Annnnyhow, back to the story at hand. We picked up the old sheep shagger from the airport, and decided that it would be an excellent time to go grab a bite of food to eat. So, Kipper and I, keen to impress the old man set off for Sydney Road, host of a wide variety of tasty from various corners of the world, and in fact, Brunswick. This was a sound idea in theory of course... you know, fantastic cusine, cheap, and a massive change from the sausage-roll-frozen-chips -and-tomato-sauce world her father lives in; but with one fatal flaw that we never entirely accounted for - it was the 27th of December, and to have an open eatery would be a fucking crime, so it would seem.
We walked from one favorite cafe to the next, desperately looking even for places that weren't in our top 20, but were simply open. Our search was a dismal failure. We found one place open after blocks of searching, but alas, it was overcrowded with shitheads four apiece hogging tables and nursing hours old bowls of the cheapest menu item: chips. We hung our heads in sadness and ventured back to where we thought we saw something that might be open and often has people sitting in front of it, so it really can't be all that bad. Or so we reasoned.
The cafe - while it shall remain nameless - features a large flower, and gives the impression of being a cute little quasi-italian cafe. Upon entering however, you are confronted with what appears to be an overgrown sandwich bar, and a large chalkboard informing patrons that hot food is indeed available, just mosey on over to the bain marie to make your selection. Additional to this, we also noticed that the method of ordering food at this, er, fine establishment, seemed to involve either being barked at by the staff confidently standing behind the sandwich bar in the full knowledge they had a shoulder height plexiglass shield they could duck under if need be; or punching your way through a handful of fucking morons, maybe waving a $50 note above your head. Queueing clearly was not a familiar practise to the patrons of said foodarium, though, according to the woman behind Kipper and I, removing lumps of gristle from your beef sandwich is.
VG approached the sandwich bar and was suprisingly, immediately served. She ummed and ahhed over the rather limited selection on the sandwich board (sandwich fillings 1 through to 6 were available - cheese $1 extra), and finally decided on a focaccia. While I personally thought this was a silly move, as everyone who's ever had a bad (stale, nasty, bricklike) focaccia can attest, it really didn't matter. No, we don't have focaccia's today love the woman behind the glass sheild barked. How would you like some bread instead? VG nodded sagely at this suggestion, and I believe ended up with something that passed for a bagel. Her father was equally easily dealt with, and had soon managed to order himself a cup of tea, and some variety of sandwich.
In the meantime, I had sat down in disgust. If I had wanted to eat a fucking sandwich, I'd have gone home and put some ingredients I actually bloody like between two slices of nice bread, not slathered with bulk, white, margarine. Hungry, and in not much of a mood to sulk, I got up and took a second look at the bain marie in desperation, trying to match up the visuals with the sometimes rather generous, sometimes woefully inadequate descriptions on the 'hot food' board. The roast beef was easy, and fairly quickly I managed to match up 'Spiral Ham' with the pasta dish on offer. It was the 'poached chicken with mushrooms, potatoes, served on rice' that I couldn't quite manage to locate. In the end, I decided it was the yellowish dish of what I'd previously assumed was some sort of cheese sauce. While I decided between the Spiral Ham, and the yet unnamed pile of what could pass as risotto, Kipper jumped to the fore. I excitedly suggested that she might want to try the vegetable soup, as described by the ever helpful hot food board. She made a positive sound at this idea, and then started looking for said soup in the bain marie. Helpfully, I indicated the pot at the back of the structure, the one that had been all but hidden by a dish of what I assumed was chicken schnitzel, complete with bread ends to mop up the excess oil. She gasped. I laughed, we soon came to the conclusion that the 'soup' was in fact dishwater, complete with plate-scrapings. Kipper promptly ordered a bowl of it.
