Date night for some may mean white linen tablecloths, moody candle lighting and the type of delectable food and drink that inspires a bit of frisky action later (either that or a binge session of MAFS or Suits). For others, it might be an inspiring meal with a social justice element, one where you feel just as good paying the bill – knowing you’re helping vulnerable communities – as you do tucking into the food. This Valentine’s Day, why not have both? From an Enmore stalwart highlighting Sri-Lankan fare to a Ukrainian eatery serving home style meals and a Sydney venue where 100% of the profits go to women fleeing domestic violence, here are the top eateries with a cause across Sydney where you can share the love this Valentine’s Day.
When Colombo Social burst onto busy Enmore Road four years ago, most people thought it was too good to be true. A social enterprise restaurant from the Plate It Forward team, a hospitality group encompassing food venues, training and employment for vulnerable people, and a food program that provides over 2,000 restaurant quality meals to disadvantaged individuals and families weekly – this trendy Inner West diner quickly established that it was more than just a feel-good venue. Just one bite of Colombo Social’s soft-shell crab taco, Goat Kottu (a spicy, slow cooked goat curry mixed with roti and egg) or their vegan Amma’s Dhal (described as ‘love in a bowl’), and you knew you were in exceptional culinary hands. So, if spicy is your food of love, hit up Colombo Social and be sure to lock eyes with your other half over your mango pannacotta knowing your dinner is doing good. In fact, in partnership with Settlement Services International (SSI), Colombo Social provides employment and training opportunities, empowering refugees in the early stages of their settlement journey in Australia.
Location: 159 Enmore Road, Enmore
More info: https://colombosocial.com.au
Having struck a winning feel-good-food formula, the Plate It Forward team have done it again – this time with Afghan Social (although they haven’t stopped there, read the review below on Kyiv Social if you don’t believe us). Inspired by the rich culture of Afghanistan, at this vibrant eatery you’ll find a street-food menu of Afghan-inspired burgers and kebabs, mantu – traditional Afghan dumplings – along with ‘loaded boxes’ that provide a pick your own protein and salad adventure. Vegetarians and vegans are also well catered for with unctuous fried eggplant and roasted pumpkin options. But that’s not all — for every meal purchased at Kabul Social, two meals are donated to disadvantaged communities in Sydney and families in Afghanistan via the not-for-profit organization Mahboba’s Promise. Can it really get better than this?
More info: https://www.kabulsocial.com
Ukrainian comfort food with a feel-good factor? Kyiv Social in Chippendale – from the Plate it Forward team – lands this birdie with ease and ups the ante with a slew of hospitality collaborations celebrating Ukrainian cuisine that are sure to make your Valentine’s Day dinner extra special. Treat yourself to a Young Henry’s “Beloved” Ukrainian Lager or sample the Ukrainian beef and pork sausages created by LP’s Quality Meats. Fancy a Ukrainian inspired cocktail? The Beetroot Sling – vodka, beetroot juice, triple sec and bitters – channels Borscht vibes but is delightfully refreshing and the perfect tipple to start your night. Food-wise, Kyiv Social’s a la carte menu includes dishes like Grandma’s dumplings – pick from three sophisticated flavours and don’t be fooled by the name, these are closer to fine dining than home cooking – Kyiv’s most famous dish, the chicken ‘kyiv’, and herring on toast. There’s also a shared set menu too if you and your significant other prefer to spend your time gazing into each other’s eyes than worrying about food choices.
Location: 202 Broadway, Chippendale – enter via Grafton Lane next to the Lansdowne Hotel
More info: https://www.kyivsocial.com.au
Social impact restaurant meets food rescue service with one of the world’s best known chefs at the helm? Count us in. Massimo Bottura – of Osteria Francescana fame (ie the restaurant that took the gong two years running as the World’s Best) – has collaborated with OzHarvest to bring the Refettorio concept to Sydney via the chef’s Food For Soul non-profit organisation. Founded by Bottura, Refettorio launched in Milan in 2015 and since then has been empowering and mobilizing local communities to reduce food waste and support social inclusion. At Refettorio’s Sydney outpost you can expect a community hub welcoming those in need with free weekly lunches and Saturday brunch, as well as a three-course “pay it forward” dinner (every Thursday night) featuring weekly-changing vegetarian fare crafted from rescued ingredients. Best of all, every ticket to the “pay it forward” dinner sold enables Refettorio to serve four people in need a nourishing three-course meal during their day time service. Who said gourmet wasn’t for the greater good?
Location: 481 Crown St, Sydney
More info: https://www.refettorioozharvestsydney.org
In the fight against modern slavery, The Freedom Hub is leading the charge. At this converted industrial warehouse in the thick of Waterloo (that you can also hire as an events space), you’ll find an on-site ethical café – the profits of which go towards the Hub’s Survivor School and mission to eradicate human trafficking and support survivors. Indulge in specialty teas, coffees, and nutritious dishes like acai bowls and smashed avo knowing that every bite contributes to a brighter future for those affected by slavery. Come for a brunch date or linger over a casual lunch – the feel good factor will certainly have you and your date feeling blissful.
Location: 283 Young St, Waterloo
More info: https://thefreedomhub.org
Song Kitchen isn’t your average Surry Hills café – although you’ll find all the flourishes diners have come to expect from this inner city foodie neighbourhood. Chic Bentwood chairs, welcoming leather banquettes and a Mod-Oz menu sprinkled with native ingredients and rich with vegetarian and vegan options – the sous-vide cauliflower steaks are our pick. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll find Song Kitchen’s beating social enterprise heart. Owned by the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) which was founded in 1881 to provide a safe haven for “unprotected” women arriving by ship from Europe, that mission is never more relevant today. As a profit-for-purpose venture, all proceeds generated by Song Kitchen are channelled towards initiatives that provide shelter and assistance for women in need, including women experiencing gender-based inequality, homelessness or women and their families fleeing domestic violence. Indulge in dishes like beetroot carpaccio, grilled Tassie salmon, roasted saltbush lamb rump – or enjoy a delectable 3-course Valentine’s Dinner with a cocktail on arrival, all the while knowing that your meal is making a difference.
Location: 5/11 Wentworth Ave, Sydney
More info: https://www.songkitchen.com.au
Pop into Parliament on King and you may feel like you’ve stepped into a good friend’s living room. The type who loves collecting books, and artwork, and plants, and vintage finds. Tucked away at the boho end of Newtown (aka Erskineville), this cosy cafe is a welcoming space where you immediately feel at home. Specialising in training and employing asylum seekers and refugees, providing them with skills and a path into the hospitality industry, Parliament on King champions the cuisine from the homelands of these people. One day you might be munching on a vegan Burmese noodle salad, the next a rich Srilankan coconut milk curry or a plate of vegetarian samosa – all prepared authentically by the asylum seekers and refugees whom the cafe employs. They also run a ‘pay what you can’ soup kitchen on Fridays and Saturdays which launched in 2020 with the aim of providing a nourishing meals to someone who was in urgent need of food. If you’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day, Local Sauce Tours is hosting their first Solo Social Refugee Banquet at Parliament on King – a night for single locals to make new friends (with an emphasis on friends not dating) whilst enjoying a tasty three course banquet of food spanning Burmese/Rohingya, Iraqi, Iranian, Palestinean, Nepali, Sri Lankan and Ugandan cuisine. Curious? Hit the link below.
Location: 632 King St, Newtown
More info: https://www.parliamentonking.com
Do you have a socially conscious eatery you love? One you’ve visited that makes you feel good every time you drop by? Leave a comment below so we can share it our community of mums – many of whom love great food and supporting social impact establishments.