The latest cafe to open in Kingston, Penny University, had its official opening today. I’ve been eagerly waiting for it to open for some time now so I was very excited at trying it out. The front bi-fold windows are a great idea to open up the place especially during the warmer months.
The cafe is set out in a long and narrow space with the use of exposed brick walls as one of the key features. The artwork on the walls are unique and interesting – I wonder what the story behind them are? As Penny University was the name given to coffee houses in the 17th century, it looks like a modern reflection of those times.
Loving the use of real plants sitting in little vertical pods against the wall providing some natural greenery and freshness to the otherwise bricks and mortar cafe.
The front half of the cafe holds the coffee and cashier counter. Chalkboards above list the various types of wine and cocktails available. I couldn’t see a bar (they have beer on tap) or where the bottles of wine would be stored but I probably just missed it.
The open kitchen is situated in the back half where diners can watch the cooks at work. Diners can opt to sit on stools at the kitchen counter to get closer to the action. A massive metal coffee roaster sits at the back. I think the staff were still trying to get it to work as I noticed a few people surrounding it with all sorts of tools.
Already sitting on each table are cute glass milk bottles filled with tap water so there is no need to ask for it. The menu looks great with breakfast available everyday until 3pm. I was tossing up between the croissant french toast (a fusion of 2 awesome foods?) and the ‘Cazuela’.
By now, you might have noticed I love cassoulets/baked eggs, so I chose the ‘Cazuela’ of soft poached eggs, spicy harissa baked beans, greens, pistachios, dukkah and labneh ($16). This came out served in a small pot covered with a lid before our waitress took the lid off to display the food inside. The poached eggs were softer and a bit rawer than usual as they wobbled when placed in front of me. Two globs of labneh (strained yoghurt) sat on top with some crushed up pistachios and dukkah. I mixed this, along with the poached eggs, together with the beans and happily dunked my bread into it. Though the pistachio’s didn’t add anything to the meal for me and the dukkah was very light, this is one of the best cassoulet/baked egg dishes I’ve had.
Our coffees came out after I’d started eating. I did notice a few people, including the gentlemen sitting next to us, were patiently waiting for their coffees to arrive. My small soy mocha ($4.50 + 50c soy) had melted chocolate at the bottom which I stirred in. Really happy with how they made it. My partner wasn’t hungry and only wanted a large soy cappuccino ($5) which he liked.
I was surprised to see a sign for the cafe’s courtyard on the back far wall. I was curious to see how they could fit a courtyard in such a small space. Opening the back door, the courtyard is set in a narrow space that would sit about 6 people. A variety of potted plants have been placed along the wall which I think brightens the place up. I do love the effort put in to utilise the space they have and to make it as pleasant as possible.
On our way out, I noticed the cabinet of sweet desserts towards the front. Something to try next time.
Penny University is a welcome addition to the Kingston (and Canberra) food scene. It reminds me of some of Melbourne’s cafes. It has a cosy atmosphere and feels like you’re at home. I love the small feminine touches around the place – freshly cut flowers in little vases on the tables, cushions on the plastic crates to sit on out the front and the eclectic mix of trinkets dotted around the place. If I was to ever open a cafe, it would have to have this kind of style and ambience. Service was good and it was pretty busy for a Tuesday. I foresee this as being one of the most popular hang-outs over summer. I shall definitely be back.
I’m glad Canberra is growing and developing its own food culture 🙂
Things worth noting – 10% surcharge on Sundays and public holidays, credit card fees apply, corkage is $5.50 per person, cakeage is $2.50 per person, they cater for gluten, dairy and vegetarian requirements, and lastly toilets are located towards the back but with the sinks displayed out in the open.
See Her Canberra article for some information on the owners and the cafe’s concept.