Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Breakfast

My mind is turning to the insane day that is commonly known as Christmas. I won't go into any detail of my intense dislike of this time of year. Just know that I feel there is nothing redeeming about it whatsoever apart from providing an excuse to drink a lot of champagne (yeah yeah, I'm still breastfeeding. He can skip a feed or 2 now he's eating solids.) I don't even like receiving gifts, as it's generally just uncomfortable pretending to be thrilled with something you don't want or need. Just gimme the cash if you insist on parting with it, OK?

But I digress. Back to breakfast, woman.

My sister and her husband will join me, Mr Nellie, Miss 2 and Master 7mths for breckie. I have been happily salivating over cookbooks and food magazines looking for inspiration for what to present. And made the lazy-ass decision to do as little as possible.

I have convinced Mr Nellie to poach eggs (he's ace at this, and mum's giving me eggs born within the previous 24 hrs so v.fresh), and I will cook the toast and even butter it. I will also bake some friands (probably raspberry as I have 3 punnets ordered from Hill St Store which will need to be used somewhere). I have 2kg box of cherries ordered from Hill St too, so the obligatory bowl of cherries will sit as the table centrepiece. Mr Nellie, the aspiring barista, will man the KitchenAid coffee machine: (note to self: must get some fresh beans - Jasper free trade - from Hill St on Sun). And some fresh juice.

It probably won't score terribly well on the Breakfast Blog review criteria, but I don't care. I'll be relaxed, surrounded by those that matter the most to me, and hopefully wearing a nice piece of expensive new jewellery courtesy of the Man in Red.

Hope you all have a good one too. Ho Ho Ho.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bloody Kids

I know there are some people who have been wondering why I'm so quiet atm - it's called chronic sleep deprivation, and is caused by my gorgeous but teething 7 month old baby boy. He (along with his hyper 2 year old sister) have determined that I shall not have the energy nor motivation to engage in anything resembling self-interest or pleasure for the past few weeks.

I will resume my reviews and banter as soon as I am able to stay up later than 7.30pm.

Merry Christmas all.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Say Cheese(y)

It's 8am on a Sunday morning, and I'm on the prowl at Salamanca searching for a relaxing and sublime family breakfast. Time to wake up from that sweet dream, Nellie...... Miss 2yo is testing my patience and so are the cafe proprietors who don't open until 8.30 or (for gods sake) 9.00am: how very bloody civilised of them!!! I have been up since the crack of dawn, not by choice, and need coffee urgently.

The options are limited as follows:
Zum (very tempting, but already reviewed)
Banjos (not in the least tempting)
Salamanca Bakery (ditto)
Say Cheese (only barely tempting, and only because I'm so desperate)

So we wander in, and of course are the only patrons. Except for our new friend, the thumping great cheese fridge who kindly sings and hums for us at a delightful volume, successfully competing with Miss 2yo in being an utter annoyance and hindrance to relaxation. Hmmph.

The food was fine. I almost wanted it to be bad, but it wasn't. The menu is horrendous reading though, with all kinds of corny word plays best forgotten (and I have, sorry). And very confused. Is this a creperie? or a fromagerie? or a cafe?

Okay, so the ambience in this place is the equivalent of dining in the cafeteria at the Tax Office. Where do I start? The decor is harsh and the lighting fluorescent. Nothing works for me at all. Especially not the noisy cheese fridge sitting akwardly in the middle of the dining area. And why???? Why are they flogging average pre-packaged cheeses that you could purchase at the supermarket (or Salamanca Fruit Market round the corner?) If you're going to attempt to be a cheese specialist, put in a proper cheese room for gods sake. Hrmph.

Rated 2/10
Say Cheese, Salamanca Square

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lansdowne Cafe

I truly love this cafe. It's my local, and I try to go there for a coffee at least once a week. I love that the staff know my name and my coffee. I love that they remember the names of my kids and ask how they are. I love the way way they make their coffee. And the food's pretty good as well.

