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  • Café Willem Albert, Groningen, Netherlands

    Café Willem Albert, Groningen, Netherlands

    On a recent trip to the Arctic Circle, I started and ended the European mainland part of my campervan road trip in the Netherlands. I had found a great place to park up near Groningen, which I’ve always found to be a charming and manageable small city. l liked it so much, I told my friend Roisin about it and she arrived a few days later to check out its charms.

    The temperatures were soaring in July and, after a little sightseeing in our lightest outfits and best-available hats, we craved some air-conditioning and a light lunch somewhere near the Grote Markt in central Groningen. I spotted the perfect place, with generous shade at the side of the market square and, while most people were outside, we ventured into a beautiful and cool room which stretched throughout the ground floor of its building.

    We were just bushwhacked by the heat. Like a computer chip, I function best in cool temperatures (I may be making that part up!). Roisin looked happy to be parked too!

    This is a well-established bistro at the centre of the city. It garners regular high stars on review websites, but I wanted to see how it ranked for myself.

    Beer seemed like the right drink choice and, armed with two 0.5l Heinekens, we chose from the fry-heavy Chef’s Lunch Menu. Roisin selected a marinated chicken burger. I would have been disappointed as this was a minced chicken product rather than a whole chicken piece, but Roisin is optimistic and seemed to like it. The amount of fries was a bit overwhelming and I think a generous side salad would have been a good choice of accompaniment had it been available.

    I was in the mood for fish and chips, a staple of bistro menus in the Netherlands. The proportion of fries to fish was more balanced here, the wedge of lemon seemed freshly sliced (who wants an ageing wedge?) and the batter was light and maintained a little satisfying chew. The fish had been dusted with a red seasoning. Given that paprika salt is used a LOT in Holland, I’m assuming that this slightly indistinguishable umami seasoning was some form of paprika. No element of smokiness, this isn’t a Spanish version, but a central European flavour.

    Haven’t we moved past faux fry baskets for presentation yet?

    My dish came with two quite generous dips: the first, a black pepper aioli and the second a standard lemon mayonnaise. The black pepper dressing was full of malt vinegar and all the finer for that reason.

    Being my usual nosy self, I went off to find the restrooms and to snap a little photograph or two to share with you. Toilets are downstairs (the stairs were beautifully designed and thoughtfully lit) and in each alcove or corner there is an instagram-worthy vignette.

    However, the star of the show is the bar area itself: high stools in a burnished green leather crowd around a horseshoe-shaped bar with a decent overhang. The metal pipework overhead carries a soupçon of Charles Rennie Mackintosh art nouveau styling and who doesn’t want a reminder of Scottish art in Groningen?

    Our bellies full, we wandered off through Groningen, exploring the wonderful Forum building (subscribe to my YouTube channel for an upcoming video of that).

    Roisin went in search of a fridge magnet to add to her growing collection from all over Europe, which she has toured in her van, Daisy, with her family. Along the way, I found this gorgeous armoire. I just love the pops of mustard appearing from underneath the verdigris.

    Groningen is a must-visit city in the Netherlands, usually overlooked for Amsterdam or Bruges for weekend trips. However, it is an equal in terms of ease of getting around and Café Willem Albert a fine choice for a light supper and cocktails on anyone’s weekend getaway.

  • Mamie Fado in Angers, France

    Mamie Fado in Angers, France

    The city of Angers in North-central France is a favourite of historians fascinated by its UNESCO World Heritage status. For those of us less academically-minded, it’s a stop-off point between some of the Northern French ports and destinations to the South. Like many mid-sized French cities, it is rightly proud of its local produce and its take on local cuisine.

    I picked an evening early in the week to wander out, admiring the beautiful old town across the river, on a crisp late Spring day that meant only the hardy smokers were seated outside under their blankets, while everyone else was keeping warm inside.

    Mamie Fado is one of the most celebrated restaurants on this side of the river and its reputation is well matched by the stylish ‘Maison Maitre’ townhouse it has taken over.

