Roti is a staple in South Asian cuisines. For centuries, soft flatbread dough has been gracefully rolled and tossed before puffing and speckling with arctic char as it bakes, turning golden brown and sending its buttery aroma through the air on busy streets and the restaurants. Consumed at breakfast, as a snack or as an accompaniment to dishes, sweet or savory, roti is not wrong.
Just down Broadway, a quaint colonial-era building, with maroon window frames and Parisian-style wicker chairs out front, is home to Ultimo’s new destination for all things roti: Roti Rebel by Kafe Kooks.
Andrew Ray (ex-CEO of David Thompson’s Long Chim) is behind the operation. Inspired by his travels to Indonesia and Thailand, he wants to center the beloved flaky flatbread. “I really think roti is the next hamburger bun or the next sliced bread,” Ray said. Large format. And it shows on the menu, where the roti is the star.
While roti recipes vary from country to country, Kafe Kooks roti master Suresh Rajandran favors a Malaysian style and uses flour and condensed milk as the dough, letting it harden with margarine and then cooking it in ghee.
The daily menu, served until 4:00 p.m., includes roti paratha wraps for breakfast with fried eggs and a choice of toppings. Or opt for roti sarang burung, meaning “bird’s nest roti,” a traditional Malaysian street food dish in which a fried egg is enclosed in a ring of roti and served with sambal. There are also twists on classics like eggs Benedict and smashed avocado on discs of roti instead of sourdough toast or English muffins.
For all-day options, you’ll find roti paratha wraps filled with all sorts of combos: gado gado tofu, butter chicken, souvlaki grilled lamb, and even Korean fried chicken stacked with kimchi, daikon, and mayo. kewpie. There is also matarbak – roti sheets filled with ingredients (usually eggs), folded and then grilled. Grab a classic Thai beef curry topping or opt for the Reuben or Western-style chilli tuna.
The influence of Ray’s travels to Thailand – where dessert roti is a common street food – is reflected in sweeter variations like fresh roti with banana and condensed milk, or apple crumble topping.
For drinks, there are Strangelove sodas and Simon Says juices, plus coffee by Genovese. Take-out food is served through a large front window. A coconut iced coffee is worth a try – topped with toasted coconut flakes, the sweet milk balances the acidity and bitterness of the coffee well.
From Thursday to Saturday nights there’s a menu of curries, including beef rendang and vegetable dal, as well as snacks, plus a clean bar offering a few spirits, beers from Dainton Brewery and some Aussie wines . It will become a convenient pre-performance option for anyone visiting the soon-to-open Kings Cross Theater on Broadway.
You might notice that the cafe is a subtle homage to the late David Bowie. Ray says he’s always dreamed of meeting the legendary entertainer in Bali. It never came to fruition, but designing the café was a way for him to connect with Bowie. “When he died, I was [horrified]and I was at work and I was crying my eyes out.
Roti Rebel takes its name from Bowie’s song Rebel Rebelwhile “Kooks” is a nod to the 1971 song of the same name by the famous Hunky-dory album. Kafe is the Indonesian word for coffee.
The space is decorated with colorful throw pillows and stacks of books featuring Bowie’s face, while a wall collage by artist Greg Paton depicts a colorful array of cut-out plants and animals inspired by the track. moss garden from Bowie’s 1977 album Hero. Other elements, such as plants growing in an old telephone booth and porcelain vases in the shape of a cat, complete the look.
“I’m not trying to be a coffee Bowie, [but] when you hear the song [Kooks] it’s about… being crazy and different and that’s who we are,” says Ray.
Rebel Roti by Kafe Kooks
63 Mountain Street, Ultimo
Monday to Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Thu & Fri 7am–9pm