reviewthislife

It's my world – and I'm grading it

Category: dining

The Brunswick Green

So back in February I moved from my home town of Sydney to its major Australian rival, Melbourne. Brunswick became my hood, and pretty much the first thing I did (outside of jumping into a Masters course) was check out the local pubs. I had many reasons for doing so, ranging from the completely legitimate and practical (looking for work!) to the slightly more… indulgent. I am a writer. A writer without a glass of wine is like a doctor without a stethoscope, an air hostess without red lipstick, a producer without a gram of cocaine… I need somewhere to sit and think and formulate and, like… drink. Also, I like a drink. So began my search.

The first thing that struck me as I wandered up and down Sydney Road, with a bunch of resumes and a twinkle in my eye, was the attitude. Having over ten years experience in the hospitality industry, I do have certain expectations when I go to a bar. I know that your job can suck harder than a Dyson, but if I am a decent person who greets you with a smile, give me one back, even if it’s fake. Requirement #1 for a potential local: don’t be an asshole.

The second thing that I look at in a pub is the cost. Sometimes a girl/woman wants to gracefully sip on an endangered grape from a region so exclusive that it’s about to collapse in on itself; sometimes she just wants a house red. Truffle infused Dodo egg on a bed of quinoa garnished with edible gold leaf and served on a wooden board? Sure, whatever floats your boat. But in a pub? I need access to a burger and fries for less than $20. This is, of course, a gross exaggeration, but I do not think that I am completely out of line in suggesting that Sydney Road suffers from a moderate case of wank. Requirement #2: a wine and food list with decent prices.

Add to these things a great beer garden and soundtrack, and you have yourself a contender for a great local pub.

I started coming to The Brunswick Green on a regular basis because of its amazing beer garden. An array of benches and tables suitable for 2-10, covered or sunny, some hidden nooks and amazing heaters for cold times. For the non-masochistic non-smokers: big comfy couches and a fireplace inside.

Then I realised that I could get a glass of red wine for $6.50. The difference between $6.50 and $8.80 (or whatever) may not seem huge, but when you’re a student wanting more than 3 glasses of wine, dude, that’s a free glass!

Check out this antipasto plate:

tmp_IMG_20140718_154518-58600118

Char-grilled vegetables (eggplant, mushrooms, capsicum) and semi-dried tomatoes, olives, salami, prosciutto, feta, dip (I always choose tzatziki) and bread – ALL THE THINGS!

$15

In fact, nothing on their menu is over $15, and it’s a nice menu:

tmp_IMG_20140720_165208-1181317404

I have been down here quite a bit, writing articles, marking papers, thinking thoughts, and nine point eight times out of ten I have loved the background music. I hear blues, daggy 80s pop, rock’n’roll, funk… one of my highlights has been finishing up underneath a toasty heater at last-drinks and mentally dancing the tango. It’s classic, it’s eclectic, and it’s pretty much always on the ball.

But what has really made the difference, what has really made this place stand out and make me say “The Brunswick Green is officially my local”, are the personal touches. It started with the genuine hello and the realisation that they remembered me, which is a small thing to many, but huge to someone who is new in a city and doesn’t know too many people outside of a couple of friends and their housemates. “Hello, I know you, how are you?” – it means so much to me.

“A glass of the Shiraz?” – yes please!

“I’m pretty sure all of the heaters are on out the back, but I’ll come out with you and make sure” – wow, thank you!

To have the bar manager and the owner ask you for your name, and to remember it without fail every time you come in – how lovely. To be asked what you think of the mulled wine recipe and whether you can recommend improvements – amazing.

And on a personal level, when things in my life have become quite shitty, they have not only given me a genuinely sympathetic ear but have also actively tried to help me. I am currently looking to move house and one of my considerations is proximity to this pub. Think I’m being overly sentimental? I spoke to a young woman in the beer garden the other night who decided to move into the area after having visited The Brunswick Green.

In closing, it’s Tony the Tiger levels of grrrrrr-eat. If you’re visiting the area, new to the area, or simply haven’t been yet because, I dunno, maybe you have an aversion to the colour green (?) – check it out.

8.5/10… because I don’t want to come across as a total suck up, and they’re closed on Mondays (and it’s now Monday and I feel like a drink).

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Seven Days of Lite n’ Easy

Tonight’s Dinner/Dessert

It’s a Saturday evening in Sydney and, as I stayed in last night, I’m feeling a little restless. What I really want is to have some drinks with a friend and a relatively cheap dinner, after which I will take my anti-smoking meds and pretty much be useless for the rest of the night, and so go home without having emptied my bank account. I am getting no friend love tonight though, so I’m taking myself out: I will use my Entertainment Book to find somewhere nearby I can get a discount, and do a solo version of my original plan.

