“For a restaurant that opened right in the middle of COVID-19 restrictions, we have felt the love,” says manager Vidya, whose cardigan is as vivid as the bold-hued rooster on the feature wall behind her in Kukula’s.
“As soon as we opened, people were curious and walked in. Some of those people have become regulars. We couldn’t do a launch, and it has been a journey, but it has been a wonderful journey.”
Kukula’s is the restaurant she manages with two friends. Sanskrit for ‘rooster’, the word Kukula is also a playful double entendre, hence its tagline: “home of the cheeky chook”. Along one wall, several iPads offer the distraction of preloaded games for fidgety kids while the adults finish dinner.
Kukula’s menu centres around Portuguese-style grilled chicken, permeated with the fragrance of Ceylonese spices. Vidya says Kukula’s unique sauces set them apart.
“We have added Ceylonese chilli, introduced Indian chilli and blended in the fragrance of curry leaf.”
Over the past year, the team behind Kukula’s has been refining their signature sauces and taste testing their dishes. Starting at mild BBQ Rib and Lemon Herb, the range of sauces include three escalating levels of heat: Flame, Fire and Hell. Keep an eye out for their upcoming ‘Bloody Hell’ level of intensity which even made Vidya cry fiery tears!
Kukula’s founders have many years of food industry business behind them. Canberra store manager Aryan worked alongside them in Sydney for 10 years.
“Aryan has a vast knowledge of the food and put a lot of love into this business,” says Vidya of her business partner.
Burgers, wraps and pockets, fresh salads, garlic bread, scrumptious sweet potato fries and paella join the range of grilled-chicken options on the menu. What does Vidya recommend?
“The paella is one of our best sellers. It comes out on a sizzling plate, it’s very colourful. We put a little blend of cultures into it. And we present our Kukula burger in a black charcoal bun.
“We have vegetarian options, vegan options, gluten-free. The chips are gluten-free. Our chicken is halal. We truly want to cater to whoever comes to eat here.”
Try the satisfying Kukula burger. A juicy grilled chicken breast, delicate bite of jalapeno, sweet-tangy caramelised onions and salad fill the burger’s soft charcoal bun. Smooth, garlicky aioli might just drip down your chin and you can adjust the spice level by choosing which sauce the breast is cooked in.
The paella’s rice is robust. Its lemony tang cuts through the rich flavours of the chicken and tomato-based sauce. If you are eating in Kukula’s, the paella comes out on a sizzling plate.
It’s a heady smell, chicken being grilled over an open flame, one that gets the mouth-watering. Enticed by the intoxicating aromas, I impulsively order The Boys are Hungry – a hearty share pack featuring a whole chicken, eight BBQ chicken ribs, four grilled tenderloins and four chicken wings!
The kiss of the flame infuses the tender char-grilled chicken. The ribs, wings and tenderloins are juicy and piquant with the lemon-herb marinade I selected.
Kukula’s chips are long, thin and crunchy, coated with a tangy spiced salt. We enjoy every bite.
Expect to see and hear much more of Kukula’s this year. And not just because of their tasty chicken.
“We have franchised Kukula’s,” Vidya explains. “The Kukula’s that is opening in ANU is our first franchise. And within the next three months we will have two more franchises in Sydney. Kukula’s is going to be a food chain. Any members of the public who are interested can contact us for information or a meeting.”
With another franchise starting soon in Melbourne and their first international franchise opening in New Zealand, Kukula’s reputation for colourful and tasty plates of food is spreading.
Kukula’s is located at 122 Bunda St in Civic. It is open 7 days from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm (and later on Fridays and Saturdays).