The greatest delights in life are those that are unexpected and being asked to review Kooks was one of them; a delightful find – a true serendipity!
Kooks restaurant opened its doors in the heart of Brighton’s ‘kooky’ laines in 2015. This gem was founded by Australian Rebecca Monk and was launched to coincide with the Great Escape festival. Since then, Kooks has played host to numerous music industry events, offering a unique spin to this coffee to cocktail cafe-bistro.
In Australia, locals are obsessed with ‘brekkie’ and with the nation’s notoriously laid back and authentic attitude, it seems fitting that brunch is so popular.
The concept of brunch in Australia has evolved far beyond a simple boozy late breakfast. Brunch is now a social phenomenon that has been dominating the cafe culture by offering an alternative place to not only to socialise with friends and family, but also work. As workers are now freed from the constraints of their desks, these venues provide a more relaxed and inspired environment for day time meetings or brainstorming over a latte.
In Melbourne it was not long after the initial introduction of espresso from the Italian immigrants that the brews by day and cocktails by night concept started to grow and evolve to what it is today.
The cafe culture here in the UK has, until recently, been more of a day time affair with pubs dominating the evening social scene. However, the more health conscious xennial/millennial generations are more inclined to source a venue with not only photo worthy cocktails, but also creative, tasty food and that is where Australians have nailed this concept. Reflecting the spirit of ‘Aus’ with sunny, easy-going days and vibrant buzzing nights in a relaxed neighbourhood hangout.
Kooks is the first place in Brighton to perfectly recreate the brunch vibe from across the ocean. This upbeat neighbourhood favourite has been building its loyal fan base by providing consistent day to night libations and a simple yet progressive menu. On offer are glorious brunch offerings as well as small and large plates, wine, cocktails, coffees and the South coasts very own Metro Deco tea selection.
I decided to visit Kooks on a chilly Friday afternoon. The large Canary yellow Kooks signage is impossible to miss as you stroll down the vibrant pedestrianised Gardner Street. Outside there are several tables perfect for people watching, but given the weather I decided to brunch inside.
The atmosphere was buzzy, yet calm and the decor chic and cheerful which was a welcome break from the grey skies outside. Bright stools line the contemporary bar with ultra modern light fittings cascading a gentle glow over the guests. .
A table was waiting for me in the main restaurant area towards the back. It was a bright and airy space that I was not expecting with wooden tables, colourful chairs and paintings from local artists covering the crisp white walls. As I arrived early afternoon, I noticed how diverse the diners were; a family with two infants, an older middle class couple visiting Brighton for the day, a table of chic women sipping cocktails and a young man tapping away on his laptop whilst devouring a chocolate brownie and flat white.
These independent sanctuaries are the total opposite to corporate chains that pump out over priced coffee with no heart or soul. In Kooks you can feel the energy that has been put into creating this labour of love. It’s personal, local and incredibly welcoming and I found everything in Kooks to be sleek and executed with ease.
Lucy introduced herself, warm and genuine with a kilowatt smile that instantly made me feel at home. Having been to a wedding the day before, I was slightly fragile and Lucy immediately put me at ease and pointed out the cracking cocktail list. Indeed hair of the dog is sometimes the only cure, so I started my brunch with a French 77, one of my favourite refreshing cocktails consisting of Elderflower liquor, pignoletto and lemon juice. A perfect pick me up.
I invited a friend to join me and it was at this point he walked in and ordered his favourite Brighton bier larger, the original craft brewery and 100% brewed in this city! The team like to use local suppliers as much as possible from Brighton Gin to the Sausage company and I was told that the homemade Pumpkin and caramel cake by ‘Lady of Cake’ is sensational and another nod to Australia as pumpkin is a popular ingredient down under.
I had planned to order brunch as my aim had been to immerse myself in the Aussie ways, but as soon as I looked at the menu I couldn’t help but order salt and pepper squid with chilli and spring onions and whitebait with salad and garlic mayo. Both were delicious and if I was going for an early evening cocktail, these would be a perfect accompaniment.
As we both had a free afternoon we decided to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the freedom of a long and lazy brunch. Usually on a Saturday afternoon we would hit the pub, but there was something quite refreshing about being in a cafe-bistro. The music was fantastic with old school rock favourites and the service friendly without being overbearing. It is easy to see why people come back time and time again as Rebecca has created a down to earth, professional, but incredibly friendly ambience. This was proving to be a unique emotional experience and certainly opening my eyes as to why traditional pubs are in danger of closing.
I encouraged my friend to order the biggest brunch on the menu, complete with local butchers sausage, poached eggs, white pudding, tomatoes, crispy bacon, mushrooms and sourdough bread. A gastronomic delight and presented so beautifully. The portions are ideal for a mid day feast and given the silence and lack of sharing, an obvious winner from my breakfast connoisseur.
Now, for the purpose of this review and not to be fooled by my brunch focus, I decided to order the beloved icon of America. Not because I was overly hungry, but because I am in search of the ultimate burger and this one sounded delicious. There are plenty of other choices on the big plates menu which starts at midday, The Tofu superfood salad is very popular and when I saw the Haddock and twice cook chips arrive on another table I had slight food envy. However, as my gourmet burger arrived, a classic portrait with fresh crisp lettuce and a juicy patty dark on the outside & lighter in the middle I realised I had made the right choice. A beef burger with Cheddar, red onion marmalade, crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, Mayo and twice cooked chips. It was superb and I promise you the twice cooked chips are the best in town!
I asked Rebecca to tell me about her favourite dishes which included the Gobi cauliflower Manchurians with crispy onion, chilli and suracha vegan Mayo and of course the very Aussie avocado smash, feta, mint, chilli topped with a poached egg. The espresso martini or mascot to Melbourne is also a Kooks firm favourite and not to be missed.
Time seemed to fly as we sat, chatted and continued to work our way through the cocktail list. There was no pressure to leave and it would have been very easy to stay and continue my Friday long into the evening, but all good things must come to an end. We both decided Kooks was a definite double thumbs up and immediately made plans to go again this week.
I suppose if. good food and outstanding coffee is the life blood of an authentic Aussie establishment, then the heart is definitely the atmosphere. Creating the right vibe that caters for all and can flow smoothly from day to night is no mean feat, but Kooks seem to have found the perfect recipe. It’s a symphony of everything that’s good about independent restaurants from food to tunes.