I have had some damn sublime breakfast experiences here: the most memorable being a pair of poached eggs atop perfect asparagus and spinach and toast, smothered in a zingy hollandaise. Heavenly. It was a work of art, and I wish I'd taken a photo. A few days later I snuck in for a furtive feast, ordering poached eggs with smoked salmon. Although pleasantly surprised to be presented with lovely chunks of hot-smoked salmon, the toast was tough and impossible to cut, let alone chew. And it was unbuttered, which didn't help.
The menu has a few interesting-looking dishes such as green eggs and ham (scrambled with pesto) which I imagine I might try some day.
I often share a muffin with Mr Nellie over our coffee, and they are invariably satisfactory (but not amazing). Big though, cooked in mini-loaf tins (Whitey, there's a good-value tip for you!) and too big for one person.

The coffee's very good. I know people drive to Lansdowne for the coffee alone, so that speaks volumes.

I cannot fault the wait staff at all. Except for being too darn perky and happy every day. But seriously, they seem genuine in their friendliness and relaxed without being slow. I gather many of their patrons are regulars, so there's a confident familiarity that works pretty well.

OK, this place is Mumsy-Central from 9-11am. And Dadsy-Central, for this is West Hobart and shared parenting is the order of the day. It's hard to negotiate the prams that clutter up every available space some mornings, which irks me somewhat (and I'm a mumma too, but purleese leave the bloody prams outside thanks).
There's plenty of breakfast meetings and coffee meetings happening too, but not suits - more the creative types than the business types.
And just lots of locals - middle aged women and men, uni students etc. Not people out to see and be seen, but people popping in to have a decent coffee and read the paper.
It's a brilliant vibe, I reckon. It reminds me of the bar in Cheers, where "everybody knows your name".

The only real gripe I have with the place is its too cosy: I wish there was more room to spread out a bit. It's too tight to feel relaxed with the kids in tow. The staff are accommodating to families, but geez an internal courtyard would be the icing on the cake.

Rated 8/10
Lansdowne Cafe

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I was reminded this morning of two things I hate when breakfasting: being made to wait for over 10 minutes for my caffeine hit and only receiving one piece of toast when ordering poached eggs. Petty, snivelling thing aren't I?

Cafe Kara has been one of my faves over the years. I hadn't been there for yonks so opted to pop in whilst child-free to enjoy a pre-shopping bite and suss out if there were any changes to this inner-city institution. Mmmm, sadly there has.

One thing that hasn't changed is the decor, and it really ought to be. The place seemed overwhelmingly tired, and in need of a refurb. When there's so much competition in the city, one cannot afford to rest on one's laurels and rely on what was looking great 6 years ago. Paint the walls, change the mirror, re-stain the floors: do something!!!

I ordered poached eggs with a side of smoked slamon. They arrived speedily and were pleasant enough, but not great. One piece of toast(unbuttered, why?), 2 eggs, and 3 little swirls of smoked salmon. And of course the obligatory pile of lettuce doused with balsamic. This is another oft-found and irritating feature on many breakfast plates. If I desired a side salad with my eggs, I would order one. In this case, I would have preferred a second piece of toast instead of the greenery.

Coffee was good. I think they still use Grinders, which I find a tad too strong actually, but hubby was very happy with his latte. And the cute latte art.

The service was slow slow slow. We arrived at 9am and although the seated area was quiet, with maybe 2 other tables filled, there was a queue for takeaway coffees about 6 deep. This was keeping the barista busy, but the floor staff were somehow missing in action. I was on the verge of departing in frustration when finally a fellow arrived to take our orders. He was friendly but distracted, and called my beloved 'Sir', which was a bit odd, given they appeared about the same age. Hmmm.

