Heading to the Deep South – Soul Food Kitchen at Erindale
by The Editor
In the middle of 2012, a little restaurant opened in the city offering chicken wings, macaroni & cheese and corn bread. The restaurant was Smoque, and it introduced a trove of Canberrans to the delights of Southern food from the United States.
However, this wasn’t the only place to bring soul food to the Nation’s Capital. Out in the suburbs another venue was quietly working away on this easily misunderstood cuisine…
Soul Food Kitchen could be the most demure and understated example of American culture one may come across. While the Embassy of the United States may sit proudly on a hill staring directly at our Parliament, Soul Food Kitchen is tucked away in a side carpark in the Erindale shops.
We approached on a Saturday afternoon with our minds tending towards classic images of a large lunch comprised of generous serves delivered by a grandmother lifted directly from The Cosby Show. Perhaps we’d all end up singing. In truth, entering the restaurant for a weekend lunch is a slightly more austere experience. On the wooden floor, tables are spaced well apart while the dark red walls feature prints of musical instruments and old concert posters. The room is noisy and echoes – a DVD of classic soul singers blars out from a television above the upright piano, perhaps a tad enthusiasticly for lazy lunchtime diners.
While Smoque may have taken the tradition and adapted it slightly to suit the Australian palate, there can be no doubt the inimitable owner of Soul Kitchen Victor, has stuck to his guns. The food is largely straightforward – simply made burgers accompanied by chips and a few greens. The magic comes through the meats and sauces that offer that heady mix of spice and smoke that makes the cuisine so unique.
We even tried the gumbo – traditionally a kind of soup made with various meats that may be leftover from other dishes. The dark brown liquid revealed treasures: prawns and pieces of white-flesh fish – and was served with rice and a perfect mini-muffin of corn bread. It was filling, warming and curiously delicious. It tasted very much like a sum of its parts – indicating it had been cooked nice and slowly.
Victor Kimble, the owner of Soul Food kitchen, is something of a journeyman having made his way from Alabama to Canberra via Noosa (!). We’ve spotted Victor on more than one occasion selling spices and sauces used in the restaurant at the Fyshwick Markets. He’s a giant of a man with an irrefutable enthusiasm that is felt by passers-by. We wondered if Victor’s presence wasn’t the missing ingredient from our meal and perhaps we mistimed our run to get a true feel of what this venue has to offer. The food hit the spot, however we didn’t feel as though we were swept up in the spirit. In fact, we’re pretty sure if we had popped in on a Friday night (where monthly blues nights run until late in the evening) that the experience would have been so much better for the soul.
Soul Food Kitchen
38 Gartside Street
Lunch: Thurs – Sat
Dinner: Tues – Sat