Cheeseburger Gothic

The Oxford Street Tart

Posted May 11, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

Hands up everyone whose mind went straight to the gutter. Right. Off to the naughty corner with you, because you do not deserve to enjoy this flaky, eggy little flavor bomb of goodness. My little friend here, the Portuguese custard tart from the Oxford Street Bakery is one of the reasons I get through so many podcasts and audiobooks. If you're going to cultivate a serious hungry for these things, and it's almost impossible not to, you’ll need to be spending some time on the treadmill too. These tarts are the preferred food of the blubber eel which is forever trying to take up residence around my tummy regions.

Two minutes of heady pleasure. Two hours of treadmill pain.

But, one caveat. It’s not really a Portuguese custard tart, is it? Not because it was baked about million miles from the monastery at Santa Maria de Belém, the spiritual home of the Pastel de Nata, but because it’s just all wrong. The pastry is wrong. The egg custard; wrong. The slightly burned skin which is the mark of a true nata? Not even there.

And yet… God help me, I have come to prefer these ones. The sweet, soft crust pastry has a much more predictable consistency and although it lacks the crunch of a properly executed Portuguese custard tart, nor does it suffer from the problems of inconsistency, irregularity and simple shoddy fucking pastry skills which so often ruin the experience elsewhere.

I love these things. They are my treat of the week. From Monday to Friday as I grimly mutter “No bakery treats no bakery treats, step away from the sweet treat cabinet you fool”, it is the prospect of inhaling one on the weekend which keeps me honest. I try to get there early enough to score one fresh from the oven, when they are at their best, with a thin skin barely holding in the gooey just set custard. With a strong coffee they are an almost perfect start to the day.

I’ve always been a fiend for custard tarts. My mother tells me I threw one of my greatest tantrums as a child when I was forced to abandon a half eaten tart to run for a bus, or something. The reason for the abandonment hardly matters, does it? It was principle of the thing.

I still love and appreciate a good, traditional stodgy Anglo tart, with the wide, almost biscuity base and a sprinkling of cinnamon, and I’ll always save room at Yum Cha for the Chinese version – of which there are two types, the Chinese of Macau being influenced by their former colonial overlords from… Portugal. But there is nothing to compare to having one small simple serving of custardy awesome in one hand, and a decent cup of java in the other.

54 Responses to ‘The Oxford Street Tart’

Nick reckons...

Posted May 11, 2013

As ever your blogging tool renders your fine prose almost unreadable in my RSS thing by inserting seemingly random characters. - you’ll - for example.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2013

That's tiresome. What kit are you using to access?

coriolisdave ducks in to say...

Posted May 12, 2013

Dunno about Nick, but I'm seeing it on Google Reader (and TheOldReader, given GR's imminent demise). Have been meaning to mention it for a while.

Daniel Young mumbles...

Posted May 12, 2013

Same here in The Old Reader, very annoying. Probably the XML in the RSS feed is wrongly encoded.

Nick is gonna tell you...

Posted May 13, 2013

I'm on both Reeder on iPad and GR and old reader. Sometimes posts get too hard too read - which is a poor reflection on my attention span.

coriolisdave reckons...

Posted May 16, 2013

And it's fixed! Awesomesauce!

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 16, 2013

I thought you were talking about your lack of custard tart.

coriolisdave would have you know...

Posted May 17, 2013

Alas, no. Every time I plan to get over to Bulimba I am stymied by the Spawn.

One day, though, they will be mine. Oh yes. They will be mine.

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Quokka mutters...

Posted May 11, 2013

Yeah, they're good, but I can't get past the Oxford bakery without taking one of their orange & almond cakes with me. Although the lemon and polenta cakes are good too.

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Mark Duffett mutters...

Posted May 11, 2013

Two minutes? If they're half as good as you say, I'd be eking it out for at least twenty.

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mondoworld mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2013

I guess a worldy gent such as yourself is fully across the Yum Cha warmed custard tart of the type scoffed by the thousand in Fortitude Valley...

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damian would have you know...

Posted May 11, 2013
They the place with the deli out back? Some decent cacciatore to be had there.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2013

Nah, that'd be Sugo Mi you're thinking of I reckon. Quite decent pizzas. In fact between the two of them and Sushi Mura that pretty much covers your only choices on that strip.

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DrYobbo would have you know...

Posted May 11, 2013

Not a big sweet tooth, but that could convince me to change my ways. About to crack into a pork pie from Who Ate All The Pies, who do excellent work in these parts.

HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2013

chocolate éclairs are her go Doctor!

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w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2013

Custard, custard, custard.
Bee Sting cake!!!! Yum, yum, yum, yum. yum.

Aaaarggh!! Stop thinking!

.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2013

Oh that looks good. I, too, have a weakness for egg custard pastries. And I simply love the Chinese restaurant version.

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Therbs has opinions thus...

Posted May 11, 2013

Portuguese bakery in Bondi Junction does a very tasty rendition. Coffee is drinkable as well.

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Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 11, 2013

Just back from the markets with a couple of salted caramel tarts, some little rum babas and some half and half canolis. Sadly I have to share them and there were no other little tarts there. Except this one who was straddling her bf under the lighthouse . . .

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damian reckons...

Posted May 11, 2013
Ah well I'm sipping wine to recover from my breakfast not so much of champions, but rather of ruthless hereditary-dictator overlords. This involved turkish buns of the kind that resemble a miniature ciabatta, dijon mustard, leftover salad with garlic-and-yogurt sauce from last night, also leftover "steakette" hamburgers, sliced in half so as to be half rather than inch thick, and slices of a light rennet-free cheese - all grilled (broiled) slowly to warm through the leftovers.

One day this balance between exercise and diet will work out, some way or other.

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Bunyip swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 11, 2013

If any of you are down here in Bushrangeryland, don't go to the Wesley Hill Bakehouse in Castlemaine.They only make so many baked custard tarts a day, and I don't want to miss out because of you.... itinerant pastry scoffers.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted May 12, 2013

Oh, I can't have one? You're trying to discourage me from getting one? Then I must have one.

It is the American way. I'm not kidding. It is a cultural trait to want desperately what someone discourages you from having and to strive to do whatever someone recommends you avoid.

Bunyip swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 12, 2013

Oh, PNB. That was just directed at the riff raff from Queensland. We will happily take your foreign currency down here. Tourism dollars yadda yadda...

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JP reckons...

Posted May 11, 2013

Remember I said we should do a panel at this year's brissie writers fest about explodey-end-of-the-world stories? Fuck that - let's just sit at this place for an hour and smash these tarts. Like, every one they have. what's the worst that will happen - your eel will turn into the pacific rim? Ye gods...

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drej mumbles...

Posted May 11, 2013

Only time I'll go anything custard is when its brandy-infused and accompanied by whipped cream on a christmas pud. Otherwise, meh.

But have always been a sucker for a good cream filled apple turnover. Yet to find a really good one in Qld.

tqft mutters...

Posted May 11, 2013

I have been sampling the wares from Bumblebee Bakery in Runcorn where the aforesaid apple turnover with cream has been spotted, bought and consumed on a few occassions to repeat the taste tests for science.

Mmmm science.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 12, 2013

Our lives are so different, drej. Whereas you havent found a good cream filled apple turnover, I have never encountered a bad one anywhere, Queensland notwithstanding, and I suspect I never will.

drej has opinions thus...

Posted May 12, 2013

tqft, Bumblebee you say. I shall check this out, thank you.

Paul, I am new to Qld, given time and a lot of research, I hold high hopes of finding the perfect turnover...

Brother PorkChop ducks in to say...

Posted May 13, 2013

You cannot go past a good snot block. Brisbane is a little short as far as I have found but Acland Street St Kilda is snot block heaven.

Lulu puts forth...

Posted May 13, 2013

Brother Porkchop, Acland Street is heaven for all sorts of sweet reasons more exotic than a vanilla slice. Particularly cheese cake, and the pastries with poppy seed filling. Or that cake which combines cheesecake *and* a poppy seed layer ... please excuse me while I drool like Homer Simpson.

Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted May 14, 2013

Quite true, Lulu but vanilla slice is a good start. I have have the most divine rum baba there as well.

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Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted May 11, 2013

I knew you meant food, but then I was with you in NYC with the Blueberry drenched Cheesecake of Doom at Carengie Deli.

Tarts are hard to come by in KC, pastry or otherwise. On the other hand, some very fine croissants and quiche can be had at Le Monde Bakery in North Kansas City (yes, from the Without Warning trilogy). I'm partial to the apple crossiant myself. Cindy prefers the quiche. Strangely enough, it is a French-Vietnamese establishment which also serves things with curry in it for lunch.

As for other fine dessert type foods, one probably should visit Aixois in Crestwood (a very small, very snotty, very old neighborhood near UMKC) for their Creme Brulee, which is definitely worth committing a homicide or three over.

Tarts, sadly, are hard to come by.

Or with, for that matter.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 12, 2013

Not strange at all. Before the US, the French were mucking about in Vietnam, and they adopted French cooking techniques as well as French food itself. I am willing to bet real money that John, while in Vietnam, could have found a great coq au vin. It doesn't surprise me that your local Vietnamese restaurant makes a good breakfast quiche. I don't eat quiche for fear of appearing gay. Not that there's anything wrong with it. It's just that if people believe you are gay they also expect you to be more stylish, and that just isn't me.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted May 12, 2013

Not only found one, I ate it all by myself.

NBlob reckons...

Posted May 12, 2013

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

With apologies to W. H Auden. Kim Than's the Vietnam/French bakery in SthBrisbane has closed. No breakfast ever will be as good, now Those spicy pork buns in Le pastry will never be again.

With similar, but obverse heritage I bring to your attention Domaine de Canton. A spectacular cocktail ingrediant liquor that is brewed in France with Ginger appropriated from the Indochine. Slightly fkn AWSM.

