Adelaide: food out

EATING OUT

Chianti Classico  is still my favourite breakfast place in Adelaide. Sophisticated menu, impeccable service. However, there are many great sounding places that we didn’t get to this time. Unlike other trips we stayed in our own place and sitting in one’s backyard eating breakfast under the shade of a vine has its attractions.

Ichitaro is is a world-class Japanese restaurant on King William St Hyde Park. Its lunch menu on Fridays and Saturdays is plain unbelievable value and its evening offerings are masterly in taste and presentation, whilst remaining excellent value too. Whereas we will be able to go to London for good breakfasts when we are back in Geneva, nothing will replace Ichitaro.

Mrs Q Gouger St. Good Asian fusion, nice surrounds, overly attentive waiters ( large place, we were early), generous serves, will be back.

Vietnamese Laundry We dropped in for a quick lunch the other day, tried the salads, a really nice heat to them, excellent value at $12 or so per serve.

Lucky Lupitas  We almost didn’t get here, it’s up towards the North end of O’Connell’s St and we had to walk past the enticing smells from a Greek restaurant to get there. We managed, but only just. Just a quick meal, but it was darn good – Manny said it would hold its own in California which prides itself on its Mexican. I can only compare it with the dire Mexican interpretation that New Mexico inflicts upon unsuspecting tourists. No wonder the Mexicans want to build a wall.

Katsumoto is a simple cafe in Gays Arcade, it does cheap unpretentious lunches. We can’t go past the eel and the eggplant to date.

Larry and Ladd There will be a moment in your life when you need a toasted cheese sandwich that very moment and I can only wish, even upon my enemies, that they find Larry and Ladd close to hand. Their plain toasted sandwich is practically life-saving.

Naturally we tried out some of the places close to us. In no particular order:

Sublime East Ave. Everybody should live on a short street with a cafe at the end of it!

Carnevale East Ave. Even closer than Sublime. You can get freshly ground coffee/beans to take home, as well as all the usual things onsite.

The Middle Store Winston Ave. Sort of Lebanesey, nice!

Dear Daisy  Leah Street. Cute, and like the others named above, all nice places to hang out.

Bar Fifty 8 Brand new, a couple of us grabbed coffee there on our way back from lunch at the Rice Bar and it was declared excellent. It has a good look about it and we look forward to lunch there some time.

Pickle in the Middle I just love this breakfast dish and haven’t yet managed to get past it: Breakfast greens 16 Poached egg, shredded kale, Asian greens, snow peas, whole oat kernels and lentil sprouts, toasted seeds, watermelon radish, orange. If you ask me it sounds weird at best, but honestly? It’s fantastic!!

By Blackbird Still haven’t been here – it has a dark look from the street which somehow puts me off – but a friend brought their cakes around recently and they are stunning. In the posh cake French style Manny thought they were at least as good as anything he’s had in Geneva. We are going to have to bite the bullet and go there one day.

A small intro to the next two. One of the things that makes Adelaide special is non-licensed cafes that open at night, generally specialising in dessert. The atmosphere is totally different from places that serve grog. Long may they thrive!

Eggless Cafe Famous doesn’t begin to describe this place. We had to go three times before we joined a queue small enough that we could actually get in when it opened! The first time I swear it was about minus 2 degrees, strong wind, rain, we got there a few minutes after opening time and yet the best we could do is put our name on the waiting list and try coming back in 45 minutes. Which we did not do. Instead we went to….

Spats Cafe  A blast to the past if ever there was one. Seventies written all over it. We love it and to have both this and Eggless Cafe (which is so very different from Spats) within a short walk of each other is very lucky for us. Spats isn’t quite as crowded as Eggless, but it’s close. You can book.

I can see there are many eating out experiences we’ll be leaving for our next visit, this one coming to a close soon. I pray that Adelaide doesn’t end up like Melbourne with too many cafes and not enough anything elses. For now, it has a great balance and more on that next post.

Food notes: Berlin 2016

Melbourne Canteen is closed. What a shame!

The Silo: is still excellent for Australian food and coffee.

The Pantry: I was disappointed. I understand that the chef of this Asiany sort of place was trained in Melbourne but I’m a little surprised at the consequences. To me the food lacked balance. Too much sweetness, not enough of the sour, hot and salt that create the completeness of flavour. Everything tasted a bit like Rosella tomato sauce. The famous ribs were rather bland, I thought.

