An ex-Navi sous chef and a veteran barista have opened this 15-seater cafe serving Indonesian-inspired sandwiches.
May 12, 2021
With borders closed and overseas family reunions still on hold, many of us are craving the taste of home. That's largely what spawned the arrival of Barry Susanto and Erwin Chandra's new Indo-inspired sandwich joint Warkop, which opened its doors in Richmond last month.
The two Indonesian mates met working together at Duke's Coffee Roasters in Windsor, sparking initial plans to open their own establishment. Fuelled by a touch of homesickness, some lockdown experimentation and a desire to offer locals a broader, more authentic taste of the duo's homeland — that plan is now a reality.
Named after the classic streetside coffee stalls you'll find dotted throughout Indonesia, the 15-seat venue embraces the 'casual, but done well' mentality. The sandwich menu is short and sweet, but has already earned some big ticks of approval — Susanto first road-tested many of his creations on some very discerning fellow staff during his time as sous chef at Julian Hills' Navi.
In line with the overall theme of the venue, the $15 sandos are simple but well-executed, with plenty of subtle nods to Susanto's fine dining experience.
"It's a bit radical to put our (Indo) food into sandwiches," he explains. "I tried to do things that haven't been done before."
Bread styles have been carefully chosen to best complement the flavours sandwiched within — beef pastrami comes teamed with cheese, pickled cucumber and a rich rendang sauce on light rye; while sourdough's been used to house the chicken sandwich, its meat marinated in classic Taliwang spices. Another option reworks the familiar flavours of gado gado into a turkish roll, marrying tofu, tempeh, bean sprouts, lettuce and a peanut sauce, and there's a daily rotating salad to match. The sandwich lineup has been selling out most days, so don't put that lunchbreak on hold for too long.
There's a selection of pastries and cakes from Ned's Bakery in South Yarra (all $5.50), but for a true taste of the guys' homeland, you'll want to try their version of kaya toast ($6) — a much-loved sweet breakfast starring a rich coconut jam. Warkop's kaya uses a long-held family recipe from Chandra's own mother, who taught the pair to make it via video chat from Indonesia. Susanto's jazzed it up a little using puffed rice and plump, buttery brioche rolls, though the dish still heartily embraces its roots.
"I'm doing this because I always miss home and I always miss home food," explains Susanto. "When I first moved here, I couldn't speak English and the Indo food I ate here really helped me, to heal me from missing home. So I've always wanted to do this."