Anthony has opinions thus...

Posted May 14, 2013

The French/Vietnamese connection... It is claimed that Ho Chi-Minh trained for a time in Paris as a pastry cook under Escoffier .

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted May 11, 2013

Could more attention be paid to making the crust and tart more symetrical in appearance? Is the radius of the tart consistent from week to week? There is a much more subline beauty in the mathematics of the shape then in any prepared sweet.

Paraphrasing Dr Carl Sagan ..if If you wish to make a Portuguese custard tart from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 12, 2013

If tart radius is subject to change, then I would suspect being cheated or, at the very least, my snack would be ruined by intrusive thoughts questioning my decision (e.g., "you didn't pick the biggest one, idiot; the ugly bloke with the bow tie picked it, and now is eating your tart; YOUR tart; you should walk over there and grab it; and then run..." and so on). I hate when that happens.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted May 12, 2013
Brother Bunyip you Will regret that. The USAnians are bandits for a little extraterritorial take away. To demonstrate, let’s just take the first ten years of the previous century.

1900 – China. The Boxer Rebellion was about Yum Cha, not about “protect foreign lives during the Boxer uprising” as the justification was put about later.

1901 –Panama. Keeping the canal open to permit speedy delivery of nomables from east to west & vice versa.

1902 – Colombia. – Aijiaco a chicken soup with avocado & cream

1902 – Colombia - Repeat of 1902 & tostadas.

1903 –Honduras A trader @ Puerto Cortes refused to give over the recipe for his marinade used in his special Pinchos Americanos, so the gringos invaded. Seemed reasonable at the time.

1903 – Dominican Republic. “To protect American interests in the city of Santo Domingo” = Access to Pasteles en hojas.

1903 – Syria. Known as the first Kebab war. Allegedly after a lot of beer it seemed like the best idea since sliced baklava

1903–04 – Ethiopia. Coffee

1904 – Dominican Republic. Again

1904 – Tangier, Morocco. Lamb.

1904 – Panama. See 1901

1904–05 – Korea. A Mistake. The DoD thought that it was Thailand and they wanted to safeguard supplies of curry puffs & cuttlefish balls.

1906–09 – Cuba. United Fruit Co.

See a pattern forming?

damian would have you know...

Posted May 12, 2013

Brecht innit? Grub first, then ethics.

Bunyip reckons...

Posted May 13, 2013

NBlob, they have already been here, and gone.

Within 20km of where I live is an American Hill, California Gully and Jim Crow Creek. And very few Americans. We are the Antipodian Borg; we assimilated them all.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 13, 2013

Damian - I don't know Brecht beyond sitting through the Caucasian Chalk Circle and imagining I was somewhere else. But I do know that Goethe called for "more light" so that he could better appreciate what he was eating.

Bunyip - you will never assimilate me, mate.

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Quokka swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 12, 2013

Nup. Paniyiri is on next weekend in Brisvegas, PNB. At which point the entire city will turn out in Musgrave Park to enact your philosophy and swill ouzo slurpees.

too bad you aren't here to partake of the madness.

Yassou!

damian would have you know...

Posted May 12, 2013

I celebrated Paniyiri early by making a killer yogurt and garlic sauce to go with green salad and BBQ chicken thighs for Ildi, hamburger "steakettes" on turkish buns for me, Friday night.

Brother PorkChop swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 13, 2013

Mmmmm.... honey puffs.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 13, 2013

Auntie Q: I wish I were there to partake in the neo helenic madness. I am willing to bet real money that I could and would be intrumental in redefining the madness. Yassou bravo!

Damian or Aunti Q (or Greybeard, for that matter): Please life an ouzo slurpee high and say very loud "for Prof. Boylan!" before attempting to drink it all in one go. Do that for me. I don't care if you succeed. The attempt is enough.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

So I here that Paniyiri is run by Channel Seven these days. Apparently there will be celebrity honey puff eating contests full of Channel Seven "celebrities". I'm afraid my intinctive reaction to this year's Paniyiri therefore is want to nuke the site from orbit - it's the only way to be sure.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 13, 2013

So sorry. "life" = "lift." It is Mother's Day here in seppoland, and I've been drinking mimosas with the mother of my only son, and, consequently, my cognative - if not mechanical - skills are compromised. And it feels great. Fuck typographical errors.

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted May 13, 2013

Hell yeah, happy Mothers day to all the mothers out there.

NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 14, 2013

?I may be a one trick pony, but its a great trick; buy 2 kilos of the best prawn I can find & 2 bunches of flowers, divide into two equal parts, deliver one to my mum and one to SWMBO. Walk away feeling insufferably smug.

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted May 14, 2013

A fragrant gift.

Darth Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 14, 2013

NBlob often carries a packet of prawns around, sometimes for several days at a time. There are those who say that it's an improvement.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 14, 2013

On the actual morning, Woollies in Ipswich had bunches of chrysanthemums for $5 each (ie, half price), so I bought all they had left. We ended up splitting this 5 ways, because sometimes that's the right way for it to be.

Prawns, however, are a gift that keeps giving long after the event.

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Respond to 'The Oxford Street Tart'

Pig Night Out

Posted May 4, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a pack of hefty blokes in possession of a good appetite must be in want of a pork fest. Unconscionably protracted in the planning, painfully abridged in the execution, our night of the suckling pig drew together such a team of these greedy yahoos that its like will ne’er be seen again.

The Night of the Pig was a mission from God. A magnificent obsession. Out there with mad Cap’n Ahab’s hunt for the great white whale or the Man of La Mancha’s crazed charges against enemy windmills. And Don Quixote de la Mancha is no gratuitous classical reference cast like a cultured pearl before you beery swine. Well, actually it is. But it segues really nicely into a consideration of Don Quixote’s House of the Suckling Pig, the centre of the pork-loving universe. Familiar to generations of Sydney movie-goers through its cheap, scratchy, Whitlam-era cinema ads.

The Don caught my eye when some pompous twit of a food critic swanned through to nickel and dime the joint to death. As if I give a fuck about the lack of radicchio and tiramisu. For me, the kicker from that review was the clear impression given that these guys could supply you with more pork than you could possibly eat.

Oh baby, I salivated quietly, racking gut cramps here I come.

My original plan called for twelve good men and true to repair to the The Don’s place to stuff themselves insensible on hot, salty pork while drinking so much Mexican beer that someone would accidentally get a tattoo and join the merchant navy And with but one exception every red-blooded son of Anzac I approached felt as I did, to the universal horror of their girlfriends and heart surgeons, whose eyes bulged at the thought of them gorging on pork until they could gorge no more.

Their neediness was even a little scary. One, a lawyer for a multinational arms conglomerate, suggested hiring a private room where we could eat naked whilst dusky serving wenches scurried hither and yon with tape measures to track the expansion of our waistlines: first to enlarge himself by 20 per cent to win.

As word spread through the city hopeful pig brothers appeared from all corners wanting a piece of the action. Captain Barnes, flew up from Melbourne, avowing that he wouldn’t be happy until his fingertips turned grey from restricted blood circulation due to the massive quantities of hog fat congealing in his bloodstream. Sadly we were to be undone by our own appetites.

Meeting in the Century Tavern above Hungry Jack’s in George Street, we discovered that despite brave words to the contrary the women in our lives had not organised some counter pig night (or Teste-Fest ’98 as one dubbed it). A picnic at Shakespeare in the Park had been mooted. Or a Jane Austen video binge. But despite the tantalising prospect of organising five or six bloke-free hours together at that stupid, interminable Cloud Street play, nothing transpired. After copious hits off the Tooheys Old taps we all agreed this had something to do with girls not being good at sums.

While these weighty deliberations took place, yon editor and photographer inspected the facilities. A couple of thin tweedy-looking college boys – looked like a good fuck and some pork crackling might be the end of them–they were escorted through the voluminous kitchens by Manuel, who’s been with the restaurant for about three hundred years. They were introduced to our own specially selected porker, procured from a secret alpine breeding station, the source of The Don’s succulent white meat for three decades.

All around them other little piggies lay happily marinating in their trays or slowly roasting in the ovens, a process which can take up to six hours. Manuel became very excited by the prospect of another magazine review. His only other brush with fame was a cover story in something like Pig Breeders Monthly, a long time ago. The details are a little hazy due to many schooners of Tooheys Qld warring with the San Miguels I switched to on arrival, the chewy over bite of a cold San Mig being the only possible consort to such a repast.

With the team finally in place at the bar, our sixteen big men blocked all access to and from the body of the restaurant, drawing worried glances from the wait staff and other diners. The Don’s place presented a little like the flagship outlet of an upmarket Alamo-themed restaurant chain; lots of weathered oak and brick and, in the bar, what looked like a couple of wooden cannon bookends untainted by the merest hint of irony. It was the perfect site for an all male meat fest, but I gotta say we didn’t understand all the couples who kept arriving for what were obviously to be romantic dinners. The presence of those few Asian tourists still standing after the regional financial meltdown had sent their tinpot economies back to wholesaling sacks of guano and betel nuts was understandable. They were here by mistake. But surely the locals should know better?

Maybe it had something to do with excellent dating facilities; specifically, The Don’s dance floor on which riotously tipsy thick-waisted hipsters punished the macarena while Zorro’s great-grandson tickled the synth with all the dexterity which his famous forebear deployed in carving his mark into the chests of California’s avaricious landowners.

Waiters who hovered with offers of garlic prawns were dismissed to the kitchens with stern orders to start bringing the carcasses and to keep bringing them until our corrupt and bloated bodies lay groaning on the floor, covered in a thick greasy sheen of glistening lard and faintly creaking as the monstrous volume of meat pressed against straining ribs and taut belly skin.

I don’t think they knew what they were dealing with.

