Sicilian Toastie and Margherita Pizza, The Italian Corner, William Street

I spend way too much on lunch.

Every day I consider going on a diet of Vegemite sangers and Robert Timm’s instant coffee. I also promptly tergiversate on the idea when faced with lunch break and ever-present possibility of happiness being just around the corner.

I also spend way too much on coffees.

I once had a particularly bad streak of buying coffee each morning. I then decided, pledging to make better decisions, that I should probably put a stop to the daylight robberies. 

The first day without my morning coffee, I gained a full appreciation of this quote, commonly but mistakenly attributed to Michael​ Jordan: ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ It was 100% a difficult morning. Sans magical concoction, the withdrawal symptoms began. Said symptoms were notoriously mild, in the scheme of things and given the substance in question: I ate a Cherry Ripe—an unwise choice of appetite suppressant that at best satisfied the wrong craving—following which, I made up a sachet of Moccona’s Peppermint Choc Bliss—which, admittedly, proved to be a substitute relative in deliciousness and enjoyment.

Taking things out of context, the sporting origin of this quote has me wondering about the existence of possible deeper meanings behind it. Dope, just unintended double-entendre. 

Here’s what I had for lunch on Thursday and Friday this week. I decided I’d frequent the new, well fairly new, place The Italian Corner.

I went for the Sicilian Toastie, ‘prosciutto, fresh tomato, bocconcini’, $7.50 and the Margherita Pizza ‘mozarella, semi-mature cheese, fresh basil’, also $7.50. How good do they look?

The toastie had a lot going for it. 

It had melty, stringy cheesiness, which I ate all the while mindful of the ease with which I might grow a cheese beard. It had saltiness from the prosciutto and freshness from the self-described ‘fresh’ tomato. It had sufficient crustiness and grillege, an imaginary word which here seems proper and conducive to communicating the requisite grilledness this toasty exhibited. As my one-thirty pm late lunch, it was a well-primed and served lunchbox of happiness.

The pizza, too, was a satisfactory option. The pizza featured a non-floury base of mid-range thickness, with a profusely gooey cheese sitting amidst a moderate backing of tomato sauce that had the slightest detection of onion. It was a stroll through the park on a day with the sun shining and the smell of spring in the air. The limited topping of spinach acted as a garnish on the already-satisactory pizza. I enjoyed it.

Which reigns supreme: the toastie or the pizza? I conclude the result of this cheesy conundrum a confused ‘currently inconclusive’. A determination will demand further visitations.

As an observation, pizzas, coffees and ice-cream earn you a punch on the loyalty card. No love for the toastie.

Taste verdict Classic lunchtime fare. I’m a great fan of cheesy things.

⭐⭐⭐

Softshell Crab, Wagyu Steak, and Sticky Date Pudding at the Grand Bar and Bistro, CBD St Georges Terrace

The EoFY lunch at the Grand Bar and Bistro came up awfully fast. There was the whole lead up to it: the planning, the phonecalls, the visits, the background to get everything in order for the day and then it was finally here. Overall, it turned out well. 

I had for entrée the softshell crab, for main the Wagyu streak, and for dessert sticky date pudding.

The softshell crab was crispy on the outside and moreish on the inside. With the mayo and a seaweed salad, this was a great tasting Japanese-inspired dish that had the elements down pat. It was a generous serving by comparison to the other entrees at the table. 

The only complaint: it was cold. 

For context, the service was lovely but unfortunately slow.

The entrées came out with some confusion​. Entrees were matched to names rather than tables, which meant extra work for the waitstaff finding who was sat where in a mad scramble as the dishes made it to the service counter. At one point there was a string of five or six dishes on the countertop awaiting direction as to which table they should be sent.

They cottoned on to as much, and for mains decided to bring around the options and ask tables for numbers of takers.

As we soon found, this too proved problematic. All dishes had been pre-ordered against names and the billing for meals set accordingly.

What wasn’t factored in was people being people. When the waitstaff brought around the mains, several from our party forgot what they had ordered, decided to eat what they hadn’t ordered, or simply took someone else’s meal—with no harm intended I thoroughly appreciate, but perhaps also with blissful ignorance of what this meant for others. 

The end result was wasted paid-for dishes, the kitchen having to conjure up replacement dishes, and, needless to say, long waiting times and cold mains.

