A mainstay on Oxford Street for the past twenty years, Betty's Soup Kitchen has pretty much been doing the same thing since it opened. Namely soups. And they're damn good at it. They also do plenty of hearty, no-fuss staples such as pasta, stews and pies. It's comfort food at its best and all at ludicrously low prices.
Betty Ehrlich opened the restaurant during the economic downturn of the early 1990s, deciding to set up shop making the soups she'd been making for years at home. Her recipes are still used today and the soup list includes potato and pumpkin, minestrone, lentil, potato and leek, tomato, carrot and ginger and gazpacho. Soup orders come with a great wedge of beautifully fluffy bread which is delicious and if you ask nicely, you might even score a second serve. At $8.50 for soups, you are hard pressed to find a cheaper winter warmer in town.
Aside from soup, Betty's offers a range of comforting and hearty dishes – no foams, reductions or deconstructions here. The pasta is popular with staples such as spaghetti bolognaise and fettuccine carbonara all on offer. Other highlights include bangers and mash, beef stroganoff and lamb stew. At this time of year, you're also hard-pressed to go past the potato pies. The drinks list, like everything at Betty's, is simple and includes beer, wine and soft drinks, including excellent old-fashioned lemonade.
The dining room is a large and ornate room punctuated by a huge portrait of Betty on the back wall. The Betty's branded tins of soup above the front window give more than a wink to Andy Warhol, as does the Betty's sign facing the street. You wonder whether the artist's estate in Pittsburgh has ever been informed of the similarity. The mismatched cutlery and thick linen napkins add to the quirkiness of the room and the whole experience is akin to going around to your Nan's house for Sunday lunch.
Another endearing aspect of the place is the staff. The old-timers who have worked the room for years are hilarious and love sharing a joke. Some diners have reported problems with newer staff, including the backpackers and blow-ins sometimes used to supplement the existing waitstaff. Either way, don't expect silver service and you'll be fine.
So if you are new to town or haven't been in years, mark down a trip to Betty's in your diary. Especially when Sydneytown's weather turns grim and comfort food beckons. Get yourself a big bowl of soup, a chunk of the delicious damper and pretend you've come home to Nan's house.
A favourite favourite favourite of mine! Best and cheapest food in Sydney, and wonderful staff. Worth noting that the staff have actually mentioned to me that they had to change the colour of the soup cans from red to slightly orange because of threatening legal action from Campbells I believe.
By SamD - reader Wednesday, 27th of July @ 10:42 pm
I went once many years ago and was disappointed.
By richa78 - reader Thursday, 28th of July @ 02:29 am
Love this place :)
By Sarah Han - senior reviewer Thursday, 25th of August @ 05:14 am
Sad to report that Betty's closed in late September. It will be sorely missed, and is yet another backward step for that section of Oxford St.