Piles of warm crusty bread rolls arrived but any of the eager juveniles who reached for them were quickly smacked back into line. A big trap for young players. Save space for the pig. The first pig which arrived was laid on the table and I do not exaggerate when I say that its bones had been sucked clean before the somewhat superfluous vegetables arrived two minutes later.

It was around about this point that Manuel, who had previously been the very picture of a genial host, became worried.

‘More pig! More pig!’ we cried. More plates arrived and were cleaned off with ferociously efficient despatch. ‘Ha ha,’ laughed Manuel nervously. ‘We normally get romantic couple in here. They don’t eat so much.’

‘More pig! More pig!’ we cried.

The waiters eyed each other anxiously and began to back away from the table. The horrible truth began to dawn on me. A special alpine breeding station. Six-hour cooking time. A restaurant full of diners all tucking into their meals while we denuded the bar.

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

They were short of pig. Or, more likely, they had enough pig for a normal night but this was most assuredly not a normal night.

All joking aside Manuel,’ muttered Robbie, ‘where’s the rest of the pig, man?’

They were sweating by now. We suggested they might care to scrape the plates of the other diners whose eyes had proven too big for their bellies. I don’t know whether they did this but we were about to do it ourselves when a few more plates turned up.

And in defence of The Don let me say that this was magnificent pig. The best any of us had ever tasted. So keen was Adam Spencer for a few more scraps of its golden goodness that he and Barnes picked clean the skull of the first beast Manuel had laid before us. Eyeballs and all.

But… They were short of pig. We had broken them.

As we spilled out onto George Street a raucous argument broke out over whether we should head back to the Century to drown our sorrows and fill the empty spaces in our pig-loving hearts with Tooheys Old, or whether we should go to Hungry Jack’s first.

I think you all know which option we chose.

19 Responses to ‘Pig Night Out’

DrYobbo has opinions thus...

Posted May 4, 2013

Loved this when I first read it - think this opened Off One's Tits didn't it? Have eaten at said questionable Spanish joint myself, after inadvisable numbers of schooners at what I think is currently the 3 Monkeys across the street.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 4, 2013

It did. I think it originally appeared in Ralph. They sent three or four of us out on epic meat challenges. One guy had to eat a whole camel haunch.

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damian mutters...

Posted May 4, 2013

I'm sorry, but talking about pork and not mentioning the German Club in the first few lines made me skip the article... :P

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

Quite right, Damian. As the sign out the front says,
"Brisbane's best pork knuckle".

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

Twas indeed a magnificent pig, but all in all it was still only ONE GODDAMN PIG!

Have sought to lure JB to the famous Vlados in Melbourne for a similar meat fest.

One day perhaps.

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Abe Frellman asserts...

Posted May 4, 2013

Vlados is on my bucket list. But first I need to drop another 30 kgs or it will kill me.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 5, 2013

Maybe we should think about a Vlados meet up?

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted May 5, 2013

oh hella yeah click here

simon bedak would have you know...

Posted May 5, 2013

Yes. Vlados.

simon bedak ducks in to say...

Posted May 5, 2013

Yes. Vlados.

simon bedak asserts...

Posted May 5, 2013

...and no chicks.

sibeen ducks in to say...

Posted May 5, 2013

I haven't been to Vlados for about 10 years (sob). This does need rectification.

Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted May 5, 2013

I remember this tale of pig. It made me hungry and has done so again.

Vlados? In Sydney we have heard of this legend. Apparently it has its own coronary ward replete with brand new hearts, top notch transplant specialists and wonderful nurses. I once asked a patron of Vlados about the experience. He cried tears of remembered joy, grabbed me by the lapels and in that fierce voice adopted by religious fanatics, made me promise to go there. I have yet to fulfil my sworn commitment.

Dilph has opinions thus...

Posted May 6, 2013

Ooooh. Only done Vlados once (I don't count the time I went and they weren't doing the meat platters, for obvious reasons). I recall leaving splendidly sated, and thankful for our vegetarian designated driver...

Another worthy meatfest in sunny Melbs is Jim's Greek Tavern - the most surly, uncommunicative waitstaff outside of Greece, but the souvlaki platters... oh, the souvlaki platters. And the saganaki!

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Rhino asserts...

Posted May 5, 2013

We need one of these in the U.S. ... Boylan, Murph, McKinney, myself. Somewhere in the heartland. Yeah. I know people that hunt feral pigs. Genius, we shall do it in Atlanta. In the shade of Kennesaw Mountain amidst the ghosts of Union and Rebel soldiers.

I decree that this shall happen. So swear I in the memory of Atlanta's Scarlett O'Hara, "If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness,we well eat pig together as men."

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 5, 2013

"I'm very drunk and I intend on getting still drunker before this evening's over."

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Brother PorkChop would have you know...

Posted May 6, 2013

Mmmmm.... piiiiiggggg. Geat way to start the week.

I love pig in all its grilled, smoked, braised, roasted, schnitzled, luaued forms. And my eldest is a pig farmer so I get the inside story, and back copies of various pig industry magazines.

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Lulu asserts...

Posted May 6, 2013

"As regularviewers of this show would know, it's not a party until somebody kills a pig." (Anthony Bourdain, 'No Reservations')

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Spicy beef noodle soup, Viet Hoa

Posted May 4, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

There are some places you end up eating the same dish over and over again. Might not even be the stand out feed on the menu. Might be that you alone have trouble getting past this one particular item. Used to be a place up on the north coast did an amazing flash fried spanner crab omelet. They could have just called themselves 'That Omelet Place'. A lot of folks never get beyond the ragout at Enoteca, or the ribs at Crosstown. When I still lived in Darlinghurst, my then girlfriend used to ring Kim Le, a Vietnamese restaurant, every night when she got home from work.

"Hi Kim, it's Heather. Can you send us dinner now?"

And a guy would arrive at the front door fifteen to twenty minutes later with the same order, every night. (Ginger chicken, chili fish, steamed rice, and beef with mushrooms, for the dog).

There's a place in West End, called Viet Hoa, where I never seem to get past the spicy beef noodle soup. It's not that the rest of the menu sucks. Viet Hoa is the goods, and whenever you walk in at least half the customers there are ethnic Vietnamese, which is always a good sign. I first went with young Sam Watson, the poet, shortly after he'd won the David Unaipon Award, and I've always been grateful to Sammy for dragging me into a joint I wouldn't otherwise have bothered with.

It's an unremarkable sight from the footpath. A small corner store, some pot plants to protect a clutch of outside tables. Shiny white tiled floor, in that SE Asian style. Waving cat thingy on the counter. A mix of familair Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, and a bunch of mystery picks. Just one of dozens of nosheries in that part of town.

Ah, but the spicy beef noodle soup. 'Tis a wonder. Worth the drive across the southside for me. It's the master stock that powers this dish, a deep, earthy blend that's been closely guarded by the owner's family for many years. Possibly generations. As you can see from the happy snap there is a generous balance of colour and texture, with lashings of greens as an option for those who swing that way. The beef is soft and falls apart on the tongue, a few spiced chicken dumplings surprise when they pop out from under a basil leaf. The noodles are springy and the chili just the right side of ringing the fire alarm.

But it's the stock which carries this dish. If you're in the mood for hot-n-spicy soup and you're over West End way, you know what you have to do.

39 Responses to ‘Spicy beef noodle soup, Viet Hoa’

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

Ben's on Annerly Rd is still our favorite of favorites, after maybe 15 years. We stretch to a noodle soup regular order or a mains regular order, depending on the time of year, mood, and how the fuck we ended up over that side of town in the first place -- after all since moving to the horth side 6 years ago we've had Ben's just a couple of times, the most recent only since Ildi started working at the Mater.

Anyhow, for the regular mains, Ildi gets the chicken with ginger and shallots, and I get the pork fat ho. Or actually ho phan, but my version is more descriptive and accurate. We used to always do the noodle soups though. This is a place where if you get noodle soup to take away, they lovingly package the solid ingredients and the broths separately, and also give you a bag full of been shots and lemon wedges. You then combine the ingredients in your own noodle soup bowls at home, a compulsory item for this process. I would typically get the combination long and short noodle (ie, egg noodles and wontons) soup with cha siu, Ildi would get the chicken shredded-bean-noodle soup. This is still even now stunningly affordable, so much so that even as a student it wouldn't have had to be that rare a treat.

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 4, 2013

Come on, Damian. You really go to Ben's for the karaoke.

damian has opinions thus...

Posted May 4, 2013

Yeah well you know w, one man's pho is another man's ramen

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 4, 2013

Oh, that Ben's. Man, I disgraced myself at a karaoke night there once. All I remember is the horrified faces of the diners. Not the food.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

Dude the food there is awesome. I recommend the pork phat ho.

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 4, 2013

Serena Wiliams went to Ben's in January this year after she won the local tennis tourney. She sang Elton John's ''Your song" with some drunk (no offence intended).

And as the story goes...
At one stage they played Gold Digger by Kanye West and when he sings the lyric 'she gonna have an ass like Serena' the whole room erupted in cheers and wolf whistles.

Another magic Ben's karaoke moment.

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Natscanner reckons...

Posted May 4, 2013

This is my favourite soup. I struggle to order anything else in my favourite Vietnamese joints. Love.

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John Lees is gonna tell you...

Posted May 4, 2013

Any serious appreciation of Vietnamese food requires travelling to Inala. Being the dumping ground *cough* melting pot of migrants that it is means awesome food for not much money. Eat pho or a vermicelli salad and buy asian groceries, all in one convenient location.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 4, 2013

True. There was a legendary duck restaurant out there I once heard tell of. Nothing but duck.

Bangar has opinions thus...

