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Kings Cross shakes up its scungy image with a sunny community hub and sustenance station for almost any time of day.

Typically, when you see a terrace lighting up the Kings Cross night with its festoon of colourful lanterns, you don’t assume its purpose is so wholesome. That’s all changing with the arrival of a new hub that’s not at all ‘shady'; rather, it is Chez Dee, cafe, bar, provedore and more.

It was a case of good neighbours becoming good business partners for owners Denise Fisher (the titular Dee), Byron Woolfrey (ex Ms G’s) and Nicola Patterson, a sweet origin story totally at odds with the scungy, sinister image of Kings Cross that dominates public discourse. They’ve transformed the old site of Tonic lounge and nightclub into a sunny community hub and sustenance station for almost any time of day.

We visit at breakfast, and although the menu for that meal is short, our palettes are immediately piqued. The poached eggs on toast with mushrooms and hollandaise ($14.50) is one of those “well, d’uh” dishes — as in, “well, duh eggs Benedict goes with tenderly pan-fried mushrooms; why haven’t we thought of that before, geniuses?” Dripping with runny egg yolk and silky hollandaise, it’s sweetly comforting, the foodie’s hangover cure. We also go for the punchy scrambled eggs with uni ($16), a soft, orange sea urchin roe that melts luxuriously into pockets. It’s delicious, although best augmented by a side of black-eyed beans or avocado ($3 each) to keep the fishy flavour from getting too overwhelming.

I also put in the world’s most vague fresh mixed juice ($6.50) order — “something good for a cold” — and get a nicely balanced concoction without consternation. It’s just one part of the friendly and knowledgeable service that anchors this place, and it hopefully signals a gift for mixology that will translate when they start serving cocktails as part of their evening incarnation. While it’s fun noshing in the eclectic, Arcadian downstairs level of the terrace, upstairs there’s a world of Moroccan lamps, jewelled ottomans and an inbuilt daybed that call out to be lain upon with accompanying glass of wine.  And take note, local workaholics: the seasonal, all-day menu includes a few ready-made meals you can get to-go.

A visit to Chez Dee isn’t complete without a mini-raid on the grocery shop, which is prettily crammed with tins, bottles and jars of gourmet goods (mostly Australian or hyperlocal) as well as kitchenware and a small selection of fresh produce from the Sydney Markets. You could stare slack-jawed at these shelves for hours, but I eventually manage to leave with just a bottle of my favourite robust olive oil from the Little General, a jar of Pic’s ‘Really Good Peanut Butter’ and an ingenious little invention for reaching toast stuck in the toaster.

The folks at Chez Dee have plans to keep bees on the roof, harvest fresh produce from their kitchen garden and make a courtyard out of what is currently a shed with a tree growing through the roof. They’re completely inspired by the space they’ve created, and the rest of the Kings Cross area will be, too.

Published on August 23 , 2012 by Rima Sabina Aouf

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