Billykart Kitchen

Natascha Mirosch
Cheery yellow accents brighten up the deep, cool space.
Cheery yellow accents brighten up the deep, cool space. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

1 Eric Crescent Annerley, Queensland 4103

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Opening hours Tues-Fri 6.30am-4pm; Sat-Sun 6.30am-2pm; Friday dinner service from 6.30pm.
Features Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Ben O'Donoghue
Phone 07 3392 9275

According to a sommelier friend, Billecart is a favourite of men charged with ordering champagne in a restaurant. He surmises it's because many of them associate it with billy carts and pleasant boyhood pursuits.

Billykart Kitchen in Annerley probably confuses the issue even further, offering Billecart as its house champagne – a little tongue in cheek fun.

It's an inspired name evoking a wholesome, simpler time when kids weren't tethered to their electronica, but played cricket in the streets and raced each other in dodgy homemade billycarts.

Barbecued buttermilk brined chicken with aioli and panzanella.
Barbecued buttermilk brined chicken with aioli and panzanella. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

As a venue, it doesn't slip easily into a nice neat category. Is it a cafe? Well yes, it does breakfasts and serves up some pretty fine Campos coffee, but it's also licensed. And it's open on Friday nights with a more substantial menu.

Billykart Kitchen is owned by former TV chef Ben O'Donoghue who became famous when he made the Surfing the Menu series with Curtis Stone. Stone, of course, has moved to the US, hosting television shows and recently opening a restaurant in LA. O'Donoghue returned to Australia and moved to Queensland with local lass, wife Dee. He writes cookbooks, does the occasional celeb appearance and has set up shop in this old corner store deep in the suburbs next to an old-school butcher.

He's treated the historical old premises with due respect and it has a great feel. It is deep, cool and spacious, with tongue and groove walls painted lime and charcoal with cheerful yellow accents (which sounds hideous but isn't), a stencilled cement floor and, in homage to its former life, roller doors instead of front and back doors. There are pot plants attached to pillars, wooden crates of fruit and veg at the front counter and shelves of books, magazine and retro toys. It's a comfortable, convivial place that encourages diners to bouts of nostalgia and lingering.

Lemon meringue tart topped with scalloped Italian meringue.
Lemon meringue tart topped with scalloped Italian meringue. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Apart from breakfast, Billykart does a very fine lunch. Everything's made in-house, down to their milkshake syrups. The floor staff may not be entirely across the minutiae of the menu, but cheerfully ferry questions to the kitchen.

Well-priced entrees include tender flash fried, bandari-spiced calamari (a mix of caraway seeds, cardamom, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and turmeric) with a tomato and coriander sauce – a welcome change from the ubiquitous salt 'n' pepper calamari. Spaghetti is to-the-second al dente and generously studded with handpicked spanner crab, fresh cherry tomatoes, basil and a judicious amount of chilli. It seems like a bottomless bowl, but I was still reluctant to hand over half to my dining partner as agreed in exchange for his buttermilk barbecued chicken, but it turned out to be a pretty rewarding swap. The chicken breast is brined before being barbecued, so it's perfectly tender and well-seasoned, partnered with a panzanella salad.

A sweets cabinet is as homely as everything else, filled with well-made standards like chocolate brownies, carrot cake and an excellent lemon meringue tart made with a gluten free pastry, its tartness tempered by sweet blow-torched Italian meringue in pretty scalloped waves.

As well as the Billecart, the compact wine list has some well-priced numbers sold by the glass and the bottle.

So, I've racked my brain but the negative side of my tally sheet remains blank. I just can't find anything I don't like about Billykart. There's on street parking, a sparky playlist, happy staff and good, value-for-money food in generous portions. What more could you ask for?

The low-down

Menu: Simple, homely dishes prepared with love and top-notch produce.

Features: Just like when it was a corner store, you can pick up fresh bread, milk and the paper.

Value: Generous portions, well-priced.