I told him I was treating Monsieur Poisson to dinner at Ad Lib. He suggested doing something combined – perhaps brunch – for my husband and his wife, Kiki, on the weekend that falls between their birthdays. He asked if I would help him conspire to a surprise…
Rubbing my hands together with glee, I told him I’d brainstorm for some possible locations. We included Weirdo and Ms Sourdough in our evil plans. Dr King chose Kazbah from my shortlist, put forth a suggestion for cake and the scene was set. I told Monsieur Poisson that we were plotting a surprise birthday brunch for Kiki and not to breathe a word of it to her.
Come surprise plan deployment day, Monsieur Poisson and I are loitering amongst the Sunday morning crowds so often found outside Kazbah. It is a squeeze getting past them to alert staff that we have arrived for our table reservation. We’re told our table is just waiting on a group to finalise their bill when we spot Weirdo and Ms Sourdough coming towards us from across the road.
In the meantime Dr King had parked his car and instructs Kiki to remain inside while he runs an errand – he needs to collect the pre-ordered cake. Kiki definitely smells something fishy going on as she had been told they were off to brunch but Dr King had refused to divulge where or with whom. We see them walking down the road towards us and I wave. Dr King suggests to Kiki that they stop and say hello. Kiki sports a slightly confused expression across her face while we exchange banter, ever mindful of the time for which Dr King had told her they needed to arrive at a mysterious brunch location.
“Um, we’re here... err, surprise!”
Obviously we should stick to our day jobs as we appear much more competent at them.
Our table becomes available after a short wait and we settle ourselves into the menu whilst chatting about how the day’s plans came to be. The cake is taken away to be chilled as Dr King notices it softening slightly. After some deliberation, three of the six of us decide to order the ‘Lamb Breakfast Tagine’ comprising of lamb mince, sucuk, spinach, roast capsicum, roast tomato, caramelised onion, feta and eggs with toasted pide on the side.
We’re asked if we’d prefer individual serves of the tagine or whether we’d like a large combined serve. We go with the individuals for pre-divided laziness and are presented with what doesn’t appear to be much food each. But don’t let appearances fool you – the contents of the tagine if spread across a plate would definitely rival that of a café big breakfast. The dish is saucy and comforting with sense-awakening flavour and fragrance from the range of spices, and is absolutely perfect for dipping into with the bread. No wonder Wifey raved about this dish after she’d eaten here. Ms Sourdough has the vegetarian variant of the tagine which features golden chunks of pumpkin in place of the meat and is incredibly more-ish.
Monsieur Poisson orders the ‘Breakfast Mezze’ mainly to appeal to my love for foods that allow for picking at. A colourful spread of hommos, labne, olives, kasseri, fresh tomato slices adorned with mint, dukkah and za’atar arrives with toasted and untoasted Lebanese bread for dipping.
The plate is offered around the table for tasting and it is the kasseri cheese which has Ms Sourdough and Weirdo divided as usual. “I taste sheep and goat”, she claims.
“I taste grass and farm, mmmm…” says Weirdo.
I taste, well, cheese, although a fairly pungent one at that. The flavour reminds me slightly of parmesan but with a more rubbery texture rather than a crumbly one. The labne is creamy and lightly tart, and the olives come thoughtfully pitted. The dukkah features a healthy amount of crushed hazelnuts. Weirdo, who is Lebanese, wholeheartedly approves of Kazbah’s mezze which reminds him of his childhood breakfasts.
Once our plates are cleared we are asked if we’d like our cake in a roundabout manner by a senior staff member. It was endearing to see him being careful with his words in case the birthday person – in this case, people – hadn’t been aware that there was a cake. Kazbah has a cakeage charge for which we received each serve of cake adorned with pashmak and a side of fruit compote. And the cake? Well…
Yes, it was none other than Adriano Zumbo’s made-infamous-by-Masterchef V8 cake. I have only just read that this cake feeds approximately sixteen people – we had three quarters of it served up between the six of us! No wonder we all found it so rich about halfway into each piece. It’s a delicate, elegant cake showcasing Mr Zumbo’s signature intricacy of layers within, playing on different textures of vanilla. Staff had taken apart the white chocolate flower on top of the cake and placed two or three ‘petals’ on each slice that was served to us, before topping with either pink (rose) or green (pistachio) pashmak. The white chocolate petals and tiles around the outside of the cake is what I found to be the sugary tipping point for me.
The V8 cake requires two days’ notice for pre-ordering and I think Dr King actually ordered it around four days ahead. And collected from Adriano Zumbo’s newly relocated Chocolat Café, it definitely added a special birthday touch to our brunch. Many thanks to the friendly staff at Kazbah who looked after us attentively and who generously showed no signs of booting us out at our agreed finish time for the table booking!
379 Darling St (cnr North St), Balmain NSW
Tel: (02) 9555 7067
Opening Hours: Mon CLOSED
Tues-Sat 8am-3pm (breakfast)
6pm til late (dinner)
Sun 8am-3pm (breakfast)