Summer with Miss Jackson

2/19 Grey St, St Kilda
Phone: 9534 8415
www.missjackson.com.au

This is a pretty belated post. The next few will be, actually.  Apologies, but I’m working my way through the backlog of the past two months. I should also note that the good folk at Miss Jackson provided lunch for free for us on this occasion, as a thank you for my participation in the Melbourne Food Blogger’s Dinner last year. Oh, and the menu at Miss Jackson is seasonal – because that’s a big part of what they do there – so I can’t guarantee these dishes are still available!

I don’t really get to St Kilda very much. It’s part of that whole Northside/Southside menatlity which is a little silly, but also a little justified, given the amount of time it takes to cross town. Though now I’m in the West, going from Footscray to St Kilda is about the same as going from Footscray to Northcote, or Richmond. But there’s nonetheless a stupid psychological block there, a grudge that probably stems from a deep-seated jealousy of beaches and rickety roller-coasters, and a staunch belief that the lifestyle depicted in The Secret Life of Us was not what life in Melbourne is all about. But I digress. And rant. As usual.

It was a brilliantly sunny day (as you’ll see from the horrendous job of white balance my iPhone did), and the Pride March was on. So I made the mistake of driving down to St Kilda – it took so long to find a park that I missed half of the marchers parading down Fitzroy St – to meet Mr R. Neither of us had had lunch, so after the on-street drinking period ended, we headed over to Miss Jackson for a spot of lunch in the sun.

Mr R and I both got quite excited by the mention of polenta chips on the menu. Lightly panko coated, and served with a chilli mayo, these were a real treat.

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I’d been told about the panko-crusted chicken schnitzel burger, and seen pictures of it on twitter, so there was very little doubt in my mind what I wanted to try.

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And I was really glad I did. The chicken was moist and succulent, and the panko crumbs gave it a bit more crunch than your average schnitzel, without making it dry or hard. The slaw in the burger was also great, if a little messy towards the end!

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Mr R had the panzanella salad – so pretty, with the different heirloom tomatoes – and was also very happy with it. Though he wanted more haloumi. But then it’s haloumi. Who wouldn’t want more? I was happy because I got a lot of his olives.

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Miss Jackson on Urbanspoon

Chinta Blues

6 Acland St, St Kilda
Phone: 9534 9233

I don’t often go South of the river, as regular readers will know. It used to be an ideological thing, but then when Mr N moved South, that changed. I started to embrace the idea of heading to St Kilda, or South Yarra, and it didn’t seem like such of a chore. To be honest, it helped that he would drive everywhere, so I wouldn’t have to deal with schlepping about on public transport, or the inevitable headache of navigating the least traffic-fraught route across the river.

So when Penny initiated the Melbourne Food Blogger’s Dinner, and I received an email saying that it was going to be hosted by Miss Jackson, I’ll admit I had only a vague idea of where Miss Jackson was. It’s in St Kilda, right? Right.

After our initial meeting, we thought we’d sneakily duck over to Chinta Blues for a quick bit of hawker satisfaction. I don’t know why, but I was a little surprised at how down to earth Chinta Blues was. I guess its proximity to Lau’s Family Kitchen and Il Fornaio just made me assume it would be more of an upmarket proposition. And the idea of high end combined with hawker food just doesn’t quite sit right with me. Partly why I’ve never been to Gingerboy, and have no real desire to, I guess.

Anyway, I always like to judge a Malaysian restaurant on two things, if they’re available: the laksa, and the char kway teow. I wasn’t in the mood for a laksa that evening, so I opted for the char kway teow.

It was a good rendition plenty of wok hei and well seasoned. A serve of sambal came on the side, but I only needed half of it. My only complaint was I would have preferred it a little more heavily charred, but I’m splitting hairs now.

Ms J had the hokkien mee, which looked pretty appetising, but I’m not sure about the shredded lettuce on top. It seems a little mealy to me, but maybe it’s a traditional thing I don’t know about, so I’m not going to question it too much.

The other three at the table chose the laksa, which is apparently what they all order whenever they go to Chinta Blues. So, I’m guessing it’s good. I didn’t really feel comfortable asking for a taste, as I hadn’t met Mr M and Ms S before.

Mr M and Ms S shared a serve of the roti as well, which is a good idea in my book, because I always end up wanting to mop up the laksa broth after all my noodles have disappeared.
I’m glad that there are decent, cheap and tasty options south of the river. I think my tendency to think of everything over there as homogonised and plasticky is probably unjustified. Even if Chinta Blues is part of a chain!

Chinta Blues on Urbanspoon

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.

Il Fornaio on Urbanspoon