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.

2015 Australian visit III: best club sandwich

I have unaccountable urges from time to time for club sandwiches. The Sofitel in Lyon’s club sandwich last year failed to relieve the urge in a felicitous way.

I was lucky to share the Mandarin‘s club sandwich in Geneva recently and it was better as its price no doubt reflected.

MANDARIN CLUB 29.-
Jambon, Blanc de Poulet, Tomate, Œuf,
Bacon, Laitue, Fromage, Frites ou Salade
Ham, Chicken Breast, Tomato, Egg, Bacon,
Lettuce, Cheese, Fries or Salad

For those who insist on translating those francs into Aussie dollars that’s over $40. So it was no great surprise to me to see the headline here today:

Geneva club sandwiches remain ‘priciest in world’

But the best I’ve had for many a year was at a lovely improved French cafe in Toorak, Mossman Green Tea Rooms. What’s improved? Well, firstly it has a sensible non-French name. Secondly the food is wonderful, unlike any I’ve had in Paris the last several visits I’ve made.

The Mossgreen Club Sandwich $24
Grilled chicken breast, crisp pancetta, egg, tomato, herbed mayo with cress served
on toasted brioche with shoestring fries and winter garden salad

Not the thing for a romantic encounter, it’s only fair to warn you – though I guess what club sandwich is? This one was all over the table – and me – by the time I’d got to the end of it. My elegant luncheon partner Janina watched with aplomb as the destruction took place.

Unfortunately I didn’t get another chance to go back to Mossgreen Tearooms, but it’s at the top of my list when next in Melbourne.

Elegant, light surrounds. Excellent tea served meticulously. Perfect.

2015 Visit to Australia Part I: the eating winners

Best overall:

Ichitaro King William Road Hyde Park SA

Simply the best Japanese by far either of us have eaten outside a couple of particularly special meals in Hakodate. We went here five times in a week, sampling both the excellent value lunch menu a couple of times and the wonderful, exquisitely presented dinner menu. I’m guessing this is considered a medium-priced restaurant locally. Here in Geneva we’d weep with joy if we had something near us selling this sort of food at near the price. Australians just don’t know how lucky you are.

Best overall ignoring price:

Ezards at the Adelphi in Melbourne

I have wondered if Ezards could be as good as it used to be, but a sampling of their Express Lunch menu knocked those doubts out of my head.

EXPRESS LUNCH MENU $55

The waiter took care to advise is that the serves were small and that’s certainly the case. Three courses still left room for dessert. I wondered if Ezard has toned down the flamboyance of the desserts, which appealed to me more than they used to in the days I could trot in for a meal on a whim.

You are not only paying for stunning food requiring the utmost expertise to prepare. You are paying for surroundings which permit a civil meeting. No loud music, no bad acoustics. no crammed together diners.

We went to a huge number of restaurants on our trip this year. More to come…

Danish smørrebrød

Speaking of things Scandinavian, as I have been lately, in Melbourne at the beginning of the year we happened upon a smørrebrød at Denmark House in Melbourne.

We started out in the bar, cooling down after walking in from forty-in-the-shade before heading into this lovely setting:

Denmark House smorgasbord (5)

Stylish surrounds and an excellent value meal. The cinnamon buns are brought in from Denmark. They were good, but I’m a bit surprised that there aren’t wonderful local examples to hand. For a change, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Danish smørrebrød
Danish smørrebrød

Denmark House smorgasbord (4)

Denmark House smorgasbord (9)

Denmark House smorgasbord (10)

Denmark House smorgasbord (11)

Denmark House smorgasbord (12)

Denmark House smorgasbord (8)

Cowderoy Deli

Continuing on with catching up on our record of the last trip to Oz, I don’t even know if you are allowed to go to Cowderoy Deli without kiddies in tow. The deli opens up onto the park and playground. The food, as you can see, caters for the clientele!

'Excuse me? Waiter?'
‘Excuse me? Waiter?’

Cowderoy Deli (2)

Cowderoy Deli (3)

Cowderoy Deli (4)

The French Brasserie

The French Brasserie, Malthouse Lane, Melbourne

The French Brasserie, Malthouse Lane, Melbourne

It isn’t hard to do French better than the French do it – even the English manage this small feat. We were pleasantly surprised to discover this lovely French brasserie in the top end of town. We went for their express lunch – 2 courses and a glass of wine for $35. The staff was kind enough to change my wine for a cup of tea. Terrific value.

French Brasserie (1)

French Brasserie (3)

Postscript: alas, we didn’t manage to get back this year, maybe 2015.

Queueing? Not even for vegemite icecream.

We are standing outside a cafe in suburban Adelaide. It is a lousy evening, below 20C and unpleasantly windy. Unlikely for Adelaide in January, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Speaking of which, the place we are trying to get into is The Eggless Dessert Cafe. They open at 8pm, we got there at 8.15pm and there was already a queue and a 45 minute waiting list. Just imagine if they were in the middle of town on a good night.

