Fifi Foveaux’s

428 Crown St, Surry Hills
Phone: (02) 9380 6881

My cousin took me to this cute little cafe in Sydney last month. As we chatted away, realising that we had last caught up properly about 18 months ago, in Viet Nam, it was really heartening to see that my younger cousin had really found his feet in Sydney. It made me remember how much I love my awesome family, and that I should really try to spend more time with them. And maybe I that I should give Sydney a bit more of a chance, too. But I digress.

With vivid red walls, and seating spilling out onto the street, it was a buzzing little joint on a Sunday morning. And I was buzzing too, after my first sip of coffee; a coffee which confirmed for me that Melbourne is streets ahead in that department. Maybe I should only visit Sydney in the afternoon!

I ordered bacon and fried eggs, with rocket and avocado. It had some fun name, but I forget right now.

The eggs were a little overdone, and the sticks of toast were a bit dry. The bacon was nice and crispy, however, and the avocado provided the necessary lubrication for the whole dish. On the whole, it was on the acceptable side of mediocre. It definitely helped with the hangover which was fast developing, however!

My cousin ordered the omelette with Spanish onion and smoked salmon. Again the eggs looked a tad on the rubbery side, though the salmon looked fresh and he was very satisfied with it.

Overall, I’d have to say Fifi Foveaux was rather forgettable. It wasn’t bad, just not great. The service was rather slow, as well, though the waiters were friendly and efficient, once you could get their attention.

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Il Fornaio

2 Acland St, St Kilda
Phone: 9534 2922
http://www.ilfornaio.net.au/

After some morning shopping at the farmer’s market with Penny (@jeroxie) and her Mister, we stopped in at Il Fornaio for a late brunch. I was quite excited, because I still remember my dinner at Ondine many years ago – the oysters five ways in particular – and I was keen to see what Philippa Sibley’s take on a bakery cafe would be.

I’m going to start with the positives. The place was bustling when we arrived, and we luckily got a seat by the window. I ordered the blood sausage frittata.

Never having had blood sausage before, it was something of a revelation. The sausage in the frittata was tasty and dense. I could have dealt with more caramelised onions, and the egg was a little rubbery, however. Thankfully, the relish on the side held the dish together, which otherwise would have been pretty dry.

Penny, a black pudding veteran, ordered the black pudding with poached eggs, which looked delightfully gooey. I think the whole dish looked, again, like it lacked moisture, but Penny didn’t complain, so it must have been OK. It seems quite a rich and heavy brunch option to me. But she was nursing quite the hangover, so that was probably a good thing!

Penny’s Mister ordered the eggs Benedict, which he promptly demolished,so again, I’m assuming it also was satisfying.
Now, the negatives. The service was abominable. Our waitress was brusque to the point of being rude. Actually, no, let me amend that; she was rude. She was visibly pissed off when we asked for a couple of minutes more to decide what to have, and she was rather overbearing when she returned to take our order later. I understand that it’s a busy cafe, but I’m sorry, you work in hospitality. Be hospitable.

Here’s an open letter to our waitress that day:

Dear waitress,


I realise that you were very busy the afternoon we came to eat at Il Fornaio. Maybe you were understaffed because someone had called in sick. But life throws challenges at us, and we really should all try to rise to meet them. I’m sorry if your boyfriend had just broken up with you earlier that week, or your cat had died, or you just had an absolute blinder the night before and you were nursing a gargantuan hangover. But perhaps if you weren’t in a decent enough mood to at least fake being nice, you should have called in sick. Oh wait, someone else already did that.

What you shouldn’t have done, was treat us as if we were insufferable fools, who were testing your patience – which was apparently failing -and who you only tolerate because you have to pay your bills. When one of us ordered a pourover coffee, it was OK that it wasn’t available, even though it was on the menu, because you were short a barista.