Posted May 4, 2013

Maybe Simon's Peking Duck Restaurant next time your down, it is in Box Hill though (short walk from the station, waddle back)

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted May 4, 2013

Reminds me that Sun Fay in Taringa (of all places) had a great cold cut chicken. I recall at least a couple of times we were eating in there and Ildi ordered that, the manager can running out with "most westerners don't like that, are you sure you know what it is" and concerns of a similar nature. So after we've given reassurances we're quite aware of that and please, we'd be most happy to trust their chef's judgement but maybe give us an extra serve of minced garlic to go with it if it's that much of a worry, etc, etc. Damn fine dish too, especially with a bit of good quality soy and a lot of minced garlic.

Asia House in the Valley, of course, have cold cut duck. Which is why I thought of it... and which is very very good.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 4, 2013

I used to live just up the hill around the corner from Sun Fay. The Tassie Babes house. Never ate there. Why would I when there was a disgracefully cheap chinese take away even closer to home. Up part Dos Amigos. (Another venue where I can no longer tread. This time due to dope fueled hilarity).

Forget the name of the Chinese takeaway. It may have been eponymous. But I do remember its most famous regulars. Tony Fitzgerald and his bodyguards.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted May 4, 2013

Yeah I had figured that about that house. Over the top of Swan Road, and actually the intersection where there's absolutely no way to see who is coming when you want to turn right, so if that's what you are doing you have to be sure you have reached whatever understanding you need to with your creator, saviour or dog.

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damian mutters...

Posted May 4, 2013

Meskin place in Targina haz always bin teh awesome and stuffs

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Abe Frellman would have you know...

Posted May 4, 2013

Pho Phu Quoc aka 'Phuc Right Off' in Dickson does awesome special beef pho. Worth a try when next in our nation's craptapital.

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damian asserts...

Posted May 4, 2013

I always loved Phuc Quiu in Dickson, just around the corner from the Asian Noodle House

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Darth Greybeard is gonna tell you...

Posted May 4, 2013

Don't mind Huong's in West End but must try Viet Hoa soon. Going through Mitcham on the train, we can see a place called Hiep Phat. I want to eat there.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

Is the Kim Tanh still going on Hargrave Rd? One of the most important restaurants in my nascent understanding in the 80s... and also the location of one of Ildi and my first dates...

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 4, 2013

Don't think so.

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

No. Kim Thanh is gone (sniff, sniff). Now Linh's restaurant.
Not the same.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted May 4, 2013

This is (*cracks knuckles*) disappointing.

Darth Greybeard ducks in to say...

Posted May 4, 2013

Kim Thanh was great. Many crowded nights.

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NBlob reckons...

Posted May 4, 2013

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal that GreyBeard was stooging around with Uncle Ho the evening before the famous French loss of Dien Bien Phu. The story goes that a Gravely mis-informed Garçon tried to palm off some two day old bread as today's early bake on chau GreyBeard. In a fit of pique he then showed Uncle Ho the dream of artillery all observation posts. A little spot that overlooked the teachers college's showers.

damian puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

Yeah if there wasn't a hald decent pho, I'm not interested.

Darth Greybeard is gonna tell you...

Posted May 4, 2013

All wrong as per usual. Ho had developed a fantastic French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine while in Paris. Information may have been exchanged between the Ca Hap and the Sup Do Bien but after the third bottle of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle I can't really be sure.

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damian reckons...

Posted May 4, 2013

Medium thread hijack:

"So every time the Nazis did publicly organize since then, I was there to oppose them, not with the force of my intellect but with the strength of my fists."

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2009/winter/a-jew-in-prison#.UYS8_7Vmh8F

NBlob mutters...

Posted May 4, 2013

Nice one Mr D.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted May 4, 2013

"There is no question in my mind that the Nazis ultimately backed down at the last minute not because they were put off by the Skokie City Council when it hastily enacted an ordinance preventing the march, nor because the Anti-Defamation League made the Nazis "irrelevant" by advising people to ignore them, nor because the ACLU helped the Nazis "make their point" that free speech is allowed and this made the march moot. Rather, it was because they were afraid of the Jewish and other anti-fascist demonstrators who organized against them and made it clear that they were going to offer armed resistance."

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Bunyip ducks in to say...

Posted May 4, 2013

Kim Le... was that on Bourke Street, up near Taylors Square?

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 4, 2013

No, Darlinghurst Road, down from Coluzzis

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damian would have you know...

Posted May 4, 2013

My mum took me to a place called Afri-lanka on Oxford St just down from Taylor Square some time in the early 80s. She loved it, however given that even the deserts had at least a handful of chillies, it was a bit interesting for 12 year old me

I would not expect it's still there...

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 4, 2013

I think a pr0n shoppe replaced it.

damian mumbles...

Posted May 4, 2013

I've no doubt.

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Abe Frellman has opinions thus...

Posted May 4, 2013
That's ok then.

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yankeedog mutters...

Posted May 4, 2013

Do they deliver to Illinois? Best we can do is Pasteur, or Le Mekong. Le Mekong is pretty darned good-recommended for anyone in the Quad Cities (which actually consists of five cities) up here in the anterior, er, interior, of Septicland (TM).

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Daniel Young puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

Ahh Bún bò Hu?!

You've made me miss Brisbane and West End.

Yes, we have Cabramatta down here, but who can be bothered? Waaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Phil would have you know...

Posted May 5, 2013

My Sydney picks were always Pho Pasteur on George st haymarket and Pho An in Bankstown. Massive temple of a joint with 100+ seats and 8 things on the menu. Brilliant.

Daniel Young reckons...

Posted May 5, 2013

Thanks Phil :) Been to Pasteur, but will have to head to Bankstown sometime.

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Respond to 'Spicy beef noodle soup, Viet Hoa'

The Beers of Summer

Posted April 28, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

Made the mistake of taking a dip in the pool after my morning workout the other day. The first time I'd done so in about a fortnight. Neither I nor the brass monkey will be doing that again until the end of the year. The first chill winds are nipping at the mornings and it won't be long now before I switch from beer and champagne to red wine.

I recall writing something for Blunty at the start of summer, my annual beer blog, about cheapies if I recall. It was a popular post, as those beery ones always are, but I scored more than the usual fee and the social meeja lovin' from it. A day or two after publication a six pack arrived from the venerable gents of the Burleigh Brewing company. Perhaps because I'd mentioned my fondness for one of their headline brews.

Big Head.

I'd been drawn to it by the artwork on the label. Yes, that shallow. But stayed for the no carb promise. To quote Leonardo Di C in Django Unchained, "You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention". One of the reasons I dont drink much beer is the carb content. A couple of stubs can quickly negate all of my gym work for a day.

Anyway, this summer, I downed more than a few Bigheads without noticable waistline issues, and knocked over a couple of their other tipples for variety. I think Hef, an antipodeon wheat bier, was my second fave, with the '70s style' pale ale, '28' coming in a close third.

I'm also still inching through a mixed carton of James Squire's porters and Amber Ales, left behind after an easter weekend family bbq, which I missed through being in Perth. The remaining porters I'll probably keep for winter, because they go so well with roast pork. The Ambers I quite liked, but once they're gone I'll probably revert to Big Heads for my winter beer needs, which are admittedly modest.

23 Responses to ‘The Beers of Summer’

HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted April 28, 2013

YEAH...the PORTERS are FKN AWESOME..and why wouldnt thye be!

Snagged a slab of BROO BEER the other week, being retailed don here...not bad, its certainly not a lager like Crownies and they aint me fav anyways. Been doing the six pack test thing, I have about 30 beers in the fridge that OTHER people can drink cos I think they are SHIT though.

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Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted April 28, 2013

I've become a local beer snob after drinking a bit too much of the Boulevard Brewing Company's Wheat and 80 Acre Hoppy Wheat Beers. Another good summer beer is the mass produced, far more commercial Dos Equis Lager.

That said, most folks throw a lemon into their Wheat Beer. For the love of fucking all that is Holy, why? Haven't they been briefed on the Man Law concerning fruit 'n beer.

Or beer consumption via straw for that matter? Birmo, I'm looking at you, sir.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted April 28, 2013

With a mouth full of painkillers it was drink it thru a straw or not at all.

HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted April 28, 2013

you were overseas and you

  1. TOOK FKN PAINKILLERS
  2. Drank beer through a fkn straw

HAND YA FKN AUSSIE MEMBERSHIP AND MAN MEMBER SHIP FKN BACK IN YA MUPPET!...FFSAKES MAN!

Murphy asserts...

Posted April 28, 2013

To be fair, he drank through a straw on your side of the lake, Havock.

And to be honest, I saw John drink many things in 2009 but I do not recall him bothering with beer. It was mainly scotch and sangria.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

damian mutters...

Posted April 28, 2013

I've been washing down painkillers with beer this weekend. Slipped over while washing the dog last weekend, landing with the side of the bath under my ribs. Probably not a break, but you know how that goes... the most tender spot is a good 6 inches from where the bruising came up, will take just as long to come good as if I did crack one.

Must say, much as I enjoy the Weihenstephaner and the San Andreas IPA, I seem to fall entirely back on Coopers and Boags as a comfortable default.

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w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted April 28, 2013

I'm a little surprised. In my life in Brisbane, I have never met anyone who markedly changes their choice of potation due to the season. Except for, perhaps, pulling out a bottle of port for those final dread winter's evening coffin nails.

Though relatvely, Brisbane's weather is not very seasonal.

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted April 28, 2013

Don't get wrong, changing your choice of drinks seasonally seems quite sophisticated. I just wondered, is it common.
In my circles, we don't over-think drink choice, perhaps a little too successfully.

Blake is gonna tell you...

Posted April 28, 2013

W. Clearly we have not met - (amazing considering you can't visit a shooping centre without running into half the city)

I switch beers on a six-pack basis. Admittadly that habit started when i was entrustred by a Norwegeian student who was leaving a share house i was moving into with finishing a beer wall. (The house had a beer sized mantlepeice about half a metre off the ceiling - we had started a challenge to fill it with no more than three bottles of the same type of beer)

Even so i will switch styles seasonally - James Squires used to help by doing a seasonal brew that was just that bit more special than their usual range.

