• The pastrami rendang sandwich on rye at Warkop. (Audrey Bourget)Source: Audrey Bourget
Try pastrami rendang and gado-gado sandwiches from Warkop – if you can. This new Richmond cafe has a menu that often sells out.
Audrey Bourget

25 May 2021 - 10:39 AM  UPDATED 22 Jun 2021 - 9:35 PM

“Warkop is an abbreviation for 'warung kopi'. They are casual street stalls where everyone comes in and has instant coffee and food like instant noodles. They hang the instant coffee outside so you can choose it, and then they make it for you. It’s very casual,” explains Barry Susanto. “They’re everywhere in Indonesia, every ten metres you find one, even in residential areas.”

They are the inspiration behind the coffee and sandwich shop – aptly name Warkop – that he opened in April with his friend Erwin Chandra. They wanted the cafe to have a similar vibe: casual and welcoming.

They've decked out Warkop in blue and orange, reminiscent of the colourful tarps at the front of many warung kopi, and attached bags of instant coffee to the counter – but the comparison ends here. The instant coffee is just for show and there’s a lot of work behind their sandwiches.

Susanto and Chandra met over a decade ago while working at Dukes Coffee Roasters, respectively as chef and barista. They had both just moved to Australia from Indonesia, and had friends in common.

They’ve been thinking of opening something together since, and the opportunity presented itself during last year’s lockdown. While working at Navi, Susanto started turning some of his favourite Indonesian dishes into sandwiches for his colleagues. “I normally work long hours and don’t have time to do anything, but last year, while we were only doing takeaway, I had the time and kitchen space. Without their kitchen, we wouldn’t have this right now – so I’m very thankful,” he says.

Susanto was used to cook dishes like chicken taliwang and rendang at home, but he had to adapt his recipes so they would work as sandwiches. The team at Navi acted as taste-testers. “Their feedback was very good, but not everything worked and they were really honest to me,” he says.

Warkop’s menu now features the greatest hits he worked on over the last year. One of those is the gado-gado sandwich, inspired by the Jakartan salad. Susanto has replaced the potatoes with a Turkish roll, which is filled with fried tempeh and tofu, lettuce, bean sprouts and the obligatory peanut sauce.

Another Indonesian staple, beef rendang, has become pastrami rendang on light rye. The pastrami comes from a local butcher and the rendang recipe has been passed down by a friend from Padang, where the dish originates. “Rendang is a food I loved growing up,” says Susanto. “We serve it with American cheddar cheese – the only cheese you can find back home is cheddar cheese. We don’t have that much dairy and if you do have it, it’s very expensive. That reminds me of home.” The mix of brined beef, spiced coconut milk and cheese is an unexpected hit.

Another Indonesian staple, beef rendang, has become pastrami rendang on light rye. The pastrami comes from a local butcher and the rendang recipe has been passed down by a friend from Padang, where the dish originates.

Susanto’s favourite is the chicken taliwang, a dish he became obsessed with during a family holiday in Lombok. The chicken is marinated with tomato, shallots, garlic, shrimp paste and sand ginger, then slow-cooked and grilled. Its juice is reduced and added to the mayo. The result is a juicy chicken sandwich on sourdough.

Also noteworthy is the kaya toast on brioche, which is available all day. Susanto has tweaked Chandra’s mum’s recipe for the coconut jam by adding puffed rice and salt – a clever idea.

The chef, who is from Jakarta, wants to share how varied Indonesian cuisine is through his sandwiches. “I try to take people on a journey throughout the whole country – rather than just one city,” he explains.

Ingredients are mostly organic and free-range, from the Zeally Bay Sourdough bread to the meat to the coffee (from Dukes Coffee Roasters, the duo's old employer). “It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s better quality, better for the environment and better for everyone,” says Susanto.

Susanto and Chandra start their day at 5:30 am and are on their feet until 6 pm, trying to make enough sandwiches for their hungry customers. Still, they sell out on most days. “We have to go home at some point,” says Susanto, with a smile.


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12 Risley St, Richmond
Monday – Friday 7 am – 3 pm

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