La Banca: Is the bistro of the Hotel di Rome. It does a fabulous lunch menu: 3 courses plus tea/coffee and bottled water 26Eu. The food was impeccable, service good, music was not intrusive, though not always to our taste. It was a nice place to take one’s time, it serves all day and therefore there is no rush to get you out the door. My only gripe after several meals here was that they had something called ‘lasagne’ on the dinner menu which was awful. It had one sheet of pasta at the bottom of the plate, and on top a horribly sweet lumpy meat sauce which they misguidedly called ‘bolognaise’. Nothing like any bol sauce I’ve ever eaten.

Tea was excellent, good quality pots, extra water when asked (not having to ask would be better) and nice china.

The Lobby at The Regent: The menu here is more substantial than one would guess from looking at their site. It includes schnitzel, for example, which was simply served with fried potatoes and a sweet sauce, perhaps cranberry, served on the side.

Its tea was same standard as La Banca’s, served similarly. Again, one had to ask for extra hot water, but it came in a pot as requested. The music is classical. At 12 Eu/pot I would expect no less. Fabulous iced chocolates, by the way.

Aigner: We only ate here once, we had fish soup, which was good, but not great. It was a special and maybe expecting better than good in an Austrian restaurant was unreasonable.

Monsieur Vuong: Very trendy, theoretically Vietnamese, though traditionalists will roll their eyes at that. I had Pho which was very short on herbs and the beef was too posh for the purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I wolfed it down. We were all very happy. The place is a licence to print money, it was large and packed at 6.30pm in a country where people seem to eat fairly late. If you are in the area, it’s fun and worth a visit.

No Fire No Glory: one of the best regarded coffee places in Berlin. Okay also for simple breakfasts like granola, but it isn’t like Silo, caffeine is what it’s all about. Good atmosphere, Australian at the counter.

Cafe Moma: Manny (my coffee tester) pronounced this the best of the three he’d had that morning, which must make it outstanding, since there must have been some sort of diminishing returns thing going on there. Australian behind the counter. Must go back for food.

Cafe Stockholm: has a great feel to it, love to have the time to have a leisurely cafe meal here on another visit. Cinnamon bun nice, but I think I made a mistake having it heated. Micro-waving things like that never works. Coffee was okay, but behind Moma and No Fire. All are within a few minutes’ walk from each other.

Microsoft Eatery: The drinks are great: excellent tea, good coffee, juices squeezed to order. The lunch food we ordered was terrible. Breakfast was better, but the bircher muesli was so thick one could hardly get a spoon into it. Fortunately we’d ordered a serve of yoghurt and fruit too and mixing them together worked. Stick to drinks is my advice!

Cadadia: does a nice blueberry scone of that Germanic type: huge, heavy, dense. Other things will have to wait for another time.

 

Satay House, London

I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, but it turned out I was alive and just happening to be staying around the corner from Satay House. Even in London it isn’t easy to get good SE Asian food and in Geneva, impossible.

The chef is the daughter of the original proprietors and she tinkers to perfect things, but it remains authentic. After eating my way through quite a bit of the menu over a succession of visits, I asked her about the chicken rice – I wasn’t after something that was mucked about. She pointed to her face and said ‘See these bags under my eyes? They are from making chicken rice.’ She wants to get everything right.

And she does. Staples like satays, laksa and kway teow are as good as I’ve had anywhere. Well, maybe Nonya Hut in Syndal does better laksa by a whisker. When I’m in Melbourne and go to Nonya Hut, I always have the laksa because I go there so rarely. I always say to myself if I lived around the corner, then I’d have laksa every other time and try other things too! Here we had that luxury. We sampled the following, some of them more than once and the laksa as many times as was necessary, which is to say, every second visit.

Satay
Char-grilled chicken or lamb skewers marinated in spices and herbs, served with peanut sauce, cucumber, rice cubes and onion. 8.60

Tahu Sumbat (v)
Tofu filled with vegetables accompanied with sweet peanut sauce. 4.20

Ayam Bawang Putih
Fried Chicken Wings tossed in garlic and chillies. 6.80

Nasi Goreng Kampung
Fried rice with anchovies, egg, vegetables, prawn in belacan chilli onion base. 8.20

Nasi Lemak
Steamed coconut rice served with prawn sambal, cucumber, peanuts, fried anchovies and boiled egg. 9.30

Beriani
Beriani rice with chicken or lamb, served with vegetable acar and dalca.
Lamb 10.80  Chicken  9.10

Kway Teow Goreng
Stir fried freshly made flat rice noodles with prawn, squid, egg and vegetables. 13.30

Kari Laksa
Noodle curry soup with prawn, egg, chicken, tofu and vegetables.

