A short menu that’s long on authentic flavours is a winner in any language. A handful of traditional dishes interspersed with lesser-known family favourites can provide an excellent entrée to an unfamiliar cuisine, and the culture behind it.
Or in the case of Kopiku Café in leafy O’Connor, it can bridge the gap for those hankering for the flavours of home.
Kopiku’s new Indonesian menu is the work of the café’s owner, Jakarta-born Meida Dewi, who took over the old O’Connor Cafe in the Sargood Street shopping strip just before COVID-19 hit.
Initially, she introduced a menu comprising breakfast and lunch staples including organic coconut sugar pancakes with fruit and icecream, BLT rolls, salt and pepper calamari and an enticing range of pizzas, which the locals tucked into with gusto. But she’d mentioned her plans to introduce a second, smaller menu comprising dishes from her home country, and her regulars – many from the local Indonesian community – were not letting the issue lie.
“It’s taken me a while to get the Indonesian menu up and running, but people kept asking about it,” says Meida, who spends hours after close of business chopping and mixing and blending the pastes and stocks that form the basis of Indonesian food. The cuisine is heavy on herbs and spices such as galangal and turmeric and eschallots, and the pungent aromas that waft from Kopiku’s kitchen are surely a better advertisement than any billboard.
Kopiku’s current Indonesian menu features just six dishes, ranging in price from $16 to $18. There’s the familiar nasi and mee goreng – stir-fried rice or noodles with Asian greens, accompanied by pickles and rice crackers and topped with a fried egg, as well as a chicken rendang with rice.
One of the dishes closest to Meida’s heart is the babi kecap, marinated pork belly and fried potatoes served with cucumber and jasmine rice. It’s a dish her mother always cooked, which involved a fair degree of dedication. The pork is marinated overnight before being slow-cooked for seven hours.
I’m desperate to order the pork, but it’s 8 in the morning and slipping into a food coma before midday is never a good look. Instead, I choose the soto ayam, a soup comprising shredded chicken with vermicelli, cabbage, boiled egg and herbs, and feel smugly satisfied at having made the right choice.
The Indonesian version of chicken noodle soup is light and flavoursome, and feels like a healthy choice (were it not for the huge portion, which is a theme among all the dishes that come out of Kopiku’s kitchen).
My husband is tucking into his mee goreng like there’s no tomorrow. He’s more than enthusiastic about Meida’s rendition of Indonesia’s traditional noodle dish.
We also order a takeaway lontong sayur – “it’s vegetarian and people really love it”, says Meida – and have it later for dinner. The lontong in the name is a compressed rice cake traditionally rolled in a banana leaf then boiled and cut into small cakes. Generous pieces have been simmered in this coconut milk soup along with tempe, vegetables and boiled egg and it’s incredibly good.
While we’re eating, a young lad sets a good pace between the kitchen and the alfresco area at the front of the café, delivering breakfasts and coffees. Joviant is Meida’s 12-year-old son who helps out the waitstaff during school holidays and at weekends, and he’s clearly got the hang of things.
Family and community is at the heart of this little operation; Meida says she searched for a long time for just the right spot to open Kopiku.
“What I wanted was something connected to the community. Where families would come. It’s a really good spot here – and the parking’s good too,” she says.
Judging by the full tables inside and out, and the steady flow of customers ordering takeaway coffee (Kopiku means My Coffee in Indonesian and the Jackson Blend from Adore coffee is fabulous) it seems the community has warmly welcomed this newcomer to the neighbourhood.
As I’m chatting to Meida, a smiling woman at the table opposite catches my eye. Denise is a regular here, and for good reason, she tells us. “They serve the best coffee in Canberra,” says Denise, “and the best breakfast too. The staff here are amazing. The food is great. Kopiku has made such a big difference to O’Connor.”
Kopiku is open 6:30 am to 4:00 pm seven days a week, serving both the Indonesian and regular menu. It’s located at
1/5 Sargood Street in O’Connor.