My favorite Burlieigh is "My Wifes Bitter" but perhaps the pun pushes it over the line.

Problem is where I'm living at the moment, the only bottle shop that sells anything that isn't XXXX/New/VB is Dan Murphys and their range isn't as dynamic as the little local i used to frequent in Windsor.

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w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted April 28, 2013

Thanks Blake. Maybe there is more of this seasonal switching and I just don't notice. And I like that you just change beers, though perhaps you are just keeping on topic (beer).

Burleigh beer : "My Wifes Bitter". Must try that one.
Reminds me of Chilli Willie's excellent range of hot sauces. They are good, produced locally, and have some interesting names.

"Fire in the Hole", 'Aussie Ring Stinger" etc. But the most notable name in their range is possibly their 9/10 heat rated chilli sauce "Smack my Ass and call me Cindy".


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Abe Frellman reckons...

Posted April 28, 2013

I found another cheapie for summer... An import from The Netherlands called Breda. My quasi local bottle -o is not averse to trying whatever the local importer is struggling to move, so I picked up a case of 330ml cans for $30-$35. A great summery beer.

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insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 28, 2013

Buy a wetsuit and swim all year round, or get wetsuit shorts. They help with the brass monkeys. I can stride into the cold icy sea with confidence.

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Stevo 73 is gonna tell you...

Posted April 28, 2013

No carb beers and low carb beers a bit of a mystery to me.

Most of the time low carb is also sly code for weaker alcohol strength. Check the horse piss that is Pure Blonde as an example.

No carb I imagine would have to mean no residual sugars at all from the brewing process. This is tough work due to the attenuation of the yeast strain being used. Most yeasts used for beer have attenuations around 85 - 90%. To get the no carb perhaps a second wine yeast strain or drying enzyme is used to drive down the sugars.... Interesting I must research this.

If you like Squires, I have recently given the Sail and Anchor range a bit of a nudge, in the same ball park as Squires just a little different.

I loves me the Hefe, oh how I love the Reinheitsgebot, those Germans know how to make beer (and self propelled artillery). However if you are having the local stuff steer well away from Hargrave Hills Hefeweizen. RUBBISH! It tastes like one of my bad batches. Stick to the 4 Pines, YUM.

Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted April 28, 2013

Stevo 73,

Yes 4 Pines German Holsch(?) is divine.

Stevo 73 ducks in to say...

Posted April 28, 2013

I love all the 4 Pines range, those boys and girls know how to brew!

Phil mutters...

Posted April 29, 2013

Hey Stevo, yeah all the low carb beers have additional enzymes added at the mash stage. Means the malt sugars are more easily fermentable, so you end up with a drier beer after the yeast is done. Then add in low alcohol, low colour/body malts to start with and you get practically no sweetness left at all. Voila! No carbs.

Dino not to be confused with has opinions thus...

Posted April 29, 2013

Quality varies widely from batch to batch though.

Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted April 29, 2013

Sorry should have written 'Wildly"

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Bangar mutters...

Posted April 28, 2013

I've been quite partial to Fat Yak since the Prof's first visit, though I am fond of the German beers for a treat.

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Jacques Stahl puts forth...

Posted April 28, 2013

JB, if you are looking for a tasty dark beer for the winter months, you could do worse than try White Rabbit Dark Ale from Healesville. A very tasty drop.

Haven't seen Big Head around the traps down here in Melbourne, but will keep an aye out.

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Timmo has opinions thus...

Posted April 29, 2013

I too am on the switch from beer to wine - my last case of summer beer has run out and I'm contemplating whether to get another or not. I've definitely made the switch from XXXX Gold to Cooper's Mild as my standard drinking beer - much more flavoursome, same mid-strength alcohol content and similar price. I also usually get a 6 pack of something new every time I buy a case just for variety - often a Monteith's variety or the current cheap European import.

I'm still on the white wines, but will make the switch to the reds as the cooler weather and heavier food makes a comeback.

(I will actually get another case of beer of course, just for choice, but the urgency of having run out of beer is gone.)

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 29, 2013

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted April 29, 2013

Fat Yak.

That is all.

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Respond to 'The Beers of Summer'

Rosé Revolution

Posted March 23, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

All the rain really fucked up the wet season, didn't it? Normally those first couple of months of the year, January especially, are like my annual drinking holiday. (Which is why come February I'm always a couple of kilos heavier, and in March I'm paying for it at the gym).

I scored a great gig this summer just past when a box of premium dry Rosé wines dropped on my front steps with instructions to 'enjoy'.

I've always been a fan of rosé as a summer drink. The heavy reds are impossible to get down your gullet after the mecury tops 30 plus and even some of the bigger fuck off whites, the chardys especially, can be too heavy to contemplate when you're faced with the usual groaning holiday buffet.

So yeah, I enjoyed. I've been meaning to blog about my faves all summer but wanted to wait until I moved into my new digs here. Below are six the best.

Some of them I'm very familiar with. The Rogers and Rufus is a fave and I tend to have a couple of bottles lying around any time after September. R&R are a coupla mad surfers and fishermen in their spare time (reminding me of a great sig file I used to see all the time when I haunted alt.surfing: I've surfed most of my life. The rest of my time I just sort of wasted). This wine's a dusty dry motherfucker, almost peppery to the tongue, but not rowdy with it. If you're the sort of reckless fool who likes his spanner crab flash fried in a wok and burning with chili, these are the boys to put out the fire for you.

The complete unknown for me, and a new best friend, was the Great Southern from Plantagenet Omrah. It's the darker looking one on the far left. It's a blend of temprenillo and shiraz grapes from WA and it is ay-fucking-mazeballz. I loved this fucking wine and sort of wished they'd just sent me half a dozen of it alone. I'd have been happy. Dry like all the others, with none of the sickly sweet fruity bullshit that defines a lot of truck stop rosé. The fruit's not missing in action. It's still there in hints of cherry and strawberry and shit, but even if you necked the whole bottle yourself, it'd never be too sweet. Not that I would. Oh no. Heaven forfend.

The others? All fab. Not a dud amongst them. The La Croix is a fave with the ladies because... well, the bottle, just look at that thing. That's a work of fucking art that is. And the wine is one of the quiet imports that've been turning up since the Aussie dollar decided to go into orbit and make drinking the French gear a lot more affordable for everyone. As you'd expect from an old French vinyard (est 1882) it's all fucking silky and sophisticumated. And it makes a great water bottle when you're done.

45 Responses to ‘Rosé Revolution’

Brother PorkChop is gonna tell you...

Posted March 23, 2013

Nice. Long for the cooler days to get into some nice reds. Have you tried Rockford Alicante Bouchet? That would be my pick but I do like the Omrah. Will now find some Rogers and Rufus to sample.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted March 23, 2013

No. I have not tried the Bouchet. But now I will.

AgingGamer asserts...

Posted March 23, 2013

You should also throw the Charles Melton rose on that list too. Right tasty blend of Grenache, Shiraz, cab Sav & Pinot meunière.

Peter Bradley mumbles...

Posted March 26, 2013

The Alicante Bouchet is an intyeresting grape in that the flesh is red whereas all other grapes get their colour from the skins.

The Charlie Melton Rose of Virginia (his wife's name) is a cracker!

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted March 23, 2013

Meh, pour me a riesling anyday.

Or a Bulleit.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted March 23, 2013

Yeah, Riesling's all right. I guess. But I drank a lot of cheap nasty lighter fuel passing itself off as Riesling when I was at uni. Never again.

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 23, 2013

Hmm, I had that experience with Tequila in the Army.

And soju.

Oh, and rum.

Umm, hmm, I really haven't had wine ruined for me. Well, except for Boonesfarm, which is really fucking awful. And Mad Dog 20/20. We get a fair number of German and Australian Rieslings here. Yellow Tail is pretty iffy I've found but there are others that aren't too shabby. Respects,MurphOn the Outer Marches

damian has opinions thus...

Posted March 23, 2013

Yes, the box monster of maximum vomit from Uni days was usually a riesling. If it wasn't actually a (God forbid) fruity lexia.

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w from brisbame ducks in to say...

Posted March 23, 2013

Dear Murph. Re: The white wine shelves

Back in the day in Australia, the white wine shelves in liquor outlets had a nice range of rieslings and other drier wine styles. Then there came the chardonnay infestation. I remained calm. I don't mind a nice chardy. However, the chardonnay outbreak only proved to be the stalking-horse for a greater apocalypse; the annihilating species replacement that occurred after the introduction of sauvignon blanc. It all started with a couple of bottles of Richmond Grove..... Now, sauvignon blanc and its derivatives stare balefully at you from every shelf. It's scary.

"Excuse me, sir. I just want a nice bottle of dry white wine."

They point you at the pinot grigio. Oh man, has it come to this!

Murph, has the same S.B. totalitarian evil struck in the U.S.A?

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted March 23, 2013

Sav Blanc is the Britney Spears of the wine world. Not even the Taylor Swift of the wine world.

Britney. Fucking. Spears.

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted March 23, 2013

Sav Blanc. Britney Spears with a kiwi accent, eh bro?Whitebait fritters, Savvy straight from the chilly bin, sweet as.

Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted March 23, 2013

I wouldn't know. I don't drink it. I don't know anyone who drinks it.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted March 23, 2013

Thanks Murph. That answers my question. In Australia, if you ever drink white wine; the occasional consumption of SB or an SB blend is, if not compulsory, inevitable.

Murphy would have you know...

Posted March 23, 2013

Speaking of adult libations, tonight's pint is Boulevard Brewing Company's 80 Acre Hoppy Wheat.