In the meantime, I struggled with my options. Spiral Ham. Hmm. I know it will be bad, but at least I know what I'd be getting. But, risotto, well, good risotto can be really good, and it's really not that hard to make. Still, it's a shame I don't know what's in it, I reasoned. And with that in mind, I attempted to place my order. Ten minutes later, with the undivided attention of the woman who appeared to be in charge, I asked what was in the risotto, hoping that it was in fact risotto, and not some sort of rice pudding. Pumpkin and spinach, she barked. I had another glance at it, looking for some sort of hint of green, something that would give me a general indication that we actually were talking about the same bowl of crap here. I replied: Yep, cool, but what's it made with? Hoping to glean some sort of answer that might indicate wether it had a litre of cream in it, a block of cheese, or simply some chicken stock and maybe some white wine. Pumpkin and spinach, she again responded. Giving up, I ordered a small bowl of the risotto, and of course, a coffee.
Returning to the table, Kipper and I found VG & Father 'enjoying' their respective meals. Her father stared blankly into his teacup as he poured from his teapot into the cup, onto the earlier added milk. He kept staring, as the colour of the milk remained unchanged, despite the liquid contents of the cup rapidly rising. As the 'tea' lapped at the rim of the cup, the colour remained an unchanged milky white. After further investigation, involving removing the teabag from the pot to check that it was in fact a teabag and not a mysterious bag of nothing, we discovered the problem. The water in the pot was lukewarm. You could dip a fucking baby in it without so much as a waaah. As we would soon discover, this theme was to continue throughout the meal.
VG drank her coffee, and while doing so, questioned the texture, the flavor, and again the warmth of the cup as she sipped it down. So, I was fairly fine with the fact my coffee was taking well over twenty minutes to prepare thus far. In fact, it was a welcome distraction when Kippers soup arrived, closely followed by my risotto. What did you order Kipper? VG inquired. Dishwater, stated Kipper. VG then turned her attention to me... what did she really order? Again, I replied; dishwater. Trust us on this. And when her dishwater did in fact arrive, in a chipped and cracked bowl no less, it all became clear to our fellow patrons. Kipper did in fact order the dishwater. Upon further inquiry, she explained her seemingly foolish choice; it was the cheapest thing here and I don't want to encourage these people by giving them money. Personally, I think she was trying to find herself a new food low.
The dishwater lived up to its expectations, and well, the risotto made it a few mouthfuls before being pushed aside. It was incredibly salty, it was badly cooked, and most annoyingly, it was cold. Not refrigerator cold, but more along the lines of microwaved for ten seconds cold. Kipper and I decided we should help them out, and provide some more food suggestions for this cafe, as they were clearly currently lacking; and with that, she peeled the remaining risotto out of its bowl, and into her dishwater, complementing the new creation with an array of sugar packets. Chef Kipper: In reinvention we trust.
Not for the first time this outing, I wondered where my coffee was. I observed the now empty counter, and watched the staff chatting idly, clearly having nothing to do. I didn't particularly want the coffee, nor did really want my money back that much, but 40 minutes after having ordered the fucking cup, I was at the very least hopeful that if I went up the the glass shield we could have some sort of heated exchange. One that would result in my telling them that they had no right to exist in Melbourne - that Darwinian theory clearly didn't apply to cafeterias like themselves. Unfortunately, the response I got was not that. Nor was it an apologetic 'oops, I forgot about your coffee' style response. Nope. It was a confident 'yep, you ordered the blah. I'll be making it for you shortly'. It was totally disarming and I walked away defeated, and increasingly angry, drinking the eventual coffee as some sort of act of silent protest. I could see now why their sandwich bar was designed to double as a shield.
This mood was not at all improved by a later trip to JB that day, fighting squadrons of fools for a carpark, and the assistance of shop staff. Ah well. It doesn't matter now - I have my multiple series of NewsRadio on DVD to keep me company, and with any luck I'll not need to resurface until the 3rd of January when everything's died down and all the good places are open again. Until then, I advise you don't eat anywhere you've not been before, and always go armed with a fork. And maybe a mormon trap for shits and giggles.