A simple way to gauge whether a restaurant is worth your money is to see how packed it is…so naturally we followed the masses into Reuben Hills – a brand spanking new cafe in Surry Hills which opened on January 1st 2012 on the gentle slope of Albion Street. We had been casually strolling past when we noticed the crowd waiting near the narrow entrance of the cafe and knew we had to investigate what everyone was waiting for…
What we found inside was a modern warehouse style cafe which felt sleek but with deliberately unpolished edges. It was bustling with friendly waitstaff tending to customers littered all throughout the long corridor connecting the front of the cafe with the communal style tables out the back. It was about a 5 minute wait after putting my name down on the clipboard before we were offered a spot at a communal table where we could see the staff working on a variety of shakes and coffees in their open plan kitchen.
The cuisine offered at Reuben Hills was a surprise to us – Honduran tortillas and empanadas, which is hardly the stock standard cafe menu we see normally in Sydney, so we were rather intrigued and ordered the pulled pork tortilla, free range egg tortilla as well as some baked beef empanadas. As for drinks, I gravitated immediately towards the salted caramel shake, while the boy decided to be a bit adventurous and try some filtered South American coffee called the Esmerelda. The coffee was very strongly flavoured and rather bitter, definitely not for weak coffee drinkers. It needed a generous spoonful of the brown sugar provided to make it more drinkable. The sugar itself tasted like it had been mixed with some raisins – again, not something you encounter regularly in Sydney cafes.
Esmerelda Filtered Coffee $7
We were a little bit out of our comfort zone as we had never seen half the words used on the menu but luckily the food looked familiar enough when it was served to us after a bit of a delay. First up were the baleadas, which are Honduran tortillas made from wheat flour and filled with an array of ingredients. They look a lot like Mexican tortillas and are quite difficult to eat without creating a mess because the thin tortilla is simply folded in half over the filling and no matter which way you try to cut the tortilla, some filling will fall out when you spear it on a fork to be eaten. The Pimenton pulled pork was not that tasty, it was actually a bit dry and was mixed with black beans even though the menu made no mention of it and I am generally not a fan of black beans so I was a bit turned off by it.
Pimenton pork, chimol, crispy onions baleada $9
Free range eggs, quesco de fresco, black beans baleada $8
The scrambled egg tortilla on the other hand, was more delicious because of the freshness of the eggs used and the taste was enhanced by the authentic texture of the tortilla. My favourite savoury dish at Reuben Hills was actually the empanada, which is a baked minced beef pastry with some cubes of potato and onions mixed in too. The dough encasing the beef filling was quite thick and had a satisfying crunchiness to it and the little dollop of tomato salsa on the side was a perfect partner for the savouriness of the empanada.
Baked beef empanadas with pico de gallo $9
As we were enjoying our dishes, my salted caramel shake finally arrived. We noticed that heaps of the other customers were also ordering the shakes and once I took a sip of mine, I found out why – it was a perfect shake in terms of being creamy, milky and sweet but not overly so because of the hint of salt that makes it taste like a liquid version of caramel popcorn or a Zumbo’s salted caramel macaron. It is a pretty big serving, so it is best shared with a friend since the caramel taste can get a bit sickening after awhile. Best of all, even if salted caramel is not your thing, you can order their other shake flavours which are just as interesting: black sesame or espresso and wattleseed. I am definitely coming back to try out the other shakes whenever I’m around Surry Hills in the future.
Salted Caramel Shake $6.50
Our experimental adventure into Reuben Hills and its funky mix of South American cuisine and pan-American style drinks was a great experience even though I wasn’t really a fan of the tortillas. The whole vibe of the cafe is so lively, with artsy fluorescent lights vertically placed on the walls and tap water served in vintage glass bottles (ours was a Horlicks bottle) that you can’t help but feel buzzed when you’re inside. Now that The Counter (home of the most awesome Apple Pie Milkshake) has sadly closed in Crows Nest, I can’t think of a better place to satisfy your American milkshake craving than at Reuben Hills.
61 Albion St
Surry Hills 2010 Sydney
open 7 days 7am – 4 pm.
Phone: (02) 9211 5556