    Oddly, the host/hostess took reservation or seating requests at the barrel you see in the picture above – that’s an iPad and their written notes. I watched how this arrangement worked throughout the evening, given that nobody was sitting outside and, to be honest, it really was a recipe for delay. It took time for a host to notice there was a line of people outside with the knock-on effect of delay to the customers they were serving in the back.

    The restaurateurs have taken their branding seriously, extending their text-heavy logo to water bottles and wine glasses.

    The bar (or rather, cocktail zone) is lit thoughtfully and compliments the rich blue stair colour. The fact that this highlights the colours of the French flag was not lost on me!

    The linen is high quality and charming. However, I’d suggest this textile is best suited to a bistro-style restaurant, or at least that the colour theme used at the cocktail bar be carried through the table linen.

    I chose from a set menu for the evening. The choices for a warm starter were pretty thin and I went with a squash soup with croutons and fried lardons. The cooking on the bacon was patchy – some crispness, but mostly flaccid. The soup was much too thick, like baby food. The addition of more stock or some other flavour profile would have rescued this.

    I chose a main course of steak served with fries and a sauce vert. The sauce was excellent, piquant and thick. The fries had definitely seen properly hot fat at least twice and were crisp and unctuous. The star ingredient, the steak, had plenty of beefy flavour but was so difficult to eat as it was tough. Sometimes an onglet (or hanger steak) can be tough. It’s hard to get just right but it can be tender and flavourful when handled very carefully. This was not the case here. I do laud the chef for the temperature of the beef and the heavy hand with salt flakes.

    The dessert looks marvellous and tasted fine. The butter caramel over a whole cored apple was rich and sweet and could have used a pinch more salt. The milk sorbet with its crunchy granola rather skidded around the plate. If it’s not too nit-picky, I like crumbles and granolas on TOP of other food items that might try to make a run for it!

    Towards the end of the meal, I got chatting with the server about my love for Cointreau. I like it served on ice, no mixer. She produced something I’ve not seen before – Cointreau NOIR – a blend with Cognac. She poured me a tot, for which I was most grateful. The Cognac added a warm vigour to the orange liqueur and I certainly walked back to my lodgings with a full flush on my cheeks!

    It’s plain to see why Mamie Fado has won a place in the culinary heart of the Angers restaurant-goer. There are some things here which are well-done, carefully considered. However, the attention to detail in the design and better courses must carry through into attentive service and the handling of the meat. With both of those, Mamie Fado would be unstoppable.

  • My 1st Smash Burger – Burger She Wrote, Los Angeles

    My 1st Smash Burger – Burger She Wrote, Los Angeles

    Details
    Restaurant: Burger She Wrote
    Location: 7454 1/2 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
    Opening Hours: 11.30am-9.30pm every day

    This restaurant is reviewed on YouTube as part of this Los Angeles vlog (click here).

    When my friend suggested a lunch of either smash burgers or a taqueria, I signed up immediately for burgers. It was one of those days. Within 20 minutes, we were searching for a parking spot off Beverly Boulevard and eyeing up the line outside both the burger joint and the neighbouring taco place.

    Would a bigger sign or different font help with branding?

    I have to admit the lacuna in my knowledge up front. WHAT is a smash burger? My friend pressed his hands together to illustrate, “it’s a burger, but smooshed”. Hmm. Okay. But whyyyy? I put the question to one side for a moment while we perused the menu. In the style of the ‘best’ places, the menu is short which has to mean that everything on it is absolutely perfect. No room for error.

    Menu keeping it simple

    As we were feeling lean (ha!), we both decided on a single smash (onions are amazing but cause all kinds of late night consequences for me) and to share a portion of fries. This turned out to be a wise decision.

    Burger buns

    The interior is, well, rustic. They know they will get through endless burger buns and so, it seems natural in this small space to use every available surface for stock.

    Have I made the right choice?