Rendang Daging
Traditional Malay braised beef with coconut milk and spices. 8.80

Kari Ayam
Malaysian chicken curry with potatoes. 8.10

Gado Gado
Malaysian salad with potato, rice cubes, tofu, beansprouts, fine beans and cucumber served with peanut sauce. 6.60

Rojak Buah
Famous Malaysian ‘Street Food’ fruit salad with home-made rojak sauce. 6.60

Roti Canai (v)
Home-made traditional bread, with side of dalca.
Plain 4.80 Egg & Onion 5.10

Murtabak
Bread filled with minced lamb, egg and served with pickled onions and dalca. 6.80

* * *

The only thing we had on the menu we wished we hadn’t was:

Begedil
Spiced lamb and potato cutlets. 4.20

Rather insipid mashed potato with some lamb in there somewhere. I didn’t understand the point of these and it was the only thing we ordered there which was left unfinished.

It was my opinion that the Rendang did not use the right cut of beef, it needs something fatty and sinewy that will be soft and juicy when cooked and this one failed in that regard. The gravy was good all the same.

***

The ambience is wonderful. Firstly I can’t believe that they have managed to provide a proper restaurant setting at the prices charged. Secondly, it feels like a family place, all the staff have the air of belonging there, like it wasn’t just a job.

On day one, after we’d demolished the Rojak, the chef came out to ask our opinion. They were trying to get the sauce ‘just right’. That set the tone for our lunches there for the rest of the trip and I’m already hankering to go back.

NOTE: booking is highly recommended.

 

Fleur de Sel: Kempinski hotel Portoroz

On the basis of my one experience at the Kempinski in Geneva, I had been prepared to judge the whole chain as severely wanting. However, the menu at the Fleur de Sel looked so good and affordable, that I had to give it a go. In fact, over 5 days we made it our regular haunt.

Portoroz must have been beautiful in 1900. Now it follows the habit of capitalist development, truly tacky buildings complete with neon signs flashing ‘casino, casino’, music blaring every few feet, all in competition for space in your head. And this, on the edge of a glorious vista of the Adriatic sea. What a sin!

The Kempinski is a peculiar mix of that 1900 and 2016. The facade has been left of The Palace Hotel, complete with manicured gardens in front. Joining it via a short walkway at mezzanine level is a modern building which houses the Fleur de Sel. In the main, it is tastefully done, though there is a BMW displayed in a glass box at the entrance of the modern annexe. It is entirely out of place, but by the standards of the area, one should probably not complain.

The weather was perfect while we were there, and we always sat out on the balcony overlooking the pool, with a view towards the garden and the sea. I confess I expected to hate the tackiness of a pool setting, but for whatever mysterious reason, it works, at least partly because the pool itself is an aesthetically pleasing one of its kind.

Kempinski swimming pool

Over the course of 5 days we sampled the following:

Istrian fish starter plate with swordfish prosciutto, mackerel in Moscato d’Asti, octopus salad, homemade baccala cream, apple capers and grissini
15,50 €

Ceasar salad with fresh tuna
13,50 €

Mittelgerichte Linguini with Adriatic mussels à la buzarra
11,50 € / 15,50 €

Acquerello risotto with Adriatic sepia and leek (black or white)
13,00 € / 17,00 €

Asparagus ravioli with smoked asparagus mousselin and asparagus clear soup
12,70 € / 16,70 €

Piran sea bass fillet with dry tomato-olives sauce, grilled prawns and parsley risotto
28,50 €

Filet of salmon with olive crust, asparagus, fennel and orange mashed potatoes
28,50 €

Scallops on the shell, gratinised
30 €

While ordering we would sample a generous basket of impeccably baked breads, presented with the local (very good) olive oil, local olives, the famous local salt and butter on which to put it. Service was without fault, friendly, efficient, advisory when asked.

Kempinski mussels

Although all the meat dishes were attractive in print, we could never resist the lure of the seafood – sitting on the Adriatic, what else could we do? As befits seafood, the dishes were all sophisticated without being overly complicated. Only two did not succeed. The Caesar salad was not anything like that dish and although it was okay, I would not recommend it. The other were the scallops, a special one evening which I could not go past. I didn’t realise that ‘gratinised’ would be entirely dry, with a breaded topping. Unfortunately scallops can’t stand up to that. They need either to be cooked more quickly or with something more liquid with them in the shell. Otherwise, everything was a triumph.