The cafe was pretty empty when we visited, which I guess contributed to the air of neglect; one notices any shabbiness when there's no people-watching to be had or conversations to eavesdrop. Both the other tables comprised women with prams, so I guess it's a good spot for a quiet coffee before you hit the shops with bubs in tow (if you're not in a hurry). The buzzing, pumping Kara I remember from days of old has clearly died. I longingly recalled when Maria used to run the place with flair and passion, and the trouble you'd have getting a table any time of day. There used to be suits having business meetings, lawyers debriefing after a court appearance (yes, that was me before I retired!), all manner of public servants, shoppers, tourists too. Maybe I was just there at the wrong time of day? Who knows, but methinks that Kara's hayday may have passed. Time to re-incarnate please.

Rated 5/10
Cafe Kara, Liverpool Street

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

too much of a good thing?

I read today Georgie Weston's (Hobart Restaurant Bitch) description of an appalling breakfasting experience at Timeless Way cafe. It's been a very long time since I exposed myself to a bad breakfast when dining out; for me it's an escape from the tedium of housewifely and mothering duties, so I am very selective about where I go and tend to stick with known quantities rather than experimenting.

It gets me thinking though.... I really need to branch out a little, live life on the wild side. Go somewhere that extends me beyond the comfortable and predictable.

You see, I would never go to the Timeless Way. It looks like the kind of cafe my mother would run; not quite doily territory, but the owners likely dont drink coffee nor appreciate the benefits of free-range eggs etc. How do I know this, you might wonder, given that I've never ventured into the Timeless Way, nor met the proprietors? I just know, OK. I just make these assumptions based on vague observations such as the font type of the menu and exterior signage, whether devonshire teas feature on the menu and the sort of people you see sitting outside on the tables. All very scientific and that.

So given those limitations on where I choose to dine, how then can I push the envelope a little? Ought I select a cafe to breakfast in that is in a "cool" location but might be a bit Nanna-ish? (what's Say Cheese like, for example?). Maybe I should head further out into suburbia, and walk on the wild side in, um, Glenorchy/Rosny/Blackmans Bay?

It's all too much to contemplate. I'm not a risk-taker at the end of the day. Why should I deliberately sabotage a pleasant morning by eating in a cafe that does not care as much as I do about the finer things in life? Life's too short, as they say.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Residents of Newtown, you are lucky bastards. In your midst has appeared a mirage of urban slickness hidden amongst the foliage at Newtown Station Nursery. This is NOT like popping into the cafe while you're at K&D on Saturday morning; this is a groovy breakfast joint with slick service, food and coffee. Real coffee.

A quick perusal of the menu reveals standard cooked breckie options. There are a few interesting additions too: chocolate banana bread, toasted coconut bread, choc hazelnut french toast sandwich or sweet ricotta fritters with honeycomb butter. I'm not a huge fan of the sweet breakfast, so went the poached eggs with mushrooms on the side, despite the urgings of the waitress to try the coconut bread. Next time, maybe. Can't fault the food -perfectly poached free-range eggs, crunchy multigrain toast and yummo mushrooms. The young fella in the kitchen has big shoes to fill (surname is Falconer) and he seems to be doing well so far.

I knew the coffee would be spot on as soon as I spied Steve Skinner behind the machine. Formerly of Criterion St Cafe which he ran with wife Rebecca (she's in charge of this venture), Steve makes coffee the way it ought to be made, and he cares about every drink that he serves. I was not disappointed. I ordered a second, which is dangerous for a breastfeeding mum (yep, Mr 6 months didn't sleep for the rest of the bloody day).

Service can't be faulted - experience shows, and the staff are familiar faces from cafes over the years. I was offered water several times, suggestions from the menu, and smiles. Not a stressed expression in sight despite the packed house and second-week-jitters.

As I lingered over my second long black, I took in the surrounds - 9 well-spaced tables in a vaguely Ikea-like setting. Loads of natural light and an nice leafy aspect into the nursery. Despite being located alongside the bike track, there's no direct access, but you could easily jump off the track 50 metres along the road and backtrack.
Every table in view appeared to be couples (pre- or post-kids) wearing designer specs and reading proper newspapers (ie not the Mercury). I'd say it was a definite "scene", and I spotted one or 2 known faces about town.
The fitout is red and white and leaves an impression of light, bright and a bit plasticky. Not quite how I would have decorated and somehow not altogether in harmony with the green relaxing vibe of the nursery. I didnt feel inclined to linger after I'd finished my people-watching.

