Henry Lees is the food equivalent of a sexual assault in Redfern. It starts in a seedy back alley and ends about 2 hours later in a state of confusion, poverty and hunger.
Long wait, poor service, overly complex food and just as you sit on the sidewalk weeping, big bad Henry slaps you with a Sunday surcharge. Suddenly my humble cappuccino becomes a bank breaking $5.25 drinkable mistake.
Red flag #1 is a 45 min wait which last happened on Federal Election voting day. An interior courtyard houses the diners none of which appear outside the 18 to 30 years old bracket.
This family unfriendly set-up is confirmed when we are declined a high chair. Don’t worry, my daughter can lie in the floor like a foot mat.
Four of us are extremely hungry. What better way to wait than over some Little Marionette beans.
Small cappuccino – $4.20 (LHS), Large cappuccino – $5.25 (RHS)
The price is not a joke. The barista spent 5 min nailing the coffee art which explains why my extra hot request was unattainable.
Despite the bad start, food has the potential to redeem even the most dire of situations.
Note the arbitrary dish names. Cafes use this as a cheeky customer acquisition tool, just like a suspiciously friendly man offering lolly-pops to lonely kids at a park.
Upon close inspection, I translate the choice to ‘fashionable-stuff-on-sourdough’ plus usual hipster staples – brioche burger, kale baked eggs and fancy fruit porridge.
The missus is up first. Remember that in the Philippines you can literally get away with anything for breakfast. Common examples include chocolate and more chocolate. She opts for a burger and chips, probably due to McDonalds’ subliminal marketing.
King Crab – crispy soft shell crab in a squid ink burger with coriander and pickled wasabi – $22 + 10%
The chips are stone cold! Clearly this was deep fried on Friday, subsequently frozen and served at the said temperature. Perhaps the cook figured it would re-thaw by the we finished with photography.
And the burger? Bland. We do like the crunchiness of the crab just like chewing on dried bark.
A lower risk choice is the baked eggs, which is hard to ruin.
Green Black Eyes – green shakshuka, kale, coriander and black eyed peas with sourdough – $18 + 10%
If I were to put a 20c coin in the picture, the coin would be massive.
Flavour-wise and texture wise, this is so wrong. We have a watery sauce, translucent egg white (uncooked), soggy fried veggies x 2 and a tear of kale leaves. I have requested rye bread and out comes white bread. It takes 15 min to rectify the bread by which time I ate the last pea.
I love fork shots and so here is today’s one.
Worst value baked eggs in Redfern? Yes.
My friend Renee is a burger expert and is drawn to their signature. She does note menu price ($18) is not consistent with the website ($16).
The Higgs Bacon Blues Burger – maple bacon, poached egg on a brioche roll – $18 + 10%
I love the visual of poached eggs inside a burger. You get a strange lift anticipating a squirt of yolk when you bite down. I wanted a nibble but felt this would make her husband (present at table) jealous. Feedback as follows:
‘Like the idea to coffee-infuse bacon, but this thing is so small’. I can’t fault her.
Last to eat is James – a pro cyclist – and based on my understanding of how Tour De France riders eat, I sense he is here for a decent feed.
The Good Son – slow cooked pork, a potato hash scotched egg on a bed of polenta – $22 + 10%
If this is a ‘good son’, then what is a ‘bad daughter’?
One egg, a scoop of soggy pork and a ‘splat‘ of polenta. All I see here is a $4 arancini ball at the Coles deli, plunked on what looks like potato mash and gravy. Note the blob of cauliflower puree which is smeared with a spoon. I have seen in the last 8 seasons of Masterchef. James’ feedback:
‘Where is the rest of the meal and why is this $22?’
I am too scared to notify him that he needs to add $2.20 to that comment.
We are eager to leave and head home for a proper meal. The greatest mystery to us is the popularity of the joint and the associated positive media coverage since open.
– Food (♦) – ‘concept menu‘ featuring frozen chips and unbaked baked eggs. Bread is nice.
– Value (♦) – small portions, horrifically overpriced, sneaky Sunday surcharge.
– Other (♦♦) – long wait, hard working waitresses but spread too thin, slow food turnover.
– Overall (♦) – an expensive and miserable way to spend a weekend.
The only happy patron was my older daughter who had 2 bananas and home-made zucchini slice.
On the way out, we try to decipher the wall graffiti. Similar to the menu, it does not make sense.
Concluding joke…. What’s the worst thing that could happen to a vulnerable bystander walking down a seedy Redfern ally? Henry Lees.
Will I be returning?