I have not gotten around to setting up a new wine cellar yet.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted March 23, 2013

You have my condolences, w from brisvegas.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

damian would have you know...

Posted March 23, 2013

SB, probably not. SSB, maybe. A nice cold-climate kiwi blend can work.

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MickH puts forth...

Posted March 23, 2013

test

MickH would have you know...

Posted March 23, 2013

looks like Dan fixed it. Thanks Dan.

I suspected it something to do with logon because I don't do that. I'm not used to it. so when i tried to post this time i got a you're ot logged on messgae and logged me on.

Thats sweet because its going to get me everytime.

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JG ducks in to say...

Posted March 23, 2013

I'm not really a rosé girl, but I may have to reconsider that after your feisty recommendations, John.

When I drink red, I have cabernet merlot. I like soft-bodied reds. Sometimes a glass of harsher, dry red--a full-bodied shiraz or pinot noir. I tend to drink red wines more in winter.

I don't drink alcohol much at all these days (I drink gallons of water) apart from the odd Friday night's indulgence but when I do, it's usually white wine--pinot gris, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc.

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HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted March 23, 2013

seems lately Mrs H has taken too the Brown Brothers Sparkling Moscato Rosa 200mL as it cpmes handily in a 4 pk for outings etc.

And for me, well its FKN RED or its FKN DEAD!..and beer of course!.

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Drej puts forth...

Posted March 23, 2013

Britney > Taylor. Just sayin

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted March 23, 2013

Whaaat! Drej, I will have to disagree.

Taylor Swift is an adept and original lyricist of the girly lovesick blues.

Britney mimes and learns dance routines. Though some of the pop song vehicles created for her were quite good; in a bubbly, ephemeral pop way.

drej reckons...

Posted March 23, 2013

Yeah, call me a sucker for a good train wreck, so long as they entertain well.

Also, girly lovesick blues and I have issues...

Murphy would have you know...

Posted March 23, 2013

Boobs

Lobes asserts...

Posted March 23, 2013

Can't say I'm a fan of, or even know any of her songs. But the smack down Taylor Swift put on Tina Fey was awesome. A few carefully chosen words and she turned Fey into a real life Liz Lemon full of inadequacy and awkwardness.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted March 24, 2013

Yeah, but then Amy Pohler bitch-pwnd her.

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Quokka asserts...

Posted March 23, 2013

If you want accompaniements, we swung by that new Deli at the Hawthorne garage & discovered that it sells Eggplant tapenade & all manner of other lovely nibbly dippy things. Rather a nice little snack shop & it turned out a very tasty lunch for it.

My girlfriend was wondering how it would do, out in the middle of nowhere away from the other shops & I said 'Not to worry. JB will keep it solvent.'

Have you been through there yet?

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted March 23, 2013

I am familiar with their work.

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insomniac reckons...

Posted March 23, 2013

Not sure about wine with "hints of ... shit"

Not really my kind of thing

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Abe Frellman asserts...

Posted March 23, 2013

I'm coming around to Rosé. In fact as a hedge for a hot Xmas day I had a few bottles from a local Murrumbateman winery ready to go. I prefer Pinot Noir, but rosé is typically a third to half the price.

Slightly off topic, but perhaps for a crossover with the fitness Burger (whatever was it called) you could tell us how to get smashed for the least calories. I'm guessing it's hard liquor, but I'd like to know a bit more about 'energy densities' of various types of wine/beer/spirits.

Sounds like the sort of thing Lobes would love to share with us.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted March 23, 2013

I must confess to popping a couple of bottles of lighter pinot into the esky for half an hour before Christmas lunch

Lobes is gonna tell you...

Posted March 23, 2013

Abe I believe you're pretty much on the money. Hard liquor is the best but its crucial that you drink it neat, on the rocks or at worst with soda. Mixers like coke, lemonade, fruit juice etc is full o sugar and very bad.

If you're drinking beer, even low carb beer, it's gonna hurt you with calories. And don't succumb to the drunken pig out or lure of a kebab on the way home either.

Abe Frellman ducks in to say...

Posted March 23, 2013

Cheers. That's what I figured. I'm guessing red wine would be better than beer but no by a long way, right?

Lobes mumbles...

Posted March 23, 2013

From memory beer and wine are fairly similar when it comes to calories but wine has a higher alc% so you get more bang for your buck.

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DrYobbo has opinions thus...

Posted March 23, 2013

Rose is desperate rubbish consumed by arrivistes.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted March 23, 2013

You misstyped, my good doctor. Allow me to assist.

New Zealand rosé is desperate rubbish consumed by arrivistes.

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RobertL would have you know...

Posted March 23, 2013
Rose is great, but you have to be careful not to get one of the sickly sweet ones. I recommend the "Rose of Virginia" by Charles Melton.

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Mayhem reckons...

Posted March 23, 2013

You people are soooo bad for my AFDs. The LaCroix is probably something I would pick, because as with horse racing, I have zero idea about Roseay. I'd go for the pretty bottle, or the prettiest silks, or the most Irish sounding name...

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Martin mumbles...

Posted March 23, 2013

I did some in-depth participant research on rose a couple of years ago ... well, I went on a one man mission to find a bone dry rose that works on a scorching Adelaide summer's day. After several false starts with 'dry' roses that were closer to raspberry cordial I met Spinifex Rose from the Barossa. This review is pretty spot on: http://www.auswine.com.au/styles/red/rose/spinifex-barossa-and-eden-valleys-rose.html

Peter Bradley mumbles...

Posted March 26, 2013

Absolutely spot on Martin! I can endorse your selection.

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warren nelson tipsily is gonna tell you...

Posted March 23, 2013

There is one thing I have learnt about wine.

If it has 'Classic' in the title, it isn't.

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted March 23, 2013

I'm coming around to Rosé, too. We actually had a quickly chilled bottle (from Fifth Leg) today with the MiL (after sparkling Pinot Noir and Viognier). "Voit eess een deess peenk sheet? Ai-yam tort-tully shlosh-hed." It was a pleasant drop, something of a surprise. I always sort of arced up at the concept of chilled reds, but I guess in time everything can be considered, tried and even enjoyed.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted March 23, 2013

You don't need to chill the red to ice cold. But remember in Europe they're coming out of a cellar at a much lower temp than we drink them off the shelf here. In our high summer a room temperature wine can be hotter than blood. So yeah, a quick chill is good.

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted March 23, 2013

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mind a nice Sauvignon Blanc. I just think it is beyond bizarre that this niche, novelty wine has so taken over the white wine section.

Like going to the DVD store and finding out that 70% of all movies star Robert Downey Jnr.

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Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted March 24, 2013

White wine - find Willunga Pinot Gris. Delicious. A week today and I will be in the Hunter, stocking up on Brokenwood Indigo Pinot Noir and ForestEdge Chardonnay. Amongst others.....

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Respond to 'Rosé Revolution'

So what do you do when the meal is bad?

Posted March 13, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

It's an awkward moment, innit? When you've waited way too long for a meal that barely passes muster, and the waiter bimbles up and asks, "So how is everyone enjoying their dinner?"

Normally, if I'm working, ie. reviewing, I murmur some noncommittal pleasantries and change the subject. Most people, I've observed, are loathe to speak their true feelings for fear of giving offense.

Sometimes though, when I'm paying for the meal myself, and I'm particularity aggrieved by the experience I will ask the waitron, "Do you really want to know?"

They don't, but I'll tell them anyway. It's a public service.

We had just such a dinner tonight, not too far from home, in a restaurant I'd previously reviewed a couple of times and which I didn't mind, even though I thought it had ideas above its station. There's nothing wrong with reaching just a little too far in the creative arts, and cooking is sure enough one of those arts. But there's overconfidence and there's arrogance, and once or twice I felt this restaurant shaded into the latter.

Still, many of the dishes were interesting, the wine list was exemplary, and the staff could be very friendly and helpful when the moment took them. It has recently changed hands.

We ate there this evening because Anna had had a tough day, Thomas, who's not always restaurant friendly, was at rugby, it was quiet and we thought to get in and out quickly.

Bzzzzt. Wrong.

Despite there being only two tables occupied for most of the first hour we were there it took, well, an hour, for the meals to arrive. And when they did arrive they were such a train wreck of practical and conceptual failure that I was glad I wasn't reviewing because I couldn't imagine how to write truthfully about the experience without running the risk of a defamation suit. As I may have mentioned before, the food review pages of a newspaper are the most sued section. It's why I can't name the restaurant here. (And no, it's neither Bar Alto nor Enoteca, both of which do awesome ragu).

Yes, my American friends, as much as I curse your IRS, I still envy your First Amendment.

So. What went right? My two glasses of Curlewis pinot noir were beautiful. Smokey and layered with complex notes of chocolate and old leather. But of course all they did was uncork that bad boy and pour it. Jane's wine, a Soave, was nice, but took an age to order and arrive.

My steak was competently cooked. A rib eye, closer to medium than the medium rare as ordered, but still well rested and very well seasoned.

From there it went downhill. The wilted greens were so dense with salt they were inedible, by which I mean the dictionary definition of the word. I could not eat them. They made me gag and made my face go a funny shape. The small, scalding hot bowl of potatoes and cheese, an attempted au gratin, was likewise difficult to get down, but in this case because of the grotesque oiliness. I ate my protein, and nothing else. So it was at least a healthy meal, and appropriate after a morning in the weights gym.

Anna's goat ragu with Pappardelle was a strange, inconsistent mix of weirdly acidic meat sauce and unevenly cooked pasta. It could have been great, but nothing about the disparate elements of the dish came together. It felt like student cooking.