Clearly there is only one way I am only ever going to get to this cafe and that is by booking, which they accept for 6+ people. Some other trip it will happen, if only because I have a desperate curiosity to test the vegemite icecream. It has to be done, doesn’t it?

Having exchanged a comment about this on my last post, I have to qualify the idea I would never queue. If a nice waiter takes me to a bar, sits me down and offers me a drink while I wait for a table – yes. That’s my idea of queueing.

Ambience. The big trade off.

I’ve never been much for ambience – if the food’s good, that’s enough for me, but then, ambience was never measured in decibels. I don’t really see why this should be a tradeoff – why the best food can’t be served in the best environment – but for now, in Melbourne, at least, a tradeoff is inevitable.

To take an example from a couple of weeks ago, expecting to pay similar prices, we went to the Windsor rather than to Cumulus Inc. We took adequate rather than the best food, gaining at the same time space – and most importantly quiet. I can see no apologies to Cumulus Inc are necessary. The place is always packed by people who evidently think shouting should be part of highend dining. Cumulus, alas, does not need my custom, nor, it would follow, my opinions.

Another day we went to Pei Modern rather than The Grainstore, which has lovely food but has succumbed to the ‘if the music isn’t loud how can people tell they are having fun?’ attitude. Pei Modern’s take on tagliatelle with pesto was not great, but served up with peace, it was more than adequate.

I wouldn’t go to Cacao on Fitzroy St for the cooked breakfast – the only one we did have was baked eggs which were overcooked – but no matter. It is an oasis of serenity. I’ve been going there ever since it opened and the music has always been listenable both in volume and content.

It is a particular source of mystery to me that restaurant owners think people want to shout at breakfast time. Really? Two that offended in Adelaide were Jones the Grocer in its new permutation as Colin and Co, and Duthy St cafe. Rosey’s on the other hand, sitting on Unley Rd in between these two does it right. Music if you must, but stricly background please. A Mother’s Milk, just nearby, is noisier, but it has a back room which is relatively quiet.

As for the Stranded Cafe in Colonel Light Gardens, it does play music too loud, but when we explained that we were too old to shout over breakfast they turned it down for us. I don’t know if they are always as accommodating.

Whoops, I did it again.

This trip I’ve walked out of more cafes and restaurants before taking a seat than I care to remember. Chin Chin I’ve walked out of twice and yet I found myself in this establishment seated and ordering on Sunday evening. You can get Chin Chin food all sorts of places, but it’s not just anywhere you have to shout all night. Anna put me onto an Age article which discussed the impact this on you – it even makes it harder to taste. Don’t have to worry too much about the food then, is that it, eating experience concept developers?

I am, however, developing a theory. You know that thing some people do where they constantly jiggle their leg up and down and it drives you crazy? Somebody told me once that the way to neutralise this is to jiggle too. And it works. If you have never tried it and you are thinking of jumping the table to kill the person doing it, hang on just a minute. Try jiggling back. Ever had to sit at the table with somebody who has a disgusting sniff that has you enraged by its grossness? Sniff back. Keep sniffing back. It works.

So if you ARE willing to shout all night during dinner, this does make being in the shouting establishments bearable – apparently the owner of Chin Chin thinks people shouting at each other with loud music blaring equates to enjoyment. Not pleasant by any means, but you can get on with the business of eating and as long as you move along at a decent pace you won’t have to see the ear specialist the next day.

But I was damned if I was going to do shouting two days in a row. If Miss Chu was doing the eating experience concept for Australia’s establishments for illegal refugees, there’d be an outcry. It is torture at its simplest. It made Chin Chin a zone of serenity. I will never know what the food is like at Miss Chu.

The good thing is, eschewing Miss Chu found us at a place I’d been meaning to try for ages – Collins Quarter. I never used to think ambience mattered in restaurants, you went for the food. But now that shouting is becoming compulsory at so many places, it has moved to the top of my list. I really mean top. I’d rather sit in a place and eat indifferent food than shout my way through dinner.

Enter Collins Quarter, which manages to combine an atmosphere where talking is possible with food that is worth concentrating on. This really is worthy of the name ‘complex’, having several quite different spaces at one’s disposal. I can’t speak for the outside area, but we sat in the bar, which was quiet, and when we were ready to eat we accepted the suggestion of the waitress that we move into one of the booths at the side of the bar. So far so good. We sampled the platter to share, then the gnocchi, the schnitzel and a fig salad, followed by one dessert, all of which The food was simply reasonably priced and fair quality. Having said that, I do so wish that restaurants could move on from goat’s cheese. I will cheer the day it becomes unfashionable.

I’m hoping to go back for breakfast – I’ve never understood the idea that packet muffins are edible (though clearly this is a minority opinion) – and Collins Quarter is the first place I’ve ever seen that has house made English muffins. I have to say I’m curious.