The new casual restaurant is paying it forward by sharing tasty Afghan eats, creating employment for newly arrived migrants and providing meals for those facing food insecurity.
Aug 29, 2022 6:00am
Cooking for change is the main driver behind Kabul Social, a new casual eatery and social enterprise in Sydney’s CBD. Located within a busy corridor off Wynyard Station, the Afghan restaurant’s concept and menu is devised by a group of female refugees.
That menu sees the women sharing recipes from their homeland, adapted for an easy going Sydney lunch break stop: Afghan flat breads are rolled and cooked to order; ready to hug charcoal chicken and pickled onions or perhaps slow-cooked lamb with a green chilli chutney. Or you can order up aushak and mantu – South Asian dumplings – which see neat braid-like folds encase a herbaceous chive filling; or a soft lamb parcel respectively, both iterations dressed liberally with a spiced lentil sauce and garlicky yoghurt. There’s also a build-your-own lunch box option, with masala-spiced fries, charred veggies and charcoal cooked meats.
Whatever meal you purchase, it sees two meals donated to Afghan communities in need, the first donated through charity partner Mahboba’s Promise, which helps widows and orphans in Afghanistan. The second meal is donated through Plate It Forward, the local charity responsible for bringing the restaurant to life.
Plate It Forward was set up by Shaun Christie-David and Peter Jones-Best, and Kabul Social is its second community-minded restaurant, joining Colombo Social in Enmore. Through their outreach work the team found a strong and vibrant community of Afghan women, and Kabul Social is their response to giving them a platform to cook, share their culture and also create employment and roots in a new city.
The women all fled Afghanistan due to ongoing political unrest and the restrictions of basic human rights, particularly for women. Led by restaurant manager Roya Swita, the team of strong women share their cooking, whilst settling into life in Australia. Yakut, who’s been dubbed the chief of bread, gets in early every morning to prove a soft yeasty dough for flatbreads; while Roya oversees human resources for the wider Plate It Forward group. As a female rights advocate in Afghanistan, Roya now brings her lived experience to support the mental health and wellbeing of all Plate it Forward staff.
Sticking with the theme of giving, Kabul Social’s entire fit-out was donated by the Building Guild. Interiors are a warm-yet-bright Afghan blue, with tiling and dinnerware sourced carefully with a nod to the architecture of Afghanistan. Though the quarters of Kabul Social are small, the kitchen is able to cater for offices and meetings, meaning larger groups can join in on the feel-good feast.
Co-founder Christie-David is passionate about helping people not only through employment, but also through connection, which is sure (along with the food) to be a highlight of Kabul Social. “The thing that motivates everyone to share their authentic recipes is to showcase our similarities. We are more alike than we are different,” he says.