    In the USA, it’s unusual NOT to have Coke products to the front of the drinks line-up and, I can admit it, I am an occasional fiend for Coke Zero. However, my spritely gaze was turned by a rather excellent selection of Mexican Sodas. Coming from Ireland, I am familiar with the ‘mineral man’ doing the rounds once a week with a wide range of unexpected Irish soft drinks (note for non-Irish readers: ‘mineral’ is used in parts of Ireland to mean ‘pop’, ‘fizzy drink’ or ‘soda’).

    But what to choose?

    That memory from childhood seemed out of place in a ‘very now’ LA burger spot, but here we were with unusual choices. I love the flavour of anything orange and so mandarin was my first choice. My friend went with tamarind, which – to be honest – I think of in terms of south-east Asian savoury cooking.

    That man looks refreshed.

    The flavour in the soda was SPOT ON. The sense of mandarin (rather than orange) was very clear and the bubbles in the soda were more intense and smaller than your average well drink. Some subtlety there and the full sugar hit helped a little with the jet lag!

    Ahhh, so it’s SMASHED!

    Before long, our order was ready. Well, let me correct that… ‘before long’ in US terms works as an indicator of the length of the wait in that country. In Irish terms, you’d have gone up to the counter to make sure the chef hadn’t collapsed onto the hot plate and needed an ambulance and a spatula to be dislodged. And if she/he/they had not, to look balefully at the cashier to wonder where your food was. In other words, it took at least 20 minutes.

    The point of the ‘smash’ part of the burger became obvious when it arrived. It is smashed flat, thereby increasing the surface area of the meat patty. This means MORE of the meat comes into contact with the hot plate, resulting in additional nubbles of deeply umami crunchy steak. Yes, I said nubbles. This, combined with a heart-smashing amount of salt, causes the tongue to explode with joy. The addition of fat-soaked fries acts as a soothing salve, but also as a carrier of additional salt. But there is no sense in which this meal looks appetising. How are you supposed to pick that up?

    Did somebody say ‘fat-soaked’?

    This meal makes for a rich and filling lunch. Opt for the smaller burger to leave with a sense of double smugness: you had fast food, but you didn’t go crazy (= double smug). Or damn everyone to hell and your arteries to sluggishness and go the whole hog. Or cow.

    [You can see this restaurant in the following YouTube video]

  • Scarpello & Co, Derry – Sourdough Pizza Sensation

    Scarpello & Co, Derry – Sourdough Pizza Sensation

    Quick Facts

    • Price for 2: £37.65 (2 courses)
    • Opening Hours: W/Th: 930-2030, F/S: 930-2130, Sun: 1030-2030, closed M/T (for updated hours, check here)
    • Parking: ample parking in front of the building.
    • Location: 20-22 Buncrana Road, Derry/Londonderry, BT48 8AB
    • Patrick visited May 2022


    Right before starting the filming for a new season on Planet Patrick called the “Wild Atlantic Way”, I stopped off in Derry to meet up with old friend and Riverdance Dancer, Joanne Evans. She suggested a lunch at a favourite local eatery, called ‘Scarpello and Co’.

    Great to catch up with Joanne

    I’m sorry to say that I don’t know Derry much at all (of course, apart from Derry Girls) and, other than the odd childhood memory of visiting a hospital there, wasn’t sure what to expect.

    Like myself, Joanne does like a wee photograph!

    Joanne was very certain that I’d love Scarpello and knew that there was lots of parking for this rather nervous new campervan/RV owner!

    I look happy because I know sourdough is coming!

    The atmosphere inside is welcoming and relaxed. Although the entrance is beside the forecourt to a garage, the interior has been carefully considered, from the dark green paint choices, to the decision to leave the entire space open, so that chefs, co-workers and produce is all on show. That takes considerable self-confidence in your product. Staff are dressed in bright red tee-shirts and everyone we spoke to had that uniquely Derry charm that makes you feel like you are visiting with friends. The level of informality felt right for the space.

    The menu focuses on all things sourdough with an Italian twist. The stars of the show are really the pizza choices and my attention was drawn to Number 6, which featured mushrooms, pancetta and slow-cooked leeks – one of my favourite tastes in the world.

