Restaurant review: Mondays, Kingsland

Peter Calder,
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Publish Date
Sunday, 19 February 2017, 11:44AM

Mondays get a bad rap. Check the story behind the Boomtown Rats' I Don't Like Mondays, which is best not revisited here. A Monday car is a new car bedevilled by problems because the people on the assembly line were thinking about how much they hated coming to work. Among the grimly humorous epigrams internet research turns up, my favourite is, "If each day is a gift, I want to know where I can return Mondays".

The two women behind this small but perfectly formed Kingsland eatery, food bloggers Eleanor Ozich of Petite Kitchen and Hannah Horton of Health Yeah, plainly had the idea of rebranding the much-maligned first day of the week when they named this "wholefoods kitchen and bar". They say as much on something I read as we waited for our food.

Their restaurant is down a steep driveway, between Jaan and Farang in the middle of the Kingsland shops, a pretty little place covered in vines and with two courtyards, one covered, one open to the elements. The latter is perhaps slightly preferable because you don't have to stare at a parked car.

The Professor and I had arrived on our newly acquired e-bikes and I wanted to take them down the drive and park them prominently, because I thought it might boost our Friends-of-the-Earth credentials, but - perhaps doubting her ability to make a dignified arrival after such a steep descent - she vetoed that idea. So we wandered in carrying our helmets, immediately increasing the average age on the premises by about 12 years and cutting the cool factor by half, though no one seemed too alarmed.

It would be idle to deny that I have a cautiously sceptical view of the wholefoods and organic produce movement. I enjoy watching its advocates splutter when I point out that only the moneyed classes can afford them - in the political economy of food, they are more your Audi SUV than your e-bike - or that we have agricultural science, which gave us high-yield seed varieties, pesticides and fungicides, to thank for, say, the fourfold increase in India's agricultural production in the past 50 years. Anyone who knows anything about it will tell you that the advantages conferred by a diet rich in vegetables and fruits far outweighs the potential risks from eating (very small) residues of pesticide.

If you want to do something for the planet - and I am far from sure that all organic-food nuts do - the best two things to do are to halve your meat consumption and eat only what's in season. In the meantime, can somebody tell the folks at Mondays that the indoor plants are all dead or dying because they haven't been watered?

This is primarily a daytime joint and by all accounts it's a bit of a mission getting a table. But it's open in the evening Thursday to Saturday and it was dinner we were after. And dinner we got. The extremely personable bloke who was doing duty as barman, barista and maitre d' looked through our order - typically immoderate in the interests of sampling widely - and suggested that we might like to move to a larger table to make room for everything, which sounded very promising.

The food for the most part delivered on that promise, although it's fair to say it's more of the grazing variety than a menu of substantial dishes. I was intrigued by the jackfruit tacos, which feature a relative of breadfruit that comes from the tropical lowlands of Asia and presumably enters the kitchen at Mondays in a tin with some serious food miles on it (just saying). The waitress told me it tastes just like meat (I always chuckle when vegetarians describe dishes this way; I feel like asking them what they are trying to avoid), which it doesn't, but it is great at absorbing the tastes of ingredients paired with it - in this case chipotle was foregrounded, but a cooling guacamole and chunks of jalapeno added interest.

More authentically meaty were some big meatballs in which thyme wrestled with walnuts in a deliciously creamy and nutty romesco. But there were some seriously inventive items on the vegan platter, including a "cheese" made of pistachio and cumin and a sensational pumpkin hummus.

By this time, we were a bit full for dessert but a couple of takeaway cakes to have with a cuppa later were most impressive, in particular a cacao brownie. It may not be what a bloke with a hearty appetite calls dinner, but it's damn good food.

Small plates $7-$15; bigger plates $21-$36; desserts $14.

VERDICT: Virtue is its own reward.