In Geneva we never eat out because to get this standard of food one would have to pay  at least double the price. It was a treat and a privilege to be able to frequent this restaurant.

We did always leave room for dessert.

Honey panna cotta with toasted hazelnut crumble and candied kumquats
6,50 €

Flourless chocolate cake with cherry sauce and pomegranate sorbet
7,30 €

Custard apple crème with peach jelly and mango meringue
6,30 €

These sophisticated desserts were all given the thumbs up by others at the table. I, however, needed icecream, which upon enquiry could be provided. Two scoops of chocolate icecream, perfectly presented: soft, but not too soft, with chocolate and some crumbs by way of decoration. I could have eaten a dozen of these every day. Ahem.

We only drank the local mineral water and beer with our meals. I had several pots of tea which came with freshly baked biscuits. Hot chocolate was Italian style, extremely thick, extremely hot and extremely good. Espresso coffee was pronounced excellent. The one latte ordered was the only straightforward disaster, so pallid that the coffee didn’t look much different from the white froth that filled the top half of the glass.

 * * *

The bar should be a nice place but loses all of its ambience marks by having three screens. We were in a screenless area, but nonetheless were aurally assaulted by the screens not only being on, but being on different shows, one blaring into the left ear, the other into the right. I don’t understand why five star hotel bars should be in the nature of sports bars. Any that are, lose me as a customer. Fortunately, the Fleur de Sel operates as a cafe as well as restaurant, so avoiding the bar was no onerous task.

 

 

 

 

 

The highs and lows of eating in Madrid

One of the hot spots to be in Madrid (and elsewhere in Spain) is Cafe Federal , an Australian cafe as one might guess from the name. We went twice. At 10.30pm there was a queue for dinner which we joined. It is very simple cafe fare, the ubiquitous burger dominating. Ours were okay, but why wouldn’t a burger manage that? We returned the next day for breakfast, aware that in the morning and in particular Sunday morning as this was, it would be a next to impossible meal to find in Spain. Mine was truly dire, the worse version of baked eggs I’ve ever had. The staff was not the least bothered that I left the entire thing bar a mouthful. It even looked awful.

For somebody in exile like me, it is nice to see Australia gradually spreading over Europe, but whereas the standard of our fare in Berlin recently was excellent, this was not. And yet, as you will have noticed, the place is hugely popular. I haven’t eaten enough in Spain to know if this is a case of ‘the grass is greener’ or that Spanish food is terrible.

Unfortunately we only discovered late in our trip that the place to go for breakfast in the morning was C.O.M.E. which was just across the road from our hotel. Too easy. Excellent pastries, bread dishes, not an Australian breakfast but a really good one and they open, like bakeries always do, early – not the crack of dawn, but 8am, which by Spanish standards, given that they only finish eating dinner after midnight, is jolly early indeed.

Also in the general vicinity of our hotel was The Secret Garden, or if you want to get all Spanish about it, El Jardin Secreto The food ranges from okay to average to a bit above that at a stretch. You go because it might be the cutest place you ever eat at. Also, being a cafe, they serve at all the hours during which non-Spanish people want to eat.

There’s nobody who does it like the Ritz, right? I was rather disappointed the only time I’ve been to the London Ritz. It didn’t help that the guy at the door didn’t want to let my shoes in. But the Ritz in Madrid really does do it like the Ritz. The lounge area is spectacular and includes a cocktail pianist who kicks off in the morning. The first tea I was served here was so correctly presented that it was the first time I’ve moved The Windsor in Melbourne down by a notch. It was elegant, beautiful pastry nibbles on the side, hot water in its own pot. I texted a friend in Australia that I’d died and gone to tea heaven. Next day, however, upon my return, I had to ask for extra hot water. I don’t really understand how it is that a place of this class doesn’t have house rules that get you the same thing each time you order. At any rate, that was enough for them to slip down to 2nd place.

Windsor of Melbourne? You are still unsurpassed as the best place in the world for a cup of tea.

I had lunch one day at The Goya – when you live in Geneva you grab your chances to eat well outside your own kitchen. It was classic, impeccable, but, I’m also afraid to say, forgettable. I honestly can’t recall a single thing I ate.