    Joanne chose a Marguerita pizza and added shavings of fresh parmigiano reggiano and fresh prosciutto with rocket. To round out an already ambitious order, we went with garlic toast and padrón peppers.

    These appetisers came first. The peppers were heavily doused in salt (perhaps 10% too much) but had been expertly handled so they were just the right temperature. The sourdough in the garlic toast was crunchy perfection, soused with garlic butter and herbs. I could have taken even more garlic flavour, but my palette is almost French in that regard!

    Before long, the pizzas arrived, filling their oversized plates with bubbling goodness. The Neapolitan and Sourdough Pizza families are not closely related. Good examples of the former have cracker-thin dough lightly strewn with ingredients; the latter rests or dies on the quality of the sourdough. This was charred, chewy and topped with unctuous toppings, the salty and yeasty dough risen to perfection. The leeks and cheese had intermingled in a yielding mess so rich that the accompanying aioli dressing was not needed. The portion is big (I’m not complaining) and I went back to my campervan with a box filled with pizza crusts to dip in aioli for my evening snack. I can tell you those crusts made a generous supper too.

    The interior of Scarpello

    Joanne made a great fist of her giant Marguerita pizza, but admitted defeat at a little over half-way. No doubt the remainder found a welcoming home that night too!

    As someone who grew up in the North of Ireland, I loved the food I had when eating out as a child and young adult, but I don’t think I can claim there were many gourmet experiences. I am happy to say there is a burgeoning food scene in the North and not just in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast. Scarpello & Co shows that there is the creative skillset, positive service attitude and endurance to make a success of a food business when so many have been forced out of business by the pandemic. It’s rare that I’m so fulsome in my food reports, but if it is deserved, a restaurant should be celebrated. Bravo to the Scarpello team.

  • UK Motorway Food: Leon at Chester Services

    UK Motorway Food: Leon at Chester Services

    I hemmed and hawed over whether to include motorway services food here on the blog. The presence of this blog thus reveals three motivations. First, I was hungry and on a long motorway (freeway) trip. Second, the industry is worth many millions, so yes I’m interested. Third, I wanted to see if the reputedly soaring prices of UK motorway food services had an associated uplift in quality since the last time I had a Little Chef fried breakfast.

    On my way from London to Wales, I noticed a new entrant on the block, adding to the offerings from M&S, Waitrose, McDonalds, Costa and more… that doyen of the wellness high-street, Leon.

    Staff making coffee (and not taking orders)

    I hit Chester Services at around lunchtime and Leon is at the heart of their updated multi-choice food offering. In truth, the queue at McDonalds was substantially longer but seemed to shift pretty quickly, and the delay at Leon I can’t put down exclusively to hanger.

    McDonalds offers order-screens. At Leon, a charming but solo young woman takes orders but is also responsible for making on-the-spot coffee orders, meaning quite the delay between customers. The kitchen isn’t quite lolly-gagging but one chef, with a beard-net covering his lower face, was visible, leaning on the counter waiting for the next order.

    Writing is a little small

    The order screen flashes brightly with all of the options, even if they are hard for me to read (I like a bigger font due to mild sight loss). A jewelled salad is tempting but I can’t see if it includes rice or grains or just leaves, so I opt for an Aioli Chicken Rice Box with brown rice. I want a big punch of flavour and that sounds like it might deliver.

    Luckily the table looks clean. Phew.

    With a can of soft drink, the total comes to £7.99 which feels reasonable.

    “Please don’t give me the bag…” Oh.

    The meal is served in a fold over cardboard tray with recyclable cutlery, so far, so green. But it is packaged in a huge paper bag, which is of no benefit when I’m walking 5 yards to sit down and eat my lunch. There’s something amiss with that process.

