Penny University, Kingston

7 Dec

Penny University is part of the Kingston re-vamp and on Saturday morning of its second weekend, in the middle of what would normally be a quiet Kennedy Street, it’s thriving.

No reservations are taken on weekends, and while it’s very busy we’re shown to a seat near the back of the restaurant. It’s shaped very similarly to Elk and Pea or the Artisan – long and narrow. There are seats on milk crates out the front, two tables in a little courtyard where they grow their own herbs at the back, and seats along one side of the restaurant. The other side has the coffee station (including takeaway coffee) and drinks bar, and a long bar and open kitchen area.


The narrow space and the many staff means there’s a lot of squeezing simply to move around. It adds to the energy of the place, and from our refuge in our seats tucked against the wall it’s fun to watch the activity. Actually being part of it rises the claustrophobic in me.

Plating up of dishes at the kitchen bar

Plating up of dishes at the kitchen bar

Everything about Penny University is cute: plants hang from the wall, coffees are served in cornflower mugs, menus are paper and lunch menu options include “quack quack” and “magic mushrooms”, water is served in milk bottles, juice and iced teas come in jars, the bathroom basins are exposed and retro-styled in pink and blue, there’s an ancient fireplace tucked into the corner of the restaurant, the female bathroom has an exposed cistern hanging from the wall near the roof with a feature wall of designer wallpaper, and the light fittings are quirky and eye-catching. The entire restaurant is a visual feast and everything is a talking point.


Milk bottles and paper menu

Milk bottles and paper menu

Boyfriend orders his usual flat white and while I’m tempted by the vanilla bean or salted caramel and hazelnut millkshakes ($7), the house-blended iced teas win me over. I later see a milkshake and it’s very small; the diner downs it within a minute or two.

Pretty flat white in a pretty cornflower cup

Pretty flat white in a pretty cornflower cup

Earl grey iced tea; the glass jar has a dash of elderflower syrup in the bottom; the tea is poured on top

Earl grey iced tea; the glass jar has a dash of blueflower syrup in the bottom; the tea is poured on top

At $6, the iced tea is excellent – refreshing and full of flavour.

Our choice of breakfast is a little more difficult. I consider the blueberry and ricotta hotcake ($16) which would allow me to draw comparisons with my favourite same dish at Ha Ha Bar, but I can’t go past the cazuela ($16). Other temptations include the breakfast pudding ($15 – black sticky rice, coconut, mango and nuts), the McPenny breakfast burger $14), and the health board (a board of muesli, yoghurt, fruit, and shot of green juice for $18).

Smashed avo ($17)

Smashed avo ($17)

Boyfriend’s got the smashed avo, consisting of bright green avocado and huge helping of cold charred corn and quinoa (keen-wah, not kin-oh-ah, remember!) tabouleh, and a soft poached egg on thick toasted rye. The amount of tabouleh almost threatens the avocado which should be the star of the dish. I’d prefer to see this dish restyled with more avocado, maybe another egg, and the tabouleh as a small accompanying side dish which can be added as necessary.

Cazuela ($16)

Cazuela ($16)

The cazuela comes in a pretty dish with lid on top, and the soft poached egg (on which we’re given a warning by the waitress that they’re very soft poached – and they are) is met with harissa baked beans, dukkah, pistachios and labneh, all on a bed of baby spinach. It comes with a side of toasted rye.

Soft poached eggs *are* the stars of the dish

Soft poached eggs *are* the stars of the dish

I’d expect the baked beans to be piping hot to counter the soft poached eggs but they’re a little luke warm. That said, the flavours meld beautifully, and the rye is thick, fresh and gorgeous. The nature of the dish means there’s a lot left at the end which can’t be pierced with a fork; tearing off strips of bread to mop it up is the perfect solution. What’s more, the dishes come with proper steak knives if you need to cut into the bread – FINALLY a restaurant gets it.

Penny University is open every day, including Thursday, Friday and Saturday for dinner and a happy Penny hour on those days from 4-6pm.


See what I mean re the light fittings?

Date: Saturday, 7 December 2013

Cost: $44.15 for two

Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile; it will be highly worthwhile with a few dish-tweaks

Want more? Penny University doesn’t appear to have a website yet, but they’re big on Facebook. For more pics and a review, check out Le Bon-Vivant’s gorgeous post.

Penny University Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

8 Responses to “Penny University, Kingston”

  1. Gary Lum December 7, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Must go now knowing the knives will cut the toast 😃

  2. Heike Herrling December 8, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Wow! How quickly things change. It seems new things are popping up everywhere in Canberra. This looks great!

    • inthetaratory December 8, 2013 at 9:05 am #

      Almost enough to inspire a return visit? 😉


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