Lakemba is well known for its amazing Lebanese eateries (like Jasmins) but there’s more to this fascinating multicultural hub than baklava and hommus. One of the most unique places on the bustling Haldon Street strip is Island Dreams Cafe, specialising in Christmas and Cocos Islands cuisine. These remote islands are territories of Australia and located in the Indian ocean – Christmas Island just south of Jakarta and the Cocos Islands half way between Western Australia and Sri Lanka.
The food from the islands is heavily influenced by Malaysian cuisine (with a dash of Chinese and Indonesian) so there’s nasi lemak, beef rendang, curry puffs and chicken curry (on the bone) on the menu. Lemon chilli chicken is another specialty, and on the day we visited there was a stirfried liver dish too. It’s cheap and cheerful home style cooking at its best, with a choice of two dishes and rice at $8.50 with a beyond enormous serving size. The rendang is rich and not overly spicy – it’s hearty, warming food definitely served with love.
The drinks here are major drawcards too (just ask the bunch of regulars hanging out the front on the pavement), from teh tarik to a large range of coffees from the typical to the traditional – think sweetened with condensed milk. I loved their delicious falooda style rose syrup based shake flecked with basil seeds, and there was a coconut consumed too (Saigon flashbacks!). I felt very welcomed and at home here, and just a little bit wistful for an exotic, tropical escape.