What would Saturday mornings be without breakfast?

Before I left Adelaide, Saturday mornings would find me at the Central Market in search of breakfast. I arrived at around 8am and would meet up with whichever family members dragged themselves out of bed. While seated at our customary table, friends would often drop by. They knew where to find us.

Breakfast

Fast forward and I relocated to Melbourne for work. Living in the CBD, I had plenty of choice for breakfast and I was keen to continue the tradition, albeit mostly by myself. Occasionally visitors have joined me but mostly I have explored the culinary offerings of the laneways and café’s within easy walking distance. On occasions, I dragged out the car to travel to Port Melbourne or perhaps to Williamstown, searching for new experiences, but mostly I have confined my Saturday mornings to the CBD.

The breakfast ventures are more than just food for me. It’s the social experience as well. I look for a place that has good coffee, the weekend papers, and a certain level of ambience. Today it was Grey & Bliss at Port Melbourne. When you live alone, seeking experiences outside your four walls are important; plus fresh air, stray conversations, things to see, and perhaps good food.

Would you believe, I left my phone at home today. Once I have finished the papers I usually scan the emails or other news. Today I had to look around me. It was noisy. Typically, the floor was polished concrete and grating chairs and chatter bounced off it. Alongside my table, two women watched a video on their phone, with the volume up loud. It matched their shrieks of laughter. I considered frowning my displeasure, but they wouldn’t have noticed.

Outside, a small dog yelped incessantly. The owner had tied it to a pole and left it there while she did her shopping. The yelping ricocheted around my head. The café owner came and shut the adjoining door in an effort to soften the noise. He said that probably someone would steal the dog. That often happens when people leave cute dogs tied up in the street. Eventually, the dog stopped barking, but whether the owner returned or a thief took advantage of the opportunity, I have no idea.

You can overhear strange snippets of conversation. Two other women were discussing their various medical conditions, or perhaps those of their family. I tuned out, not being interested in disturbances in someone else’s gut. Only a few people are reading papers, which is good for me. It means that there are copies available for me to feed my newspaper addiction. I wish tables were bigger to accommodate my coffee, the water bottle, the paper and my breakfast. Most people are reading screens, even those in the company of a partner or friend.

One young couple sat side-by-side instead of opposite each other. He was in dude dress, with his baseball cap turned backwards. She was wearing a simple black shift, teamed with ankle boots and socks that showed above the boots. They weren’t speaking or reading – just sitting with each other.

My usual menu choice revolves around eggs, but feeling the need for change and adventure, today I ordered the ricotta hotcakes with poached pears and whipped mascarpone. It was a good choice.

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The Finer Points of Dining

I have had occasion to eat out several times this week.  These were social events and the opportunity to share company and break bread with friends and family.  All good.  My waistline and purse are suffering a bit, but hopefully this is not a permanent state of affairs.

I had some wonderful food, served with attention to service and detail.  Good experiences. You can hear the BUT coming though can’t you and there is a bone of contention in all this.  There is a practice now in many restaurants of not providing vegetables with a meal (whether cooked or salad variety).  You are provided with a piece of meat or a piece of chicken or a stack of vegetarian equivalent, tastefully displayed with a sauce or jus or perhaps some cauliflower foam, and a decorative garnish.  If you want vegetables with that, then they are ordered and paid for separately.

The restaurant I dined at last night did not do combined vegetables, so it was another $10 for a plate of beans, lightly sauteed in butter and served with toasted slivered almonds, or another $10 for chunks or roasted potatoes, seasoned with sea salt and rosemary, and then there was the usual roast beetroot and rocket salad – probably another $10 but I forget how much exactly.  Admittedly, these dishes each provided enough vegetable to be shared between two people, but given the cost of my main dish, I would have expected that an array of vegetables would have accompanied it.

The preceding night, I dined at a fish restaurant – new and with very positive reviews.  The service again was wonderful, but a platter of fish and the ubiquitous chips only was supplied.  A Greek or Green Salad had to be ordered extra.  No bread was provided – that had to be ordered extra as well.  The owner of this restaurant spent many years assisting his parents to run a Fish Cafe – great and unpretentious food with lots of repeat customers.  Eventually the parents got tired and decided that it was time to retire and their son moved on to his own restaurant.  He must be focusing on a different clientele.

On a positive note though, we did not realise when booking at this restaurant that it was run by the son (who also cooks).  My father had become quite well-known at the Fish Cafe, as he was a regular patron and always ordered the same thing.  Battered Garfish, with one fillet on the plate and one in a bag to take home as he could never eat the two.  (His appetite has declined in recent years.) When they saw him come in the door, the staff anticipated his requirements.

At the restaurant, Dad again ordered battered Garfish.  When it arrived, it came with a take-away box and the waiter explained that there was an extra fillet provided and that we would understand what the box was for.  It was only then that we discovered whose restaurant it was and were tickled that not only did the owner recognise my father, but that he catered for him as he did.  We will probably only go back on special occasions, given the cost but the gesture in looking after my father (in his nineties) was much appreciated.  That as much as anything will draw us back.

Am I alone in feeling that restaurants are gouging in pricing their meals as separate components, or am I exhibiting a lack of understanding in how costs are rising for restaurant managers?