From The Ridiculous To The Sublime: My Baby Shot Me Down

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

There are things that you reasonably expect will be Difficult To Find. Dodos, for example. An affordable terrace house in Paddington. Proper cupcakes. Then, there are other things that it just never occurs might be anything other than readily available...

Picture: Little Cabbage on Flickr. Dodos online are verging on a dime a dozen - but dodos this cute are much rarer.

Breakfast in Surry Hills is one of those things. In fact, you’d think finding breakfast in Surry Hills might be around the level of difficulty of shooting fish in a barrel. And yet.

I had a rare and much-anticipated Monday off work a couple of weeks ago while the trifle-eating cat’s parents were in town. And, while dinner options are often more limited on a Monday, the idea that this also applies to breakfast was most unexpected. People work, and want to get something tasty to eat on their way there. Especially on a Monday, to help cushion the blow of the start of the week.

There was a café that was also much-anticipated for breakfasting, and I’d been carefully saving it up for just such an occasion. And so, perky, hungry and raring to go, we presented ourselves at the door – thankfully it didn’t appear to be too busy... wonderful. Then. Then we were briskly informed that breakfast service had ended 20 minutes prior, and that the chef wasn’t disposed to accommodate extensions. On a Monday. A quiet Monday, with barely two other tables occupied. In a financial downturn. At a small café. Not run by, for instance, Heston Blumenthal. The waiter returned with our coffees and advised that, “in about five minutes the lunch menu would start”, and he’d be back to take our orders. We let him know, much more politely than we felt, that this wouldn’t be necessary. Then gulped our coffee and went.

Two phone calls later (in a bid to avert any further traipsing for unattainable breakfast), we galumphed up the road, and found breakfast salvation. Pieno, in the (relatively) new development on the corner of Crown and Campbell Streets, had breakfast. All day breakfast. And, very sensibly, also all day lunch. It also turned out to have lovely fluffy scrambled eggs, granola just the right side of superfluous sweetness, good coffee and friendly service. Phew!

Picture: Simon Food Favourites - who has always been to places I have yet to visit, with all sorts of helpful menu navigations!

Over breakfast, there was some debating about the wisdom of small cafés, without websites, turning away eager diners. While I can well appreciate that over-demanding customers and a litany of demands must try the patience of many a restaurateur, seeking breakfast while it’s still morning doesn’t exactly strike me as unreasonable. Certainly not as unreasonable as a place which actually has a period during the day where you can’t order any food. And, while I’m a little reluctant to give them any more what I feel is quite undeserved publicity, in the interests of helping anybody else avoid lacking breakfast, our day tried to begin at Bang Bang on Reservoir Street.

So how do food bloggers behave when they come across what they regard as poor service (or, for that matter, poor food)? Should the cheery demeanour of many blogs preclude reviews being written about disappointing visits? Is it important to above all, be honest, especially in the interest of those who read the blog? After all, for me, my favourite food bloggers are the place I start when looking for somewhere new to try out, to see what it might be like. If writing is so cautiously diplomatic through fear of offence (or worse) that it describes the place poorly, then this seems to defeat the point of writing about it. But neither is grumbling an enjoyable read, or fair on small businesses. This is something I’m definitely still thinking about...*

And, from a day that began badly, Monday turned into a day that ended so very well. There was dinner at Glebe Point Diner, which I’d been wanting to visit for well over a year. And it was worth waiting for, too... none of that feeling of having quietly incubated enthusiasm only to have grown a disappointment just waiting to be hatched.

Picture: Lemonade Land

The restaurant occupies an unobtrusive terrace on a quiet section of Glebe Point Road (at the risk of stating the obvious). The interior is restrained, without feeling cold or cavernous, and leans more towards a bistro feel than the name implies. The menu, which changes daily, had a number of promising options, but I was gladdened to hear there was a special of roast chicken – rumour had it this was a serious contender for one of the best roast chooks in Sydney. Rumour turned out to be quite right.

I began with goose liver pate – the first time in quite a while I’d seen goose, rather than the usual duck and chicken. It was luxuriant, creamy, and far easier to eat than something so rich has any right to be. It won the approval of the trifle-eating cat’s dad, who worked his way through even richer-looking nettle gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.

And then the chicken. Oh, the chicken. An enormous mound of three cuts of roast chicken, looming on top of a moat of bread sauce. Poking under the chicken uncovered buttery Brussels sprouts with pancetta. It was so simple, so unhealthy and so utterly delicious. It would, I suspect, be comfortably shared between two. Especially if those two were trying to save some room for dessert.

Picture: Eat Show And Tell... this wasn't the exact same roast chicken dish as was served the evening we were there, but it gives a very good sense of it all the same. Big thanks, too, for a wonderful review which gave me a prod to finally go there!

The sort of gluttony that only special occasions can justify led to dessert. Not just any dessert. Chocolate pudding. With chocolate sauce. Which has evidently reduced me to short sentences, far too many capital letters and a great many insufficiently eloquent adjectives. The pudding was the sort that you might dream about crawling into on a murky day to hide from the real world. It was intensely chocolatey but with a spongey texture that meant I wasn’t left feeling as though I’d just eaten a candied hippopotamus.

So what prompted so much superlative gushing over a quiet Monday night dinner? Well, Glebe Point Diner is onto something that isn’t seen as much as might make sense – deceptively simple, unpretentious and thoroughly enjoyable food. And after a wobbly beginning to some days, that is appreciated even more...

* I think, for now, that the balance involves being judicious with any grumbling... not going looking to be difficult, but not being all unwarrantedly Pollyanna. And admitting to my own kitchen failings mightn't hurt, too.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella on August 4, 2010 at 1:23 AM

I've heard much about that roast chicken meal at Glebe Point Diner. Re writing reviews, I always write the positive and negative but in a diplomatic way. We are talking about people's livings after all :)

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