I forgot to enquire whether there were any highchairs available, and I didn't see any kidlets there this morning. I wouldn't hesitate taking kids along, but would sit outside in the contained courtyard area so they could make noise and spill sugar without maternal coronaries. I hope there's some sun/rain protection for the outdoor tables.
Edited to add: went back for more coffee today with 2 kids and hubby in tow - omg the place was chockers with kidlets drinking babychinos and enjoying themselves. I was introduced to the "kids shelf" where crayons and paper are stored for entertaining youngsters. V. pleasing to see, and I've awarded an extra point as bonus because it appears v. family-friendly.

In all, a surprising little package, and a suburban cafe to patronise if one is a discerning coffee drinker and consumer of fine breakfasts. I wasn't going to give a rating after only one visit, especially to a brand newbie, but given that they are old hands on board and know the ropes, I will.

Rated 9/10
Express Cafe @ Newtown Station Nursery

Friday, November 10, 2006

Zum @ Salamanca

I dragged the family into Zum this week to see what this re-invented eatery was like. It's pleasant; beautifully decorated, and the designers have made good use of the long narrow space. The morning we ate there we were seated toward the back near the outdoor courtyard. The first thing that impressed me was the comfortable seats; seriously, they are fantastic. This is a rare phenomenon in the world of cafes, where spindly, rickety and uncomfortable seating seems to be the norm.

Our 2 yo madam declared her desire for a "baby-chino" loudly to the waitress, and we ordered our coffees also, before perusing the food menu. It was familiar territory in many ways - similar to the old Zum that was next door for years. Muesli, croissant, toast, eggs florentine, eggs with smoked slamon, big breakfast. Nothing ground-breaking. Wishing to feel virtuous, I ordered the bircher muesli. Big mistake. Maybe mine (?), but I was expecting oats and fruit in juice and yoghurt. Not oats in cream. Or rather, cream with a few oats tossed in for good measure. It sat untouched, as I'd seriously need to pay my overpaid personal trainer overtime to punish me for that choice.
Miss 2 yo had a ham and cheese croissant. Pleasant enough. Hubby enjoyed his eggs florentine on finnen while I simultaneouly managed to sulk and salivate. It looked great.

I did enjoy my coffee, but then again I had to, given that it's all I had to ingest. Hubby's latte was good too.

We were served efficiently by our waitress; a friendly girl who seemed to enjoy her job. She brought our drinks and meals speedily, water also when requested, and smiled indulgently while Miss 2yo proceeded to eat the sugar sachets.

I felt comfortable dining there with the children on board - the room is big enough to handle groups of all sizes and shapes, quiet and noisy. There's a highchair available upon request.

Look, to be honest, I think this place might be too polished for me. I can't really fault anything in particular (except the disgusting bircher) but it doesn't quite hit the spot the way some other cafes do. I can't explain why precisely, but despite beautiful surrounds, good food and coffee and friendly service, I'm not rushing to return. There were lots of movers and shakers eating breakfast with us: some politicians, some high profile media and real estate personalities, so obviously it's a place to be seen. Maybe I just like a more intimate space, and this place is reasonably large. Who knows?

Rated 6/10
Zum @ Salamanca

Sunday, November 05, 2006


My English mate Vanessa always refers to this cafe as Laundry. Don't know why that's interesting, but it is a unique concept in a cafe I guess; wash your dirty clothes and get a caffeine hit simultaneously.

I admit to being a semi-regular patron at this place. I really like the eggs, the coffee's acceptable, but most of all - there's a great safe outdoor space for feral toddlers to run around while I savour my breakfast and attempt to scan the newspapers.

