We've certainly become a fantastic little foodie city, haven't we, Sydney? If there's one thing we're good at, as a city, it's opening new restaurants and diners. So a new venue opening in Chippendale is just another new place to grab a bite to eat, right? Some place to go to pull out the ole iPhone and upload a pic of your plate to Instagram, with #lookssogood as part of the caption?
Guess again! Because in the burgeoning area around Camperdown and Broadway, roughly between Newtown's now-famous King Street and Glebe's main drag of Glebe Point Road, sits The Two Wolves Cantina, a non-profit social enterprise staffed primarily by volunteers, and serving food ranging from Vietnamese, Central American and Indian. The space that Two Wolves Cantina now inhabits used to be a number of things, so you can imagine my surprise and delight to come upon the venue by taking a short stroll down Broadway from Central Station, hangin' a left before you get too far and hit the junction opposite Glebe Point Road and ending up in a tiny alley to the brightly decorated and warmly cosy and inviting eatery.
Because that's the vibe you get as soon as you step inside. It has warmth and character. Its interior certainly looks like you'd stumbled upon a cantina outside of Sydney, definitely outside of Australia. Coloured pennants hang from the ceiling. Photos from places like Nepal and Thailand line the walls. There's a carving of what looks like a dragon on one post, and hanging off a back door in the main dining area is a tiled mosaic piece of what looks like the traditional depiction of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe).
So it definitely doesn't look just like any other inner city eatery.
An initiative of The Cardoner Project, a student-based volunteering centre, The Two Wolves Cantina offer much of its proceeds to disadvantaged communities, both here in Sydney and abroad. The staff are mostly volunteers and The Cardoner Project's founder, Fr. David Braithwaite SJ, is ensuring that the venue operates on the Jesuit principle of service to others. In fact, even the name of the cantina itself is taken from the Jesuit order. According to the website, the name comes from the family crest of Saint Ignatius, founder of The Society of Jesus. The crest depicts two wolves over a cooking pot, a symbol of generosity and comfort.
With the help of hospitality gurus Fraser Short (Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room) and Ben Sweeten (Rose Bay Diner, Kansas City Shuffle), diners are treated to a menu that says more about the heart and soul of the people who run and benefit from the eatery. Hearty street food you'd probably find on dining tables in places like Korea, Mexico or Ecuador. They're affordable too, so you'd feel perfectly comfortable sharing a meal with your friends or family here. Everyone's favourite is Pope Francis' Spicy Empanadas, but you must also give the Korean Fried Chicken, Potato Curry or the delightfully named Sister Hien's Bin Thit Nuong a try.
Many people feel a bit blasé about the slew of new eateries opening up in restaurants. I get it. One more pulled pork slider/ginormous milkshake/overpriced burrito image on my Instagram newsfeed scrolly scroll thingy and I will lose my mind. It's why Fr. David and his Cardoner Project posse of charitable clergy need to be applauded for their efforts at The Two Wolves Cantina … and why we need to visit it.