“This place is such a hidden gem,” I told Tisna, one of the owners of Upperroom Restocafe. He replied, “You’re not the first person to say that!”
Upperroom Resto Cafe is tucked away at the front of Wesley Mission on Pitt Street in the Sydney CBD. It’s easy to miss — you’ve probably walked past it a lot (I have!), but when you’ve been once you’ll be back. They have a café at the front when you enter, if you walk down further you’ll see the restaurant at the back with more seating.
The resto cafe isn’t affiliated with Wesley Mission – the heavenly namesake is simply a fun nod to the space they share. And the only sermon these guys are preaching is all about relaxed, but modern Malaysian and Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s some of the most flavourful and well–priced food in the CBD (albeit in an unlikely location) with generous servings and favourites like Hainanese chicken, char kway teow and laksa.
We started with the Homemade tofu, fried with salt and pepper ($16). They are like soy chicken nuggets – crispy skin, silky smooth flesh tossed in a good coating of salt and pepper. I loved the generous amounts of shallots and crispy friend onion that accompanied it. Tisna, one of the owners recommended we choose between this and the House Specialty Crispy eggplant in terms of fried dishes.
I usually steer clear of sweet and sour pork because there are a lot of terrible Westernised versions and I’ve been burned by one too many bad ones. But rest, this wasn’t one of them! Oriental sweet and sour pork with seasonal fruits ($20.80) large pieces of tender pork spare ribs with a small part of the bone in are covered in light batter and a coating of the well balanced sweet and sour sauce (not too sweet, not too vinegary).
The addition of the fresh pear refreshes the palate and adds a nice juicy crunch. With rice, it’s amazing. The serving was generous as with all the dishes, perfect for sharing. There are so many good things on the menu so the bigger your dining crew, the better in my opinion cause you’ll have less fomo! Long spacious tables and free wi-fi make an informal meal or even a business lunch a breeze.
Next up, Hiananese chicken rice ($13.80, lunch menu). The first thing that struck me about this dish was the heaven-sent serving of chicken broth – this is my favourite part so I was chuffed!
Each component of this dish is delicious. From the moist chicken topped with crispy fried garlic, to the really tasty flavoured rice with noticeable flecks of fresh ginger throughout and the chilli sauce was well balanced and looked homemade. The customary slices of cucumber and tomato on the side were very fresh, crisp and a bit more than you get at some places.
Baramundi (whole) with choice of homemade sauce, sambal, thai sauce, salt and pepper or ginger and shallots ($28). The waitress informed us that this was on of their bestsellers. The sambal was suggested, so we went with it despite not having a high tolerance for chilli (YOLO!). The sauce had just the right amount of chilli kick, not too much. The fish was perfectly cooked – we hear the crunching as we break it up — crisp delicious delicate skin crispy and slightly caramelised on the outside and soft moist flesh on the inside. The crispy tail and bones near the surface had a nice crunch like potato chips of the sea.
All their teas are sourced from boutique blenders Tea Craft. Tisna tells us that they chose them because of their ethos and commitment to keeping their tea as natural and pesticide and synthetic free as possible. We tried the Digestif – Organic tea, a blend of peppermint, spearmint, lavender and fennel seeds believed to relax the stomach muscles and aide digestion. It’s a nice refreshing twist on regular peppermint and good insurance against a food coma!
There are only a few options for the dessert, the standout being the Sweet silken homemade bean curd (Tau Fu Far) served with ginger and brown sugar syrup ($5). Their homemade tofu translates terrifically into a dessert! The slightly warm, silky tofu is elevated by the subtle sweetness of the ginger and brown sugar syrup. I’m more of a savoury person (I’m told that this is a cheffy thing!) so I loved that it wasn’t overly sweet. When it came out I was reminded of the tofu puddings my Filippino mother used to eat at home. If you want to make something similar yourself here’s our founding editor Jennifer’s dad’s recipe.
Upperroom? I’m a convert! Dinner is a good time to come because there is so much more on the menu and the central CBD location makes it easy to meet up with friends.
Ground Floor, 220 Pitt St, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9283 4434
Dinner opening hours
Tuesday to Friday 6pm – 9pm
Restaurant Opening Hours
Monday to Friday 7:30am – 3:30pm
Sunday from 11am – 3pm
Café Opening Hours
Monday to Friday 7:30am – 3pm
Sunday from 9am – 3pm
I Ate My Way Through dined as a guest of Upperroom Resto Cafe