When one of us tried to order the pink grapefruit juice, you told us that it was only available on some days, and that you thought it wasn’t available today. Oh no, please don’t bother offering to check. And while you’re at it, please don’t apologise at all when you spill water across the table and onto Mister’s lap. And yes, we’re very thankful for your going to get some napkins and a tea towel to clean it up. Not like it’s your job or your mess or anything.

I’m hoping for your employer’s sake that you were just having a bad day. Because I wouldn’t go back if I thought I would have to endure that sort of service again.

Regards,

Billy

In all honesty, the food at Il Fornaio was quite good. I think I might just go for the baked goods and take them away next time, though.

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Hot Poppy

9 Errol St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9326 9299

A cute little cafe up the quieter end of Errol St, Hot Poppy has been around since my uni days. I remember a friend quite excitedly cheering “Hot Poppy!” with a Japanese accent, when asked about where to go for breakfast. And indeed, their breakfast is quite good. I imagine that these days, with places like Fandango and Auction Rooms in the area, it’s not quite so hard to get a table at Hot Poppy for a weekend breakfast, though I could be wrong.

On this occasion, I stopped in for a working lunch with Mr A, at his suggestion. It was a blustery Winter’s day outside, so I felt like some hearty soup. The soup of he day was a Moroccan chicken and lentil soup.

Served with some warm Turkish bread, it was just the hit of heartiness I was after. The spices were used subtly, and balanced well with the tomato base. I thought it could have dealt with a little more chilli heat, but that’s probably just me. I’m not sure Moroccan food is supposed to challenge you like other curry-style cuisines.

Mr A had a toasted roast vegetable pide. Which is another way of saying mini Turkish bread. It looked pretty tasty.

Don’t let this review fool you, however. Hot Poppy does more than simple soups and sandwiches – other people were having more complicated foods like risotto and stews all around us. The service was efficient and unobtrusive.

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Bath Lane Cafe

13 Bath Lane, Bendigo
Phone: (03) 5441 5400

Stopping in for some late lunch in Bendigo, or so we had thought, Mr N and I thought we’d try one of the cafes along the Bath Lane strip, behind the controversial new Bendigo Bank building. The building is controversial because it’s big, glass, with bits of red and green. It wouldn’t look out of place on a suburban University campus, or maybe in the Docklands, but I can see why people in Bendigo though it was an eyesore. It definitely clashes with the surrounding heritage buildings. And Bendigo’s a lot about heritage.

Bath Lane Cafe is, if the Bendigo tourism site is to be believed, part of that heritage, as a “Bendigo breakfast tradition“. While the breakfast is available all day, we opted for some lunchier options. Mr N chose the chicken salad with a mango dressing.

The dressing was a good mix of sweet and tangy, and all the ingredients were wonderfully fresh. Despite not having eaten since an early breakfast, as we were aware that we were due at the Dispensary in a few hours, Mr N didn’t finish the salad. And well, if he didn’t finish a salad, I really had no chance. I didn’t know what I was doing…
… ordering the burger. Touted on the menu as the best burger in town, I really couldn’t go past it. It came served on a bed of chips, which were crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside, the way good pub-style chips should be. There was probably about a fish and chip shop ‘minimum chips’ amount, as you can see, on the plate; ie. a lot. Then there was the burger itself.
A monster of a beef patty, with crispy bacon, caramelised onions, a fried egg, tomato and lettuce. I sound like I’m writing a McDonald’s commercial here, but trust me, this was a world away from the cardboard meat of fast food. The burger was actually cooked to a medium, which might have put some people off, but I love all my meat on the rare side. You can really taste it properly. I think the only thing missing from this beast was some beetroot, to make it real a Aussie classic. I had to slice it in half to eat it, and I’m glad I don’t have a small mouth, because it was a challenge to fit it in as it was! So yes, I also didn’t manage to finish my lunch.
Which meant we couldn’t get one of these… so sad, because they not only looked amazing, but they were only $4.50!

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