The Candy Shop
2-8 Osborne St
Whenever I begin approaching The Candy Shop, the lyrics to the 50 Cent song of the same name starts to play in my head. "I'll take you to the candy shop / I'll let you lick the lollipop / Go 'head girl don't you stop / Keep goin' until you hit the the spot whoa!" The Candy Shop however is neither a shop full of sweets nor 50 Cent's weak attempt at innuendo. It is the amalgamation of the once great hole-in-the-wall coffee joint Camper Coffee and the guys behind Simon & Lee, Major Sprout, Dear Jervois etc. etc. Trying their hand at another all-day eatery, they've come up tops with their winning formula of Korean-Kiwi fusion, in all except their greens.
Their greens, where do I begin? Let me start with this wisdom: unless it comes from Vietnam, avoid eating other Asians' salads. The Chinese boil lettuce for goodness sake! On my first visit I had a bland but just tolerable iteration of smashed avocado on toast. One would think the avocado would speak for itself, but not when it has to compete with plain butternut squash, plain quinoa, beetroot on overly sweet rye bread, with pomegranate seeds tossed in for good measure. The balance of flavours were way off the mark, and strayed further so when I ordered the Green Goddess salad on my next visit. Here I encountered more of that dreaded plain quinoa, hideously sweet semi-dried tomatoes, and more pomegranate seeds. They seem to want to use pomegranate seeds like they're going out of fashion. The kale was un-marinated, meaning dry and tough. The green beans were blanched and boring, and the green goddess dressing was dry and pasty, and weirdly bitter. I could have sworn it was made of matcha. To be brutally honest, it's like they've take every superfood that has trended in the last two years and tried to combine them into one dish they tout as a salad.
But now that I've got that off my chest, there is a lot of love about The Candy Shop. Firstly, their loaded fries. I actually loathe loaded fries usually. The pure gluttony of it all. Can't one enjoy a beautiful, perfectly fried chip without heaping on gooey cheese, brisket, pickles and ice cream? (It's been done before.) The Candy Shop strikes the balance of loading one's fries perfectly however. Its first iteration was aptly named 'Made in Heaven' and was a celestial combo of shoe string fries loaded with bacon chips (read: chips of candied bacon), kimchi and cheese. On my most recent visit, hoping to chase the dream of what I previously had, I ordered their hand-cut agria chips topped with their house (that actually means someone's Korean mum) made kimchi, which is vegan don't you know, and finely grated pecorino chese, which is not vegan. Easily some of the best chips around. We had to pretend to include the vegetarian in our midst, and luckily The Candy Shop is trying to do the same with its offering of crispy eggplant. Accompanied by thinly sliced spring onion, sesame seeds, chilli and sweet soy sauce, it is a moreish dish that hits all the right notes in texture and flavour.
The group played it safe by ordering bibimbap and agedashi tofu with kelp noodles. Both dishes are automatically veggo friendly, which greatly pleased our friend Emma. I ordered the kale fettuccine with black bisque sauce, prawns, cockles and parmesan cheese. Nothing about this dish is Korean, in fact more Italian than anything else, and it was so good. I imagine it took millions (maybe not quite but still) of prawn heads to make a bisque that tasty. Coupled with the subtle note of black squid ink, I was reluctant to share a taste amongst the table.
More recently I headed back to The Candy Shop after a nightshift and ordered the creamy mushrooms, which was a great exemplar of mushrooms on toast dressed up with pecorino cheese and balsamic cream.
If you stick to a few basic rules (steer clear of the greens; the Korean food is safe; chips ahoy!) you’ll come out swinging every time. Oh and the coffee rocks, fyi.