All that said, my main course when it arrived was cooked beautifully. My blue steak was a raging dish; it showed off a deep purple inside and a scorched outer crust. Justice had been done to the Wagyu. It was tender, juicy, full-flavoured, and left as natural as possible. The beef was bloody good. This blue steak was a textbook example of less is more and letting ingredients speak for themselves. Being the only blue steak order in our party, I really had been spoilt.  

The sides of carrot and potato added to the appeal of the dish and were favourably warm. The medley of potato was particularly delicious; crispy potato atopped more mashed counterparts and was layered with butter and cheese. As I sliced through the beef, piling on the carrot puree, and the potato, enjoyment on a plate was all I could think of.

Writing this up now I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have in my life wonderful days and times and food. Good times such as this. It’s embarrassing that hashtags instead of reasonable prose come to mind thinking of how I might put it into words. I suppose I could say that if, perchance, I were part of the uber hip, Gen Y Twitter crowd, I’d be all over the tags: #blessed, #thankful, #Aussie and #luckycountry. Seriously though, good and great times put the less-good patches into perspective. 

Two courses down and things were now back on track for dessert.

I had the sticky date pudding. It was aesthetically​ beautiful. That’s where my praise for this dish ended. The sticky date pudding was very cakey. It was mild in a flavour I couldn’t pinpoint—sticky date related, maybe, but not dates. If there were real dates somewhere on this dish they must’ve been miniscule amounts, or completely pureed away into the sauce and cake. To the palate it was a sweet sauce on a sponge. The addition of an ordinary vanilla ice-cream, that was melting from the heat of the plate evidently lifted right out of the dishwasher, pulled no punches. The caustic taste of unincorporated baking soda as I bit into the bottom of the pudding underscored everything wrong with the dish. Perhaps it’d just been my sticky date pudding; it was the most popular dessert had on the day and I did hear later that others liked theirs. The lack of actual date content, now that can’t have been a one-off.

All in all, it worked out. 

On the food, my entree and main were fabulous, the main in particular. 

The process for service does need work. The staff were great with us and made a real effort to make things work despite the initial confusion. The management were accommodating with our requirements for the function. I’d not hesitate to get in contact again. 

The Grand has a great space. It has a large enough restaurant area and the space carries a certain intimacy about it. Courtesy of the dark and neutral tones throughout the restaurant, closely placed seating, and the use of largely ambient lighting, the space is personal and cosy, more dine and wine than grub and pub. The venue would work nicely for a smaller function.

Considering everything I think it went pretty darned well overall. 

Taste verdict What can I say on the food? I’ll leave it at the beef was most agreeable.

⭐⭐⭐

Summer Sunset Burger at Grill’d, Brookfield Place

I can’t be the only person to pronounce Grill’d as ‘Grill D’ can I? It’s the pronunciation that I thought of the first time I saw the name of the burger chain and every time since then. I’m not sure why. ‘Grill D’ just seems right. Earlier this week, my obviously strange pronunciation made for a very amusing discussion with a colleague. Humour and a sprinkling of embarrassment came part and parcel, naturally. 

I have since decided to go with it. Where opportune, I’ll include it in conversation with nonchalence. Will more people notice? Time will tell on this little social experiment. 

Grill’d, as it happens, is currently running a promo for the World Cup. Every time the Socceroos score a goal, that’s one free drink with a purchase banked if you’re signed up to the offer. Not bad at all. 

Lunch at Grill’d was decided. I ordered the Summer Sunset ‘Grass fed lean beef, avocado, crispy bacon, charred pineapple, salad, relish & herbed mayo’ for $14, and of course scored my free drink. The drink is any from their chiller. I grabbed a lime bitters.

There was hardly a wait once they’d managed to sort the troubled cash register. 

The first thing I noticed when the burger arrived was how solid it was. The bread bun and ingredients were compact and robust. I kid you not, this burger was assembled with a remarkable level of structural integrity. In all the burgers I’ve had this year, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing such an exhibition. You could say I was more than impressed.

Tastewise, I couldn’t really have asked for more for the price. The seeded bun was a good quality bread. There was an abundance of fresh avocado and salad in every bite. The pineapple was a juicy addition. The patty was well-salted and grilled. The sauces were adequate. The entire offering was a thoughtful construction. It was simplicity executed well.

The venue was hip enough for the office crowd, cool enough for the cool cats, and loud enough to make lunch lively. The noise was good, a change from the staleness of the quiet office.

Expectation vs Reality: It did look fairly similar to the advertised picture… 

This burger exceeded expectations by a long shot. Grill’d grills a great burger. I’ll be back.

Taste verdict A burger place that is kicking goals.

⭐⭐⭐⭐