Reuben Hills, Surry Hills

The Italian cooking theme has slightly fallen off the radar of late with my intense focus on job hunting, but a girl’s gotta eat! And so it was that I finally found an excuse to try out Reuben Hills a couple of weeks ago for lunch with a fellow redundancy victim. One may as well do a bit of ‘ladies who lunch’-ing while one can!

A long, narrow industrial space, Reuben Hills plays its music quite loud and has an air of hipness which I find slightly intimidating on arrival. However, the friendly girl who greets me and guides me to a table quickly dispels any fears. The lovely Renée arrives soon after and we fall into catch-up mode over a coffee before checking out the food. They roast their own coffee on site – we could see a dark, bearded man checking the machines upstairs – which they sell wholesale and they also hold public cuppings every Friday at 10am. I wish I could tell you what the coffee was like but I can’t remember. I certainly didn’t have any complaints.

When we finally stop talking long enough to look at the menu, we discover that it features lots of Mexican and Spanish ingredients: jamon, ranchero sauce, Manchega (a cheese made from the milk of sheep that roam the plains of La Mancha), queso fresco (a Mexican fresh cheese), chimol (a radish salsa from El Salvador), jalapeños, chipotle (smoke-dried jalapeños) and pico de gallo (a Mexican fresh salsa made from tomato, onion and chilis). There’s a mixture of breakfast and lunch items which, pleasingly, are all available all day. I do hate going to a café feeling like eggs at lunch time only to find I’m too late.

But today I don’t feel like eggs and I go for the cafe’s ‘signature dish’, the NOT Reuben, so-called because it’s a bit of a variation on the famous sandwich. According to Wikipedia the Reuben is a hot sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut with Russian or Thousand Island dressing, on rye bread. The Reuben Hills’ NOT Reuben comes in a plastic lattice basket, topped with radishes, and has wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, Manchega and horseradish cream on rye. Jolly tasty it is too, especially the thick slab of salty beef. However, at $16 a pop I feel it’s a bit on the small side.

NOT Reuben (wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, Manchega and horseradish cream on rye), Reuben Hills

NOT Reuben (wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, Manchega and horseradish cream on rye), Reuben Hills

Renee’s corn tortillas with fried chicken, salsa verde and pico de gallo are again very small for the price (also $16). She finds that the flavours are well balanced with no stand-out flavour, ingredient or texture. The fried chicken is not greasy, thankfully.

Corn tortillas with fried chicken, salsa verde and pico de gallo

Corn tortillas with fried chicken, salsa verde and pico de gallo, Reuben Hills

An amiable woman, who I presume is one of the managers or owners, offers us (and persuaded us to have) dessert. I’m up for sharing but Renee’s attitude is ‘no way, Jose!’ to that, so we order two of their Doggs Breakfast – an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel. Who could resist? If I’m entirely honest it’s the principal reason I wanted to come here! The quenelle of solid caramel is divine – rich, full-bodied and slightly grainy. The Maxibon-style processed chocolate biscuits that encase the ice cream, though, are soft and pappy and let the dish down; it could have done with some crunch to add textural variety. But I do love the blue enamel spoon!

Doggs Breakfast (ice cream sandwich with salted caramel)

Doggs Breakfast (ice cream sandwich with salted caramel), Reuben Hills

Reuben Hills
61 Albion Street, Surry Hills
Visited 7 November 2012

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