    The chicken appears to be chargrilled chicken thigh which, in my opinion, holds tenderness and the requisite chewiness for a tasty chicken dish. The container started with brown rice, a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, chicken chunks and aioli dressing. Apart from a thumb-sized piece of lemon, that’s about it. No other flavourings. The rice appeared to have no seasoning at all. This ‘hot box’ is saved by the aioli dressing which has a pleasant garlicky tang but the generosity of the hand squeezing your dressing will dictate the success of your meal. One corner was delicious and sticky, and most of the rest of the dish was dry as a desert sandal.

    So much delicious sauce (and still not enough)

    On the whole, if you’re on the motorway for a long drive and need to simply fill your belly, there are cheaper, saltier and tastier ways to do it. However, after a Leon meal, you can resume your journey with the smug feeling that at least one of your meals that day met nutritional guidelines and dream that, maybe next time, you’ll go for the full fry-up instead.

    Patrick Hughes

  • Gus’s Fried Chicken: best in Memphis?

    Gus’s Fried Chicken: best in Memphis?

    Coming to Memphis, TN for TravelCon 2022, some fellow YouTubers had worked out well in advance where they were going to eat and chewed through their foodie hitlist one by one. All I knew was that I wanted to try proper Memphis barbecue (stay tuned for that blog!) and to get myself some fried chicken.

    Gus’s Fried Chicken has become so popular in the US that it has 34 storefronts in 14 American states. Some of them, like this one, are franchises. To the outsider, the numbers tilt towards the corporate but this outlet feels anything but big chain, whether in the origin story of this brand or its Memphis Front Street location.

    Memphis 310 S Front Street Location

    Started from the back door of a tavern in Mason, TN by Napoleon “Na” Vanderbilt, and his wife, Ms. Maggie, this unique fried chicken recipe has taken on legendary status resulting in long lines at the Memphis branch of both locals and visitors anxious to get their taste on in this characterful and busy room, open to the busy kitchen beyond, where glimpses of deep fried golden goodness glisten in mesh frying baskets lifted fresh from the hot peanut oil.

    A busy and fun atmosphere

    We pored over the menu unsure what to order or how much. Inevitably, we overdid it. But better to have something to take home other than a wish for one more piece.

    Fountain drink

    Plates come with sides of coleslaw and baked beans and a piece of white bread. Now I’m not a fan of baked beans with chicken (I love them in isolation on toast with smears of salted butter and flecks of black pepper) so I swapped out for mac and cheese. My companion in Memphis, Kerry (blogger at Corks & Tacos), swapped out for collard greens.

    The Menu (prices current in May 2022)

    Once orders were in, the length of the ‘to go’ line and the queue yet to be seated gave us a hint it might take a while. And it did, close to 30 minutes.

    Just a little wait. Or a long one. Miss Kerry is elegant in black

    We watched each team member emerging from the kitchen, waiting for a sign! Gus’s servers wear bright branded tee-shirts and – despite the wait – they kept us smiling and informed. Customers in the US wait differently than their European counterparts. There is a little more calmness, a polite eyebrow raised to the server who is careful to manage expectations and keep your fountain drink topped up. This patience is a skill I don’t quite possess.

    The fun server tee shirts

    Kerry and I swapped stories of hanger, and it seemed that I had way more examples to pull from. I am a simple man who needs feeding, like a dog, at regular intervals! But for real, I think there’s an opportunity here to upsell something faster to prepare, perhaps a popcorn chicken appetiser, at least something which is consistent with the brand. Keep ’em chewing, and paying, I say!

    Two plates of fried chicken goodness

    Before long, two heaped paper plates groaned their way towards us and our smiles widened. The spicy, hot, crisp aromas activate your salivary glands as the meal hit the blue-chequered tablecloth.

    But this particular chicken plate sets up something of a problem. It issues a list of challenges to every other piece of fried chicken that you will eat in future:

    • How crunchy is the skin and spicy exterior?
    • Has the meat cooked through but maintained a juicy and flavourful texture?
    • How generous is the plateful?
    • Did my server just smile at me?

