Beer has come a long way in Australia. Whether judged by a glance through the myriad breweries and beer styles covering the country, or by considering the number of venues and bottleshops now serving craft beer, things have most definitely changed.
Beer’s elevation to the dining table has come a long way too; it might have been a slow process, but a growing number of restaurants and pubs today showing a willingness to work with breweries in pairing each other’s wares. Yet such nights can be fleeting, at least outside beer weeks, with beer rarely treated with the same reverence as wine when it comes to dining out. Even today, when the craft beer revolution is more akin to an invasion, it remains commonplace to flick through a restaurant’s drinks list and find a novella devoted to wine and mere token bullet points given over to beer.
Kekou, however, is not that kind of restaurant. Instead it’s a place where food and beer are accorded equal respect. In China, Kekou means “taste good” and, with a broad South East Asian menu and 18 taps of craft beer, there’s plenty to taste at the Richmond venue.
Opening in March 2019, Kekou is the work of a passionate team whose extensive travels and backgrounds have led to a combination of craft beer and food and, in the process, breathed new life into a closed Bridge Road institution, The Curry Club.
The team at Kekou stripped the space back to its bare bones to reveal exposed brick, beams and concrete that could easily have made the space feel like an overly sleek café. Instead, the indoor plants, low light and recycled wood that feature throughout the venue combined to create an ambience that’s both comfortable and warm.
It’s a project that took close to two years to complete, requiring a rebuild of the kitchen, installation of a cool room and a few other changes to turn the space into exactly what the team had envisioned. Chief among the revamp are the 18 taps that catch the eye as soon as you walk in. It’s not that anything’s loud about them, rather the bar is one of simplicity: wooden panels and taps decorated with just the Kekou logo; there’s no decals or branding to be seen, just the names of the beers written on a blackboard.
What the bar does have that few restaurants do is a mighty impressive tap list, one that regularly rotates through local breweries and where on any given day you can take your pick from the hoppy, the sour, the dark and pretty much anything in between.
The food menu is extensive too, twisting and turning through different Asian regions for inspiration: mackerel fish cake wrapped in banana leaf, veal shank green curry and jackfruit baos merely hint at the kind of food you’ll find. Largely, it’s designed to be shared and, with so many taps of beer, the options for pairing with beer are endless.
If you need help, the Kekou staff are there to guide you and talk about the kind of beer and food you might like to see spread across your table. Or, if you want a combination as diverse as the food, there are always the tasting paddles, served with house roasted nuts and – like much of the venue – are upcycled, built from oars brought back from travels in Malaysia. Should your desires still not be sated, the fridge is also kept well stocked with packaged beer and the wine, spirits and cocktail list are all extensive and regularly change.
Upstairs, the simplicity and warm glow from downstairs continues, with more tables and another six taps. It’s here where regular beer masterclasses also take place, intended for anyone looking to enrich their knowledge and experience.
And enriching is most certainly what the venue does. Bridge Road has long been a food hub and, more recently, it’s been gaining traction for beer too. Kekou brings both together and one roof and doesn’t skimp on anything.
Here’s hoping it’s a sign of what’s to come in the world of Australian dining as Kekou sure tastes good.