Colby is the name of one of my two favourite cats in the whole world, and I’m sad that I wasn’t able to bring him with me to Kelby’s Cafe. I have, in fact, never taken Colby with me to a single cafe or restaurant in his entire little life, but I’m sure that he would love running around and stealing everyone’s food.
I’m not usually a fan of shakshuka, but I was surprised to find just how much I liked Kelby’s Kibbeh Shakshoukah. The crunchy Lebanese bread was deliciously light and crispy. The shakshouka was meaty and tasty. The Lebanese stringed halloumi was something I had never had before, and an interesting spin on what is usually just a salty squeaky block of cheese. The baked eggs, chickpeas, basil, and tomato base were all delicious. I liked this dish so much I was hesitant to share it with my partner.
Kelby’s Klassic beef burger is one K away from a cult name, but many more Ks away from cult worthiness. I won’t go too far into it, but basically the beef patty was thick but not juicy, and not tasty either. While seasoned readers of this blog will know that I often complain about too much seasoning, this particular burger had very little taste at all. Coupled with the quite frankly weird dark, floppy and oil drenched chips this was not the pick of the day.
Of note for the hydration fans out there, water was a fill-your-own bottle affair from the chilled filter tap.
Would I come back? Maybe – but probably only if I’m already 90% pho by volume and Kurumac is closed. Would I recommend it? Yes – especially while the shakshuka is still on the menu.
A man sits in a dark room, lit only by the warm f.lux glow of his curved computer screen. A bead of sweat runs down his face. He’s opening up a new restaurant and the business side of things wants a name to get to the promo and design guys as soon as possible. He loads up cafenamegenerator.com. He selects the two word setting – it’ll roll off the tongue more than a longer name – and hits enter.
“SOCIAL” is the first word.
The computer thinks for a second.
“SOCIETY” is the second word.
He looks at the time. 11:59PM. Just one minute until his deadline.
//ONE YEAR LATER//
The first thing you notice walking into Social Society is just how pink it is. This small cafe in a recently developed area of Zetland is set out like a movie cotton candy store, all baby pink, with internal seating in a U shape around a central coffee preparation area (there’s also outdoor seating for the COVID wary.) It’s noon on a Friday but the cafe is bustling with patrons. It looks like mostly young professionals on their day off. One pair, we imagine, is a medical registrar on her day off having lunch with her mum.
The Seafood Indulgence ($28) is first and foremost, fantastic. A generous serving of salmon is grilled to be perfectly crispy on the skin, and perfectly tender and medium rare in the centre. The grilled prawns, one of which is head one, are sweet and tasty. The roe is creamy, not too salty, and adds a nice third dimension of seafood flavour. The Parish mash potato is rich and creamy, and delicious mixed with or dipped in the mouth-wateringly umami saffron seafood reduction, which itself has a strong prawn head taste. The gremolata and cherry tomatoes add a degree of zest and sourness, providing a foil for the rich seafood sauce. It’s been a week since I’ve eaten this and I’m still thinking about it. I really can’t get over this sauce. It’s so good.
We thought we would enjoy the beef shank Bone Marrow ($16) but unfortunately we did not. It was a bit too oily for our tastes, however we don’t have much of a reference point to compare it against. I was grateful for the serving of charcoal garlic toasted bread, which helped to mop up the fattiness from the bone marrow. The herb and pickled eschalot salad on top did double duty in providing a different flavour and a further foil for the fattiness of the bone marrow. This dish was not personally to my taste.
The R-Rated Eggs & Beans ($18) + Chorizo ($5) was my partner’s choice of main. The R-Rated Eggs & Beans by themselves are similar to a vegetarian shakshuka with a large portion of sumac flavoured whipped goat’s cheese, so I’m not sure why it is restricted to adults only. It may be the two chilli symbols on the menu, however the spiciness of the dish was far overstated – it was more tomatoey. My partner thought that the goat’s cheese was too goaty, but otherwise enjoyed this. My personal opinion, not being a connoisseur of shakshuka, was that it was OK but nothing to write home about. I didn’t really like the taste of the chorizo, but understand that its course texture was a hint that it was more authentic and perhaps housemade compared to the Don Chorizo you get from the supermarket.
The chocolate milkshake ($6) was thin and watery and not so good. We didn’t add the extra dollar to turn it into a thickshake, but even then I think a milkshake should not be this loose.
We went back for a second round. The gentleman who appears to be running the place greeted us with a “welcome back”, but I’m not sure if he really recognised us. If he has I’m sure he hasn’t yet linked us with the blog.
Social Society’s Pannacotta ($14) is quite a large and elaborate dish for the price. The vanilla based pannacotta was nice and bouncy with a flavour that was not too sweet. The lemon meringue and lemon curd was however a bit sweet for me, but provided a nice sourness to the dish which was nicely offset by the salty pretzels. I quite liked the preserved slice of citrus as I thought it had good depth of flavour, but my partner thought i was intolerably sour. Overall this was multiple times better than the $16 panna cotta at Ripples Chowder Bay in Mosman.
The truffled fries with parmesan ($12) are a monster serving. The fries are mega thick and large, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The parmesan was a welcome addition, however towards the middle of the dish I felt like I was fenced in by the sheer volume of potato. This is definitely one to share between 4-6 people, not just two.
The Magic Mushrooms ($21) with thick cut bacon ($5) was a stunner. The real star of the dish, strangely absent from its name, is the delicious truffle infused folded eggs. It is a very thick egg omelete, cooked to a medium degree and delicately folded. It is extremely moist and buttery, and topped with mushroom and chives. The assorted sauteed “forest mushrooms” that the dish gets its namesake from were juicy and not overcooked, but the folded egg was definitely the best part of the base dish. The thick cut bacon was a very welcome add-on. The bacon was essentially 3-dimensional, a bacon so thick that I’ve provided a cross section. It was more like rashers of pork belly with a deliciously caramelised taste. This dish, along with the seafood indulgence, make what is in my opinion Social Society’s “must tries”.
My third visit to Social Society was alone. I took the opportunity to go by myself to try out the Salmon Ramen ($28 with crispy skin salmona nd house hot-smoked salmon) whilst my other half was at work. The salmon ramen is generally offered with a choice of the crispy skinned grilled salmon or the house hot-smoke salmon, but not wanting to go again I asked for both. The promise of an 18-hour seafood broth was alluring, and I had expected something similar to the sauce that was on the Seafood Indulgence, reviewed above. Unfortunately what I found was a thin and quite sour soup, which didn’t have the rich seafood flavour that I had been expecting. The fried onions were soggy on serving, and the thin soba noodles were a bit floury. While the crispy skin salmon was good, I didn’t enjoy the smoked salmon so much. Unfortunately I had high hopes for this dish but I was well disappointed.
Despite the silly name, Social Society really does do a good brunch. The seafood indulgence is my pick of the bunch, but there are several more dishes I’d like to go back and try. While I didn’t take advantage of this, I also like that there is no additional charge for non-standard milks. As a genetically inferior lactose intolerant person I’ve never enjoyed paying an additional 50 cents for a soy milk that is not really much more expensive than normal milk. I’m glad that these guys are leading the way for the bean rights movement.
4.5/5. Can recommend. This place offers something special.