    I think the secret to everything (except the server, who remains a mystery) is the spice rub. Or probably the use of peanut oil at a super high temperature. Or the atmosphere. Darn it, I don’t know WHAT the secret is! It’s a taste I just loved. But… not everything reaches the same heights.

    Patrick can wait no longer!

    The success of Gus’s rides or dies on its single core product, done well. They have that perfected and they know it. The staff have the self-confidence that it’s worth waiting for and that people will be licking their fingers.

    Sides, on the other hand, were, well, adequate. My mac and cheese lacked a pinch of seasoning and the cheesy oomph their name promises. Kerry said her greens were “unenthusiastic”. The coleslaw fared better, a little sweeter than a European coleslaw but with a generous hand which heaped in the mayonnaise, giving a creamy and acidic finish.

    Sorry about those collard greens!

    We left behind a heap of well-sucked bones and flakes of white cabbage that escaped the sweeping tines of the plastic forks. The total bill came to just north of $40 for two people including tip, an absolute steal for the amount of enjoyment we extracted from this visit. As we handed over our dollar bills and thanked our server, I heard for the first time a phrase that became synonymous with my visit to Memphis: “I appreciate you”. Well, we appreciate you, Gus’s, and we will be back.

    In case you need the address in Memphis!
  • Hains & Co, Adelaide: refreshingly hip for drinks

    Hains & Co, Adelaide: refreshingly hip for drinks

    Here’s a quickie post! Just before meeting my old chum, Toby, on our visit to Apothecary in Adelaide, we arranged to meet up for a beveranda at a hip and happening bar in a formerly unattractive quarter of Adelaide, made over for the purpose.  I was a bit early and got chatting to the bar staff.  The place was quiet, bar a group of banker-types vaping outside in the dying embers of the sunshine.

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    Inside, I found a corner and ordered a gin and tonic.  I was enjoying my choice but spotted this interesting looking bottle behind the bar.

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    “What’s that?”, I said to my new hipster friend behind the bar. “Haven’t you tried it?” he said, handing me the bottle so I could read the label.  “It’s made near here and it’s delicious”.  I made to hand back the bottle, but he produced a tasting glass to let me try it, opening a fresh bottle and splashing out a generous snifter of Applewood for me to swirl and sample.  “It’s delicous” and it was – full of complexity and full-on flavours that would sit well with citrus or apple or cucumber.

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    He left the bottle on the table, should I wish to try another splash or share it with my friend.  I thought to myself, “that’s not something I’ve ever seen before”.  I wasn’t tempted to put it in my rucksack, but do wish I’d bought myself a bottle to take home.

  • Apothecary, Adelaide: fresh take on Australian cuisine

    Apothecary, Adelaide: fresh take on Australian cuisine

    My friend from Anúna days, Toby Gilbert, moved to Adelaide many moons ago where he and his family have settled and I hoped I would get to meet up with him! A visit to ‘Apothecary’, one of the top-rated spots in Adelaide was it!

    We were first to arrive into an interesting pharmacy-inspired interior, the pharmacological bottles visible alongside more modern bottles of fine wines!

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    The dark red walls do make everything feel dark.  The interior designer in me wants to brighten it all up, but it’s suitable for its purpose: the serving of a delicious tasting menu with a wine flight to match!

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    Through our travels with international choral wonder-group, Anúna, we had some great times on stage across the US and Europe, including a lot of laughs in the times between the concerts, particularly when I taught many of the male singers how to knit!  Toby was perhaps my most successful protégé! His children will benefit from this!

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    A bread plate came with a fermented butter (an interesting take on salted butter) and fat green olives.

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    I failed to photograph almost all of the courses because we were having too much fun and the wine flight kicked in early!  But here was the first course of edamame, green beans and pickled red onions with a light dressing.  It was a thing of perfectly balanced, acidic beauty.

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    That wine flight was heavy on the pours and my focus on picturing food was almost gone!

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    I remembered just before dessert!  This was a chocolate ganache with brownie pieces and strawberries.  Decadent and delicious.

