia Mohylna, who has a hospitality background in Ukraine, worked as the restaurant consultant and Borys Chernyk (of Ukrainian fine diner Selfish) is head chef. “He was in the country for a couple of days when we met him, and he couldn’t understand a word of English,” says Christie-David. “We used Google Translate for a couple of weeks and now we’re having full conversations with him. He was a really successful chef in Ukraine and came on board when he first moved here.”
Mohylna’s role is to ensure the restaurant is executed authentically and with cultural sensitivity. “We’re like: ‘Can you guide us on how to set up a Ukrainian restaurant from a food perspective, a design perspective, a language perspective?’” says Christie-David. “She was on board for six months and brought that cultural understanding and knowledge.”
For every set menu ordered at Kyiv Social, Plate It Forward donates one meal to Ukrainian refugees in Australia and one to someone in Ukraine. Across all the Social venues to date, more than 150,000 meals have been donated to people in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Mexico. There are also weekly lunches for newly arrived Ukrainians.