Jane's consomme was a disaster. Consomme is a delicate broth, a rich clear soup clarified with egg whites to remove particulates and fat. Aria does a remarkable duck consomme, as I recall. (It's been a while). This soup was properly clarified but utterly tasteless. And bizarrely it was served with gnocci. Why bizarre? Because there is nothing about potato dumplings which lends themselves to this dish. The soup, being thin, will not adhere to the dumplings, coating them with a thick, tasty sauce. Perhaps if they were cooked in the broth and thus infused with its flavours... but of course this broth had no flavor. So Jane was left with potato balls in brown water. Mmm. Nom nom.

It was bad enough to be amusing. Eating so much for work I have the luxury of being thus amused, where most people would just be pissed off they'd wasted their hard earned money.

I was hoping to finish my steak, sneak way from the accompanying sides, and never return.

But then the waitress asked how we were enjoying the meals. I didn't even ask my usual question, giving her an out. "Do you you really want to know?"

No, for whatever reason, I just launched into a shorthand review, telling her what I've just told you, but in kinder, gentler terms. She looked horrified. Fixing a shit eating grin on her face she asked the others how they 'liked' theirs. Jane was evasive. Anna lied. God bless her. She doesn't like to hurt people's feelings.

We paid and left. I doubt we'll return.

It did make we wonder though, how do people who don't eat for a living handle it when they've been served a plate full of shit. Do you tell the truth? Or do you just mumble something and flee.

45 Responses to ‘So what do you do when the meal is bad?’

essjay would have you know...

Posted March 13, 2013
I do hope that "acrid" tasting goat wasn't off. I tell people as nicely as I can. Either they know already and so they'll kind of be expecting it, or they don't and you're doing FOH a service.

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Monster Yuppy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 13, 2013
Well, after a particularly shitty experience at a local Italian place, I got snarky on twitter and got a pretty immediate response from the management. The Mrs got sent flowers for her trouble.
It seems the best way to complain these days is to forget about telling a waitress...... Tell the world when you you walk out the front door.

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yankeedog is gonna tell you...

Posted March 13, 2013
I think you ask to talk to the restaurant manager after the meal, and say 'Look, the service was great, the place is clean, but...the food was not good', and list some of your issues. This can be done politely or at least businesslike.

Dumping on the wait staff , who a) didn't cook dinner, b) are doing THEIR jobs as well as they can, and c) probably really don't care, probably won't do a lot of good. If you don't get satisfaction with the manager, well, then you vote with your feet. Pay up and don't go back.

You may not have the freedom to crap all over a place in print like we do here, but I'm betting word-of-mouth works in Oz as well as it does in Septicville.

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MickH mutters...

Posted March 13, 2013
I coped a surprise some years ago in Melbourne. I was down there for a course so my wife accompanied me. We had dinner one night in a building on the Yarra, near that the casino that was three stories full of restaurants! wow!

It was an Italian restaurant that was packed.The Mrs ordered a risotto of some sort (I can't remember what) Anyway it was horrible apparently bland and mushy.

When the inevitable question was asked my Mrs, usually a shy and retiring individual let her have it. I reckon there are still marks on the table from where my jaw hit it. She did much the same as you, was nice about it but said it was shit.

The waitress went off and told the owner/front of house dude? and he gave us a look

When I went to pay the bill, I was terribly impressed to see that I'd saved $25 bucks! We didn't have to pay for it and he apologised for it.

If we lived in Melbourne we would have gone there again.

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johnbirmingham would have you know...

Posted March 13, 2013
I remember that meal, Yuppy. What a mess.
And yeah, Dawg, I often feel sorry for the wait staff for that very reason. Although these wait staff could have been a bit livelier

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yankeedog has opinions thus...

Posted March 13, 2013
And in the end, that's why you hop down to the local KFC and pick up a bucket of chicken. They don't have 'ideas above their station', and, yeah, it's a nutritional time bomb. But you know what you're getting. Most of the time.

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Bunyip would have you know...

Posted March 13, 2013
Ah... the joys of living in a small country town. Word gets around if a place changes hands and the food goes downhill. And it helps that my standards are basically better than that which I can cook for myself.

Sounds like the absolute opposite of what the three of you needed. Hope Anna's evening improved.

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damian reckons...

Posted March 13, 2013
+1 yankeedog

Not that I've ever done the thing with asking for the manager, but that's intellectually the right thing to do and what I'd like to think I'd try, especially in the states, what with the tip being the main part of the waiting staff's income.

I agree with the word of mouth thing though. If anything, Birmo, slander is usually harder to prove than libel... :/

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yankeedog has opinions thus...

Posted March 13, 2013
Well, slow service AND bad food, if it were just me (or The Better Half and me), I'd ask for the check and walk. With kids, it's a little harder to do sometimes.

I reckon, if I know my capitalism like I think I do, that restaurant won't be around very much longer.

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Kay mutters...

Posted March 13, 2013
Depends on the establishment and the attitude/vibe of the place - if I say something, in a nice way, what's the reaction likely to be?

If I think they would care, or I'm paying good bucks, then yes I'll put forth a tactful point. If, like our Sunday lunch in Byron, I think my words would be met be a snarky sneer or blasé burps then I'll leave a note on TripAdvisor or UrbanSpoon for future wary diners.

I *really* should have read the reviews for our one-star Sunday experience prior to ambling in the front door...

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ConspiracyCat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 13, 2013
I don't expect food to look pretty. My own cooking is renowned for looking like something a cat hocked up on the rug. But at least it tastes good*

So I have no complaints if a restaurant dinner is plated like a Picasso. My only requirement is that they at least try to make the food taste good. If someone serves me a Coogee Sundae, I will cheerfully ask the staff to take the offending crap back to the kitchen and get it right. If they argue, refuse, or fail to get it reasonably right on the second attempt, I simply get up and walk out. If the years I spent forcing down my mother's cooking is anything to go by, life is too short to eat shit.

(*The food, that is, not the cat hock. Also, in the interests of alleged accuracy, the Boss insists that I add the disclaimer 'usually'. Guess who's cooking his own bloody dinner tomorrow?)

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johnbirmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 13, 2013
I suspect this one is doomed, YD.
And yeah, what Bunyip said. This was supposed to be a nice experience at the end of a tough day. I'd completely forgotten about that aspect of it, once I went into reviewer mode. It's a problem with eating professionally. You do often forget the emotional component that accompanies the meals of normal people.

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yankeedog is gonna tell you...

Posted March 13, 2013
Mick, er, I mean, Twirler-you two got a fair enough deal there, and for their knocking that much off the bill, I too would probably give them another shot. And you had an extra $25 to donate to the casino afterwards. Most charitable!

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Chaz mutters...

Posted March 13, 2013
'Made my face go a funny shape ' more so? Is that possible?

Fortunately the last bad meal I had was in Bariloche. Besides my venison casserole being tasteless, Marcelas gnocchi like riot control rounds, the MinL's pork chops were average & the SinL & BinLs steaks were like the sort you'd get from your local hotel on a Tuesday night special.

This at what was supposed to be one of best restaurants in town on a quiet night.

I'm being kind and not blaming them for the power cut!

Will never go back there either

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Daniel Young swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 13, 2013
Bar Alto huh?

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yankeedog would have you know...

Posted March 13, 2013
"I don’t expect food to look pretty. My own cooking is renowned for looking like something a cat hocked up on the rug. But at least it tastes good"-ConspiracyCat

Yours too?!? I compare mine to something the dog vomited, but the same deal!

Kind of why I frequent any place that advertises 'WARM BEER-LOUSY FOOD-BAD SERVICE'. Hey, they aren't lying...and any surprise you get will only be pleasant!

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Colleen ducks in to say...

Posted March 13, 2013
Tell them, always tell them. I have owned food businesses and it difficult to monitor quality 24/7. If it was bad/average/fabulous I would want to know. Big business spend $$$$ on getting feedback about their product. Do your local restaurant owners a favour and in the nicest possible way give constructive criticism. Unless of course it was complete shite, and you know they don't a a flying feathered. Then you bitch, get a refund and do your worst online. But if they care and are trying to provide value, even if it falls short occasionally, be gentle but true.

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johnbirmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 13, 2013
Nah, Daniel. Not them. I really like bar Alto.

Colleen, I do, but mostly when it's good. Went out of my way to track down the manager at Harvey's the other day to complement our waitress. She was the bomb.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted March 13, 2013
I think you need to say something to the restaurant because you will sure as hell be telling your friends. On the few occasions when I've done it I've noted a 'yeah yeah don't care' attitude from the waitering staff & when that happens I assume that the 'tude is all encompassing thru the restaurant and it's probably filtering down the food chain from higher up - so no point going back.

One place here in West End brought us burned toast for breakfast one day.
Que?
How hard is it to stick another friggin piece of sourdough in the toaster?

But yeah. The bottom line is that happy customers come back, unhappy customers get pissed off, tell their friends, and the place gets a bad name if it has bad or inconsistent service. All of which can destroy a business and have someone scrambling for bankruptcy.

So I think it's better to tell them.
Usually no point telling the waiter, though. You ask for the owner, and if they aren't there, you phone or email them & tell them you had a bad experience so that they have the opportunity to work out that their staff aren't capable of working without close supervision.

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w from brisbane reckons...

Posted March 13, 2013
I would never send my meal back and ask for a superior version. I have been very reliably informed by friends who have worked in the restaurant trade of the bad things that often happen to the food that is returned to you. I eat what I can and leave at the earliest opportunity. I console friends that it will make an interesting story. If asked, I could give some gently expressed feedback, only if I am not waiting on any additional food.

On the other hand, people can have the most ridiculous expectations. People who complain that they suspect that their perfectly pleasant fish fillets may not have been freshly caught when they are eating the $12.50 lunch time special.

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Bunyip mumbles...

Posted March 13, 2013
1973. Munich. At dinner with my parents. Mum orders a well done steak. Sends it back because it was undercooked. Comes back. Sends it back again. Comes back a second time. With an Australian flag stuck in it. She ate it.

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Stu has opinions thus...

