French Brasserie

We went to dinner with T and W, who suggested The French Brasserie.   We had a great night.

The French Brasserie is in the city, down Malthouse Lane, which is an alley that runs off Flinders Lane.

The night was pouring rain, but the restaurant is spacious and we were made comfortable at a nice table. There was lots of activity around;  it seems that Flinders Lane is now a “lively” area, and it was the night the “Same Sex Marriage” legislation passed Parliament which may have had something to do with it.

The approach is very French in staff, service and food.  In fact, most of the staff  appear to have French as their first language (are they here on working holiday visas?);  obviously this is appropriate in this environment, although there were occasional moments when things had to be repeated to ensure there was no confusion.   The menu isn’t extensive, but it does appear to be authentic.  Our only issue was that the “Le Canard Rôti” was described as “Roast duck breast with slow cooked egg”.   We mistakenly (as it turned out) assumed that the duck would be roasted and hence more than pink, but we managed to sort this out amongst ourselves.

The Trip Advisor reviews are very positive.  They mention the comprehensive wine list, but seem to gloss over the cost!   Sure, you get a lot here, but you need to pay for it, so this is not the place for a bargain night out!

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100 Restaurants

The so-called “delicious.100” magazine fell out of the Sunday paper.   It supposedly lists what it regards as the top 100 Victorian restaurants, listed in order from 1 to 100.   I notice that I blogged about the equivalent publication last year.

It’s not clear how the list was compiled, and it’s not specifically stated that the reviewers (who are named) actually dined at all the restaurants listed.   There’s a suggestion  that one of the factors was popular vote (but I didn’t persevere long enough find the link to this).     Maybe the listing was at least to some extent compiled from other sources (although of course I can’t say for sure).

Hence, to my mind it doesn’t have the credibility of the Good Food Guide.   Just the same it’s an interesting “read”, and the task of actually listing restaurants in order of rank is certainly ambitious.      I admit (as I’ve done before) that (top) restaurants aren’t really my scene, although I like to read about them if only  to make sure that none of the restaurants that I do like have made it!   And it’s interesting to know the sort of dishes that these restaurants serve (often not my “style”).

This year the publication is stated to be compiled in “partnership” with Uber Eats.  Strange indeed, because it’s hard to imagine that any of the really good restaurants would condescend to allow their food to be delivered!  But perhaps the readers of this guide are likely to use Uber Eats when they’re not eating out?

Sydney Rowing Club

We’re back home now, but I thought I’d mention that we went to Sydney Rowing Club for Sunday lunch with M and G.  It’s at Abbotsford, on the Parramatta River upstream of the Gladesville Bridge.   Once there, I was slightly disoriented because of the twists and turns in the river, but that didn’t detract from the pleasant outlook.

It was certainly popular:  a lovely day, an efficient food and drink service and, as I’ve mentioned, a great view out over the river.   However, we managed a table.   In addition, there seemed to be a number of functions occurring:  a post-christening lunch, and at least one wedding.

We caught the Parramatta River ferry back to Darling Harbour.   The ferry wharf is right alongside the club, but being Sunday, it seems that many Sydney-siders take advantage of the low daily cap on Opal fares for a very reasonably-priced day out on the Harbour.

Abbotsford ferry wharf

We squeezed on to the ferry, but it by-passed a couple of the scheduled stops on the trip down the river.

Eating at The Rocks

We headed to The Rocks for dinner.    Of course the area is historic, so it’s pleasant from that perspective.   However, to be frank, I’ve found in the past that it’s hard to find anywhere there that’s half decent to eat at, probably because it’s over-touristed and under-restauranted with the result that quality declines and prices rise (a corollary to Parkinson’s Law?).       So it was with a little trepidation that we asked for a table at Caminetto.   In fact, I was pleasantly surprised:  my veal chop with mushroom sauce was nice and S’s vegetable lasagna was quite acceptable too (but surely it’s hard to get lasagna wrong)?   We opted for a ½ litre of “house red”,  in spite of being told when we asked about the style that it was an “Italian blend” (whatever that means).   But even that went down well after the first couple of sips.

At the outset the service was just a little ordinary, but it was a busy time of the evening.   As the evening progressed, and things slackened off a little, the service improved.    Hence, when an unexpected heavy, but short shower came by, we were quickly moved from our table in the courtyard just outside the reach of the umbrella to an adjoining dry position.

We then headed through the Argyle cut and ended up walking all the way back to our accommodation on what turned out, after the shower, to be a very pleasant evening.

Manly

We headed  to Manly for lunch with M and G.   Naturally this involved the iconic ferry ride across the Harbour…..always an experience, no matter how often you do it.

Lunch was at Hugo’s at Manly Wharf:  good food, nice outlook and competent service.   But the four of us were crammed on to a table of barely-adequate size.   The best feature of course was catching up with M and G.  We always seem to have a lot to talk about when with them.

Hugo’s

Meanwhile, just a bit more about the Meriton apartment we’re in.   It’s certainly not the cheapest place around nor are the immediate surroundings the most up-market in town, but it is spacious and the near-to Town Hall location is quite convenient (think QV Building shopping and more prosaically a full-service Woolies)!  In the other direction the vibrant Haymarket area isn’t too far.    I’m not sure how tall the building is (51 floors?), and we’re on level 30, but our views are down into the canyons of Pitt and Bathurst Streets.

There’s an open air balcony (with ash tray).  I opened the door to take a photo,  but haven’t had the courage to put as much as a toe outside!

 

 

Giorgios

Long-established local restaurant Giorgios has undergone a major refurbishment.  I see on the website that it’s described as a “fresh new look”.    The website even invites you to browse through the renovation, but contrary to the usual case when pictures are posted on the internet, I think that the new atmosphere is better “in the flesh” than on the website!

We’ve been there a couple of times since it re-opened, once for coffee and once for a meal.   Service is as good as in the past and the new atmosphere is, well, “fresh”.   As well as extending the area, it breaks the spaces up quite well.

Fresh new look?

The food is fine too.   You wouldn’t call it adventurous, but it’s certainly of a high standard, and the quantities are generous!  Prices have crept up a bit, but that’s probably fair enough, although corkage if you BYO at $15 a bottle seems a bit of a “hit”.

Are there too many coffee shops?

The question has been raised in Britain as to whether the market for coffee shops has become saturated.   From the BBC report, it seems the issue there arises because there appear to be a number of chains competing in the market.  This seemingly makes the market there rather different from ours, as (at the risk of generalising) it seems that Melburnians (and Australians) don’t favour chains (look at the Starbucks experience).

It’s interesting that the report mentions an opinion in Britain that the big brands need to watch out for the rise of independent coffee shops.

Just the same in some areas, the market in Melbourne definitely appears saturated.  Sure, the coffee culture is particularly strong in our neighbourhood, but the competition is brutal.   Just as one place starts attracting a crowd, another place opens up or is re-furbished, the and the crowd’s loyalty quickly switches.  And a change on proprietorship can result in a dramatic fall-off in business.

I wonder how many people have put their savings into buying a business, only to see the money disappear.    Enthusiastic would-be operators need to take a cold, hard look at the area before jumping in.