Food is the best feature at this joint - and breakfast is the only meal worth having here. They do it really well. Eggs done any way, with all the best side orders you could imagine (eg grilled haloumi, smoked salmon, mushies, great hollandaise, sauted spinach with caramelised onions..you get the drift). Generous serves but not silly-sized; good toast; season-appropriate fruit and cereal dishes (hearty porridges in winter/ fruity granola in summer).

Coffee's only average. Not horrible, but not brilliant. I don't know whether it's the blend, but it's a bit bitter for me. And the lattes often miss the mark. Then again, my cafe-savvy Melbourne-based sister (a long machiatto) says they made her the best coffee she had in Hobart last time....

Service is friendly. I guess I'm erring on being in the wrong demographic profile for their aimed custom (being a hassled housewife and all) but I am still treated with a happy smile, snappy banter and genuine service. Keep in mind that I avoid peak busy times, so cannot vouch for consistent service then.

The ambience is good. The music's too loud for me when seated inside, but outside it's pleasant if the sun's out. It's a pretty mixed customer in there for breakfast; tourists to uni students to the pram brigade. Not a lot of suits, but it's probably too casual for a business breakfast. The tables are close as well, and not ideal for private conversation. In all, a bussling busy cafe with a vibrant mix of customers.

As previously noted, the big plus this place has is it's location in Salamanca Square right next to the giant chess set. This provides much distraction and entertainment for kids of all ages, which is a bonus. You are 50+ metres from a road and potential hazards for small children. Booster seats are available for children. The staff are also happy to provide doggy-chinos for pampered hairy friends, which I love.

I am yet to see anyone actually laundering at Machine. I kind of wish they'd move on from that particular theme and get rid of the washing machines and dryers; replace them with a carpeted couch seating area with a more relaxed feel.

Rated 7/10
Machine Cafe, Salamanca Square, Hobart

Assessment Criteria for Breckie Reviews

After much thought (at least two minutes) I've narrowed the important stuff down to the following:

1. The food. Pretty obvious, really.
2. The coffee. Deserving of its own category, of course. I drink a long black generally, so can only comment on that style; hubbie is Mr Latte so I'll get his input on how the milk is treated.
3. The service. We all know that one's enjoyment can be enhanced or otherwise by efficiency and friendliness of staff.
4. The vibe. You know, the atmosphere, the buzz.
5. Family friendliness. This includes our four-legged friends. Not important for everyone, but vital for me. So there.

I'll award a rating out of 10 for each establishment. The rating will be weighted more heavily toward the quality of food and coffee, but will also take account of the other 3 factors.


Breakfast Ponderings and Breakfast Reviews

The world gets smaller and priorities alter when one is out of the workforce and at home with small children. Little things seem huge (baby hasn't done a poo for 5 days!!) and big things kind of pale in significance (tsunami...what tsunami??)

I have two ways I attempt to retain some feeling of being part of the Real World. The first is surfing the net; shopping, learning, and generally stickybeaking around the amazing phenomenon that is the Internet.

The second way I pretend I have a life is to go out for breakfast regularly. Sometimes it's just a coffee and toast. Sometimes the full catastrophe (eggs florentine with lots of sides, or a stack of sweet hotcakes). I am usually accompanied by at least one of my children (6 months and 24 months - FUN!) and often my dear husband. But despite these impediments, I feel human and in control of my life when I enter a cafe breezily, take a seat and joyfully ponder the prospects on the menu.

Breakfast is my meal of choice. Actually, it's my meal of necessity. Lunch is a rushed sandwich while the kids sleep upstairs, and the evenings are insane as anyone with a family will understand. By the time l'enfants are fed, bathed and snoring sweetly, all I want is a large glass of wine and a frothy magazine. And sleep, sweet sleep. Until Mr 6 months wakes for a feed at 11pm. And 2am. And 6am.

So, as you see, breakfast is looking good as a dining out experience for me right now.

I will have a think about what my review criteria might be, and then commence my dissection of what Hobart has to offer. Please feel free to make any suggestions in this regard.