We had a rather different experience at The Westin Palace. To go to The Rotunda, if only for a drink is a must as the architecture is sore-neck-stunning. Because you spend your time gazing up in awe at the dome above you. While we were there a special option was Japanese Tapas which we thought exquisite and very reasonably priced.

If you are at either of these hotels, it means you are in the area of art galleries and a beautiful park. If the weather is good, I do recommend the latter. Madrid is famous for its parks and on another trip I hope to see more of them.

Eating in London

Vivat Bacchus is situated about opposite London Bridge Station on Tooley Street. We were attracted by the idea of the cheese room, something that could be a bit gimmicky but isn’t in this case. Although they have several cheese plates on the menu, you are welcome to devise your own. One books the cheeses consultant who takes you in and makes suggestions based on your preferences. She really knows her stuff, but so do the waiters.

This is one of those restaurants where the staff have infectious genuine enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, their food. It was easy to decide to eat there twice. In fact, on Saturday night, we were supposed to eat at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant attached to the Tower Bridge Hilton. But we hadn’t even sat down before we realised the complete lack of ambience was not for us. Between loud customers and an open kitchen, we realised we’d be shouting all night. Vivat Bacchus, on the other hand, is not at that noise level even with live jazz playing, as is their Saturday night wont. And, in any case, we could also eat downstairs where it would be quieter, we were told. So it was.

Three happy bunnies overate whilst certain of us overdrank. Everything ranged from ‘okay but next time I’ll try something different’ to ‘must have this again’: I’d in particular put my slow cooked pork rib in that category.

The Caravan‘s a barn, no getting around it, but nonetheless manages an aspect of cosiness to it. We’ve been coming here the last few trips to London both for breakfast before meeting people at the train station or mid-afternoon snack before heading back to Gatwick. It’s well suited to both of these.

We did not have our best meal this trip. I found the pancakes very ordinary indeed – though I’m prepared to accept that may be a personal take. At least I didn’t order the orange juice. The menu says freshly squeezed juices, which the OJ definitely wasn’t. Manny drank it anyway because he’s English. I complained because I’m Australian. It looks like the kind of place that would have a mission statement about ingredients and local and freshness and all that sort of thing, so what was up with the juice?

The first waiter I asked said ‘oh, they are having smoothies’, as I pointed at all the people with glasses of frothy fresh juice. Which they weren’t. It was juice, just juice, clearly from fruit that had been squeezed to within an inch of its life only moments earlier.

When pressed re the orange juice, he said ‘it is freshly squeezed, but not on site’. He said this without irony or shame. A little later on I asked another waitress what that actually meant. Was there a little man sitting in the back yard pedalling a squeezing machine and then it was brought ‘on site’? I pointed out that if they served up water with a sachet of dehydrated orange juice powder, it would still have been ‘freshly squeezed’ somewhere, sometime.

This girl passed me onto the manager who said that they had been having trouble with their supply and agreed it didn’t taste any good. ‘Normally’ she said, ‘We get it from this little company in these cute bottles -‘ Hold it right there. Some kind of brain eating virus was clearly working its way through all the heads of staff at The Caravan. That wouldn’t be ‘freshly squeezed’ would it? But there was worse to come. The little company was not able to supply orange juice at that time and so they were getting it from – I can’t say. I feel so embarrassed for the manager and the name of the place that came out of her at that moment. But if you know the geography of Granary Square, you will figure it out.

Porridge again

I had never made my own porridge until I left Melbourne. Why make one’s own when near to hand is the wonderful porridge with caramelised bananas at Cafe Panette, or the classic with cream and brown sugar at Batch. Or a slightly jazzed up version at Richmond Hill Larder. At the moment it is:

Porridge popped: quinoa and oats with pear & raisin compote, honey oats crumble, labna, drizzle of honey 13.0

I have been to posh places in London where porridge is treated like dirt – do I mean they turn it into mud? Well, they might as well, since they serve up a luke warm sludge that tastes no better than it looks. Why put it on the menu if you aren’t going to respect it? In Melbourne porridge has to taste good and look good.

I make this variant quite often: soak oats in a liberal quantity of apple juice – I can get bio at my local market.

Do that overnight and then at breakfast time heat with milk added to taste and chopped ripe banana. This absolutely needs no sugar added as the apple juice is so very sweet.

Milk for the table and that’s it.

Ah, but there is nothing like sitting in a beautiful cafe having other people fussing over your breakfast. For porridge, I like this post which showcases how you get it in Melbourne’s cafes.