So began my night.

I won’t beat around the bush with verbosity, as the aforementioned medication really does make me quite spacey and useless (and I’m just plain tired). I gave myself two choices, Japanese or Thai, with a stop at a dessert café, all of which I had 25% off discounts for. I checked out the ramen place first and pretty much decided then and there that I would go with Thai – the ramen place wasn’t licensed and I wanted at least a glass of wine with my dinner.

Good Thai at Chatswood it was, then. I asked them if they could seat one and, aware that it was Saturday night, told them that I was happy to sit at one of the two outside tables, which, as it turned out, was all they had for me anyway. I ordered my glass of wine, which the waitress typed out by name off the menu and into a phone. Into a phone. I have seen restaurants use touch screens, and iPads are definitely becoming a thing now in hospitality, but this was A PHONE.

Anyway, that isn’t actually relevant, just an observation. After my wine came I ordered an entrée and a main, after which she asked me if that was it, and then asked me to pay now. Why? Because I’m sitting outside. In other words: so you can’t run off without paying.

Ok, it happens, I know this. But this restaurant is listed alongside the fine dining establishments in my Entertainment Book. It’s not inside a food court and it doesn’t have a drive-thru. I know that one should not take such a policy personally, but one cannot help but feel a bit miffed at the “they think I might not pay” thought. On top of that, the embarrassment of walking past the “inside people” on the other side of the glass who are allowed to gradually work on their bill, and the inconvenience of not being able to add anything else to my bill – I potentially wanted a second glass of wine along the way (as it turns out, I did) but the card I was using applies the discount to the one bill and would not be applied to any subsequent orders, so I refused to get anything else out of principle. But whatever, I took my wine inside to the counter (I too have an inherent distrust of street people and was surprised that they expected me to leave all of my stuff out there) and paid the damn bill.

I wasn’t expecting my entrée for about 10-15 minutes as the menu specifically stated this to be the cooking time for what I had chosen. It came out 5 minutes later, which disturbed me. I’d rather wait and ensure that my food has been prepared properly. Following the girl with the entrée was the girl with my main, they both came out at the same time. I fought with the pork skewers as quickly as possible as I watched my duck cooling and kept flies away from it. Along the way, I rationed my one glass of wine, but it still wasn’t enough to ease the discomfort from the excessive amounts of chilli in my stir fry – the entire dish looked like it had measles. All in all, it was an awkward and vaguely unpleasant dining experience.

As I was approaching the end of my eating some people were seated at the outside table behind me. I watched out of the corner of my eye as they placed their order, and noted that they were not asked to pay upfront. My conversation with the manager doesn’t need to be transcribed, basically I was embarrassed and offended, and pissed off that my main had to sit whilst I ate my entrée. Apparently it was “her first day” (could be true, but I myself have used that excuse to get out of a mistake) and apparently they’re meant to ask if you want the entrée and main separate.

Entrée – In modern Australian usage, “entree” describes a starter, not a main course.

Anyway, dessert: the venue for this course was My Sweet Memory, again, the Chatswood store. There was a menu board full of drinks and a selection of sweets in a small fridge to choose from; brightly coloured macarons (Weeee! Haven’t they just taken off?!) , some muffins, a few rectangle slice things on doilies, and citrus tarts. I would have been better off at the local bakery, choice-wise, but again, whatever. I ordered a citrus tart and an iced chocolate.

This is an iced chocolate

This is not

Also, the guy that served me was rude, and soulless.

I will close my dessert experience with a quote, by myself, on my facebook page, as I watched the liquid in my cup become more water than milk:

“I’m next to a place with ‘try our new fishy drink!’ written on the wall, HOW IS IT THAT THIS PLACE IS WORSE??”

Now, to rate them.

Good Thai

Food – 6/10

It was standard Thai fare, which is pretty good as it is, but nothing to write home about and too much chilli in my stir fry.

Service – 1/10

That doesn’t need to be explained, I’m sure.

My Sweet Memory

Food – 4/10

The tart gets 3/5 because it was citrusy, and i like that, the iced chocolate gets 1/5 because it was liquid.

Service – 2/10

They get one point because I was actually served, and another for bringing my order out to me.

13/40 = 3.25/10

At this point I will add a mark because I said I wasn’t going to be overly verbose and I am now on page 5. Therefore my dinner/dessert experience from tonight gets:

4.25/10

In other words: I don’t recommend them.

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