When space opened up next to Erskineville’s izakaya Kuki Tanuki, owner Ken Cheung thought he’d ask the local community what it wanted. Without any expectations, he wrote a survey and posted it on the space’s shopfront and online. “We had 300 responses, a ridiculous amount of people. This thing was a 20-question, really detailed survey.” The result is the Erskinevilla, a multi-storey answer to the community’s desires.

For now it’s operating solely out of the bottom floor as A Taste of Things to Come, a casual, well-priced and well-executed cafe-bistro hybrid that looks like a classroom at an art school. “We want to do food that exceptional but that is as approachable as possible. The last thing we want is to be pretentious,” Cheung says.

The menu comes from Brian Villahermosa, a no-bullshit chef last seen at restaurant Kingston Public Bar & Kitchen. On one side of the menu you’ll find Villahermosa’s colossal lamb neck and mushroom pie, and steak with smoked mash and crispy fried fennel rings. On the other there’s Mediterranean fare informed by Villahermosa’s Movida experience. Cheung’s favourite is the arroz caldoso nero, a rich and slightly soupy squid-ink risotto with a log of salmon, cuttlefish segments and some remarkably savoury lettuce. The chicken-liver parfait is blended with port and brandy and glazed brûlée style, topped with pickled grapes and elk cress.

Despite running out of a small kitchen, Villahermosa says he’s determined to do everything in-house. Most impressive is the homemade morcilla (Spanish blood sausage), which comes on top of an unusual poutine. “It has an Indian slant to it; it's a play on an English chips and curry sauce, but with morcilla and a 63-degree egg on top.” It’s the most experimental dish on a playful but familiar brunch menu.

Although Cheung calls A Taste of Things to Come a pop-up, it’s unlikely to leave anytime soon. “Effectively most of it will stay but the major thing is to figure out what we want upstairs.” At the moment Cheung is working with Create or Die founder Deb Morgan to produce a rooftop bar that hosts local artists and bands. One idea Villahermosa has is for a music-food pairing event where audience members chase songs from local bands with Villahermosa’s kitchen creations.

Erskinevilla’s A Taste of Things to Come
63 Erskineville Road, Erskineville

Hours
Wed to Fri 5pm–11pm
Sat & Sun 9am–4pm, 6pm–11pm

erskinevilla.com.au