Posted March 13, 2013
Bar Alto, one presumes? There's not too many places in sleepy ol' Brisbane that do goat ragu with pappardelle.

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RobinPrice ducks in to say...

Posted March 13, 2013
My reaction depends. I never take it out on the staff, sometimes ask for the manager, sometimes send it back as inedible, other times I just pay, walk and bitch elsewhere. There's enough options to go elsewhere in Brisbane these days.

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HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted March 13, 2013
OH they get the truth! straight up and in text / language they clearly cannot fk up as badly as the meal! After all, I paid for the fkn thing. If its somewhere I have been before, I usually ask " do you have a new chef" and thats the opener!...POW...RIGHT IN THE FKN KISSER!

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w from brisbane asserts...

Posted March 13, 2013
HAVOCK. Nice TV quote.
"POW…RIGHT IN THE KISSER!"
Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleeson) - The Honeymooners

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 14, 2013
You know full well how I respond to a bad meal, John. I spit out my food, loudly and demonstratively; I make retching noises, engendered by a sincere effort to induce reverse peristalsis; then I consider grabbing what is on my plate with my bare hands and going all chimpanzee on the place. Finally, I tip lavishly to place my outburst in sharp relief.

I prefer, of course, a good meal because anything less is exhausting.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted March 14, 2013
Not Kentucky Fried Chicken, YD. Hell, at least come to KC where you can sample delicately choked chickens at Strouds. Senator Boylan thought well enough of them to refrain from going all chimp in the joint.

Bad meals . . . depends on if I am paying or not. If I am paying and I'm really offended by everything then I will call for a manager and explain what is wrong. Most of the time here in the States when I call for a manager it is something basic like nasty silverware, lipstick on the drinking glasses, hair in the food and the like. It happens ever so often and just as quickly it is usually dealt with.

Sometimes a bad meal depends on whether or not it is something I can eat. With Acid Reflux, lactose intolerance and an allergy to cilantro, sometimes I chalk up a bad experience to my own stomach. So I'm not quite as adventurous when it comes to eating out and I'm particularly fearful of fast food establishments which, in Kansas City at least, have a habit of leaving me in the bathroom for an hour while I retch the gunk back out of my system.

If I didn't pay for the meal and the person who did really had their hearts set on the place, this happen this past weekend when Cindy Marie and I went to Jazz up at the Legends in Kansas City, Kansas, I usually keep my mouth shut. I didn't finish or even put a dent in the meal because it was uniformly awful. The hamburger looked as though someone went to Aldi and picked up a 100 patty pack of horsemeat. It had the texture of a sponge with a sickly grey color that might have been appropriate for Winston Smith's canteen in 1984.

The cole slaw had pepper in it. Who the fuck puts pepper in the cole slaw? Or so much that it can be noticed? The hushpuppies looked good but someone threw a sugar plantation into the batter which meant they were probably keeping insulin needles on standby in the back.

Cindy Marie's meal, on the other hand, was pretty good.

About the only thing that went right about my meal was the beer, but Boulevard Brewing Company did that.

In any case, I passed it off as a matter of, "I've been sick, I'm still sick but my girlfriend enjoyed hers." I didn't even want to say that much because so often I exercise the Gastric Upset Veto over her choices and I wanted to give her the choice this time.

In any case, my two cents.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted March 14, 2013
Per fast food, I will say this.

In and Out Burger in Davis, California? Excellent meal. Hat tip to Boylan. If I was sitting there in the seat with a pale expression on my face it was the combination of not wanting to be a bad guest or upsetting Cindy who was dead set on getting an In and Out Burger.

Johnny Rockets in San Francisco? Another excellent meal, basic burgers and fries done right. It shows me that I can eat that type of food if someone who gives a damn prepares it. So often here in Kansas City, Missouri the Give A Fuck is sorely busted in many places.

In fact, while we were in California, I had a number of wonderful dining experiences. Servers were responsive, quick (in America we like quick service) and willing to fix any problems. I did have some bad experiences, one place was called Black Bear Diner I think, which was awful. There were a couple of other places as well.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Monster Yuppy puts forth...

Posted March 14, 2013
On the flip side, I reckon I need to take Prof Boylan & his lovely wife when ever we eat out, as I have never had a bad meal when the good Prof was sitting opposite.

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JB in the library on the iPad. puts forth...

Posted March 14, 2013
Ah, Johnny Rockets. I've been there. That was my introduction to American serving sizes.

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Murphy asserts...

Posted March 14, 2013
Yeah, but they didn't serve a whole plate of bacon, did they, John?

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 14, 2013
Then again, there is having an instinct for ordering the right thing. A quick process, but hard to rigidly define.
Having realistic expectations, picking up the vibe, looking at what others are eating, reading the menu, if they say they specialise in something, being guided by that. Sometimes, the geographical location is a factor.
In any group of 5 or 6. There tends to be a one or two that have a talent for selecting meals that are likely to disappoint. They do it with remarkable consistency. Smart people, but something goes wrong. It can be a bit of a laugh sometimes.

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damian puts forth...

Posted March 14, 2013
So it took me longer than planned to work out how to say someone on blunty without it being necessarily defamatory. Maybe still is. C'est la wee and all that.

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted March 14, 2013
Restaurant staff could probably beat our bad meal stories with their bad customer stories. Speaking of reviewing, I was reading about a successful restaurant that does its best not to be reviewed.

It brings review-trotters. The sort of people who go to a restaurant because somebody told them to. Kenny finds that review-trotters are often “petulant and demanding.”

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JG mutters...

Posted March 14, 2013
Dying to know where it was, JB. Not that you'll tell. Libel and all. I'm sure some conscientious villain here will do the research. Not me. Off to Open Minds. God, give me a job. Bored shitless. Looks like it's back to volunteer work with my MA, BA, Dip Ed, Dip App Arts, and years of experience. I want money so I can afford to eat out. I guess being older (turning 50 in June) and having bipolar disorder hasn't helped. Oh well. At least I have food.
Cheers,
Joanna :)

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that alison reckons...

Posted March 14, 2013
Only once, I have walked out without paying and given the staff a short sharp summary of why. If I'm in the mood, I'll tell the waiter that they should let the kitchen know what's wrong with it (cos the blame sits with the kitchen, not the waiters, and I don't like to shoot the messenger). If I don't feel like confrontation, I'll give a non-committal shrug and then a scathing review on urban spoon afterwards.

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Brother PorkChop ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
W, a good point made. Ordering the right thing. My sister bitched and moaned about her steak one night - tough, tasteless, inedible. I was enjoying some sand crab ravioli and the like so I told her to shut the fuck up and order Italian food in an Italian restaurant. I love a good meal out but it has to be something I cannot do acceptably well at home, or it has to have value.

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted March 14, 2013
Tell them. They need to know why business is declining so that they can either fix the problem or fuck off out of the game.

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Analog Penetration reckons...

Posted March 14, 2013
My better half and I once went to a nearby cafe for weekend brunch and were very disappointed. I was pretty hungry so went for the old-school big breakfast which I almost never do, as I usually go for something more imaginative, but even something as simple as that was beyond the skills of this kitchen. The only apparent effort visible on my dish was the the sausage considerately placed burnt-side down.

Living in cafe-crowded inner-city Melbourne, it was almost refreshing to have an unabashedly crap feed.

Then the apparent owner asked how everything was.

My BH said "It was OK."

Pressed for more, we gave him the truth, and we were then trapped in verbal handcuffs while this guy explained what he was trying to do, and how hard it was. When I mentioned that the baked beans tasted Heinzy he insisted he made them himself, adding 'char sui sauce' (his mispronunciation making it all the better) to the baked beans. Still no idea why you'd do that. The sausage? My BH and I still joke about his response:

"You know how hard it is to cook a sausage in Australia?"

The unintentional comedy was the tastiest part of the experience. The cafe now has new owners.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted March 14, 2013
Comedy can save a meal, yes, but how awful when it does.

Iain, Brix in Yountville was fairly good, but it wasn't great, and if a meal isn't great then it isn't any good and was a waste of hard earned money. Murph, in my opinion, an In and Out burger is great, and worth every penny of the incredibly reasonable price to buy one.

When it comes to your Black Bear experience, it is a matter of consistency. I've been to a few that did a fine job of putting breakfast in front of me, but I've been to others that didn't do a decent job at all.

In the words of Mario Batali, explaining what restaurants are supposed to do: "You fix up food and sell it for more than it cost you to buy, and if you can't give it to the customer the same way every time, then you are a dick."

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YB ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
I have never had a truly bad restaurant experience. I only go to places highly recommended by friends who know my tastes. And I'm pretty lucky, and pretty easily pleased :)

The worst I have received only needed "parts 1-5 were good, but part 6 was bad and stayed on the side of the plate"

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 14, 2013
Boylan, true words, for certain.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Peter in the bleaches is gonna tell you...

Posted March 15, 2013
Having 'laid bait' through uni, ask them to tell the kitchen staff or ask to get the manager. Don't shoot the messenger unless the service is crap, then just don't leave a tip (oops last week's topic).

Murph
In your general vicinity in a few weeks (Topeka, KA). Is there anywhere to go for a decent meal? Or do I need to travel to KC?

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palahuanca puts forth...

Posted March 20, 2013

i am getting an idea here peeps - and JB - what about a podcast that is not food porn - that is pure unadulterated bad food anecdotes from JB? No names to protect JB from defamation suits - although truth is now a defence in defamation law.

Howzat?

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Rohit is gonna tell you...

Posted March 23, 2013

When I don't want to "create a scene" by which I'm on a date or with my parents, I leave a detailed account on Yelp, Foursquare, Zomato, and everything else possible. (I know.) And not a leave a tip if I can (depends on company, again. Polite factor is too harsh sometimes.)

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Respond to 'So what do you do when the meal is bad?'