Roti is an undisputed staple of South Asian cuisines. For centuries, the supple flatbread dough has been gracefully rolled and tossed before it puffs up and burns when grilled, turning a golden brown color and sending its buttery aroma through the air into busy streets and restaurants. Eaten for breakfast, as a snack or as an accompaniment to a main dish, sweet or savory, roti cannot fail.
Just below Broadway, a quaint colonial-era building with maroon window frames and Parisian-style wicker chairs out front houses Ultimo’s newest destination for all things roti: Roti Rebel from Kafe Kooks.
Andrew Ray (former general manager of David Thompson’s Long Chim) is behind the operation. Inspired by his travels in Indonesia and Thailand, he wants to focus on the beloved flaky flatbread. “I really think roti is the next hamburger bun or the next sliced bun,” says Ray. bed sheet. And it shows on the menu, where roti is the star.
While roti recipes vary from country to country, Kafe Kooks roti master Suresh Rajandran prefers a Malaysian style and uses flour and condensed milk as the dough, letting it sit in margarine and then cooking it in ghee.
The daily menu, served until 4:00 pm, includes breakfast roti paratha wraps with fried eggs and a selection of fillings. Or go for roti sarang burung, which means bird’s nest roti, a traditional Malaysian street food dish in which a fried egg is wrapped in a roti ring and served with sambal. There are also twists on the classics like eggs Benedict and smashed avocado on roti discs instead of sourdough toast or English muffins.
For all-day options, you’ll find stuffed roti paratha rolls with all sorts of combos: tofu gado gado, butter chicken, souvlaki-style roast lamb, and even Korean fried chicken with kimchi, daikon, and kewpie mayonnaise. There is also Matabak: roti sheets stuffed with ingredients (usually egg), folded and then grilled. Grab a classic Thai beef curry filling or opt for Western-style Reuben or chili tuna.
The influence of Ray’s travels to Thailand, where dessert roti is a common street food, is reflected in sweeter variations like the fresh roti with banana and condensed milk, or the apple crumble filling.
For drinks there are Strangelove soft drinks and Simon Says juices, as well as Genovese coffee. Takeout is served through a wide window in the front. An indulgent iced coconut coffee is worth a try: Topped with toasted coconut flakes, the sweet milk balances the acidity and bitterness of the coffee nicely.
Thursday through Saturday nights there’s a curry menu, including beef rendang and vegetable dhal, plus sandwiches, as well as a simple bar offering some spirits, Dainton Brewery beers and a couple of Australian wines. It will become a convenient pre-performance option for anyone visiting the upcoming Kings Cross Theater opening on Broadway.
You may notice that the coffee is a subtle homage to the late David Bowie. Ray says that he always dreamed that he would meet the legendary artist in Bali. He never came to fruition, but the café design was a way of connecting with Bowie. “When he died, I was [horrified]and I was at work and crying my eyes out.”
“Roti Rebel” takes its name from Bowie rebel rebel, while “Kooks” is also inspired by a Bowie song written in 1971 after the birth of Bowie’s son. Kafe is the Indonesian word for coffee.
The space is decorated with colorful throw pillows and stacks of books bearing Bowie’s face, while a full-wall collage by artist Greg Paton displays a colorful array of track-inspired plant and animal cutouts. moss garden Bowie’s 1977 album track Heroes. Other elements, like plants growing out of an old phone booth and porcelain cat-shaped vases, complete the look.
“I’m not trying to be a Bowie cafe, [but] when you hear the song [Kooks] it’s about… being wacky and different and that’s who we are,” says Ray.
Roti Rebel by Coffee Cooks
63 Mountain St, Last
Monday to Wednesday 7am–4pm
Thursday and Friday 7am–9pm
Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.