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    The owner swung by at the end of a meal with a digestivo of bitter herbs – this is something I had tried before, maybe 25 years ago when I spent a Summer working in Rome at the end of my first year in college.  It had the same bitter, unappetising flavour that is supposed to add the digestion.

    We wondered where else would be open and – as you’ll have seen in my Sunday night La Rambla search – very little opens late in Adelaide, even during the festival. However, one wee bar was open and still serving for a final glass of wine before heading off.

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    We chatted about one of our trips to New York (probably in the noughties?), when all of us were obsessed with taking moody shots on our camera phones in bars (I had a particular Nokia which took a good moody shot – these were the days before iPhones).  I think we managed to recreate the scene beautifully, though I’d be grateful for the softer lens on that old Nokia!!

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  • Flinders St Project, Adelaide: handwoven hipster avocados

    Everyone knows I am no hipster, neither in demeanour nor intent, and yet I find myself drawn to cafes and eateries frequented by earnest millenials pondering whether THIS smashed avocado surpasses the unexpected finery of a spring pea guacamole at THAT vegan pop-up.

    Such were the online debates about the Flinders St Project in Adelaide, knee-deep in ‘nouveaux Doc Martens’, a surfeit of non-functioning organic deodorant crystals and hand-woven Peruvian wool socks that escaped the ‘keep it local’ ethos in a battle between saving the Peruvian llama, the wool-gathering intersectional hillside co-operative and carbon-spitting air travel.

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    The brunch menu was fabricated from a roll the dice attitude to hipster ingredients cast out in the table in random associations.  Field greens, quinoa, poached hens eggs might sit as easily aside handwoven sourdough toast, chia seeds, zucchini noodles.  How these associations led to desirable taste sensations was less clear.

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    I ordered a mushroom omelette with bacon and sourdough toast.  It came with lashings of bitter greens, feta cheese (no punctuation required).

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    This was a SHOCKER of a meal.  The omelette was charred on the bottom with that horrid flavour and smell that burnt eggs caught on the hob brings.  Inside, it was utterly raw.  A plateful of enoki, oyster, chestnut mushrooms which were utterly unchopped or seasoned in a cold sea of albumen.

    The toast was hard and dry (I love sourdough toast so this was criminal) and the bacon had been placed into a pan of fat, cooked where its curls met the hot fat, then lifted out, without turning, to be placed atop my burnt, raw omelette.

    Our hipster generation can excite the palette with ingredients and choices that are unexpected and explosive.  Where they attend the ‘latest new place’, they should demand, all of us should demand, that the basics of cooking are respected or there should be no payment for sub-par cooking.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Hey Jupiter, Adelaide – no croissants at this French cafe

    ‘Hey Jupiter’ is not only the name of one of my favourite songs by Tori Amos (click here), but also the name of a French breakfast joint in downtown Adelaide, much recommended.

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    It certainly had the classic good looks of a Parisian street-side scene, if not the crowds milling past, someone smoking a Gitane outside over a cafe au lait and croissant… But it looked authentic!

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    Inside was pretty, if quite a tight space.  I fancied a typical French breakfast, a croissant, coffee and some fresh fruit.

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    Astonishingly, they had no croissants (it was not yet 9am) but after much prompting were able to produce a pain au chocolat from its hiding place in the pastry cupboard.  There it should have stayed, lacking any resemblance to a French breakfast pastry, typically crumbly, crisp and buttery laminations; this was at least a day old. Not good.

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    My small fruit dish was generous in proportion but lacked any fruit of which I’m a fan.  The plums were hard and bitter, in positives, the orange well-cut and blackberries an unexpected star.  I gave up eating this about halfway through, my teeth starting to erode from the amount of fruit acid in this underripe plateful.

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    It’s a reminder to me to make a specific recommendation (e.g., “try out the freshly baked croissants if they have them in stock, avoid other options”).  So that’s my recommendation! Incidentally, dear Tripadvisor reviewers complaining about service, the handsome but surly waiter is a staple of French cafes and this one is to be recommended on both his qualities.