The entrance to Ragamuffin Café is easy to miss, tucked away beside a post office on a Kenilworth sidestreet. Inside is a different story though, as the cheery interior lives up to the Middle English term from which the name is derived: playful, childlike, and somewhat mischievous.
Mechanical-engineer-turned-chef Thinus Ras founded Ragamuffin Curry in December 2017, and it quickly became a favourite neighborhood hangout for those seeking casual Indian fare. Realising that most of his clientele viewed it exclusively as a dinner spot, Thinus decided to expand into the breakfast business.
His new venture, Ragamuffin Café, occupies the same space, but serves breakfasts and light lunches, reverting to Ragamuffin Curry in the evening.
Breakfasts that stand out
Rather than opt for regular fry-ups and “eggs on toast”, Thinus decided to stick with his penchant for doing things a little differently. Most of the dishes are his own take on offerings you won’t find on a traditional English-breakfast menu.
The star of the show is the Turkish eggs, mixed with a special tomato relish (similar to shakshouka) that takes around two hours to prep. This is served on a potato rösti (Swiss hash browns), with olives and feta mixed in. The flavour and texture of the eggs goes well with the crispness of the rösti, making for a light and addictive dish that is bound to keep people coming back for more.
Speaking of addictive, the cardamom coffee is another offering that goes down really well. This fragrant beverage, inspired by a Middle Eastern favourite, incorporates the spice that locals more commonly associate with chai tea. Thinus says: “We make it a little more palatable for local tastes by not making quite such a strong brew as the original, and serving it as a more gentle flat white.” You get the caffeine-fuelled kick of good coffee, combined with the pleasant fragrance of chai – a killer combination. Serving the coffee in imported glasses rather than mugs is a nice touch.
Also on the menu is the jianbing, a traditional Chinese breakfast of cooked eggs and hoisin sauce wrapped in crepes. Thinus adds a local touch by using roti instead of crepes, while also mixing in spring onions, pickle, sesame seeds, and a variation on umami sauce. The result is a savoury street food with flavour packed into every bite.
By the way, if you prefer a more traditional European breakfast option, Ragamuffin Café has you covered there, too, with kaas deluks: bacon, cheese and mustard in a toasted French baguette (a play on the Monte Cristo sandwich). Thinus remembers: “When I was 11, I ran my own little ‘restaurant’ at home. Let’s just say we’re a large family! The kaas deluks was my specialty… I included it, terrible spelling and all, as a nod to my young self, aspiring to have my own restaurant all those years ago.”
Items on the lunch menu include the Vietnamese banh mi – a pork-and-pickle baguette; and the French dip sandwich – a roast-beef sandwich served with a delicious beef broth as a “dip”. No doubt there will be more interesting options to come, as Thinus continues to play around with flavours in search of dishes that break the mould, as is the Ragamuffin way.
Small place, big heart
With only six tables and an open-plan kitchen, Ragamuffin Café makes you feel like a welcome guest in someone’s home. The intimate charm goes with what Thinus describes as the “rustic playful” theme of the place. He’s a self-taught chef, a “millennial following his dream” as he puts it, and this enterprising spirit definitely shines through in the surroundings.
Transitioning from mechanical engineer to chef seems an unexpected journey on the surface; but then, Ragamuffin Café thrives on being adventurous. It’s a culinary journey in your own backyard, and one that now offers flavourful breakfast and lunch offerings to go with the dynamic curries of Ragamuffin Curry.