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.

⭐⭐⭐

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.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mojo’s Burger and Salt & Pepper Fried Squid at Mojo’s Restaurant, Bunbury

I perused the menu and decided to go for the burger this place had the confidence to put its name to: Mojo’s Burger a ‘local beef patty, lettuce, cucumber, aioli, pickled cucumber’ with a side of ‘hand cut chips’ for $22. 

The phrase ‘hand cut chips’ caught my attention.

Is the specific method utilised to arrive at chips, ‘cut’ chips, from the humble potato a feature worth denouncing in the modern world?

My knowledge on chip cutting methods is admittedly limited. For all I know, there exists a plethora of methods, a range of ways, to achieve the chip. Is ‘hand cut’ a preferred approach? Can a subject expert chip in? At the very least, I suppose ‘hand cut’ is an acceptable method. 

I mean in the alternative there are certainly a million more questionable or downright unacceptable methods. 

Foot cut chips—eww. 

Uncut chips—is an uncut chip a mere potato? 

Santa Claus-cut chips—because this would be an indication of something amiss in the Northpole. It would only birth a snowstorm of questions. Why would Santa have been relegated to the relatively menial task of splitting potatoes, whether by hand or not? Elves revolting? Issues with upper-management? Misaligned organisational goals and priorities? World happiness through gift-giving decried as an outcome unachievable? Percentage of ‘believers’ at an all time low? Boy, I could go on. You get the picture. Santa Claus-cut chips would be all manner of outrageous.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll assume Mojo’s menu drew attention to the hand cut aspect to rebut, from the outset, any presumption of these being machine cut chips. Because machine cut—while wonderfully engineered for efficiency, and a feat from that point of view—is rather unpreferred from a middle-class dining perspective. I refer of course to connotations, rife attitudes within the populace, that serving up cookie-cutter chips means cheaper, boring and flavourless, lowbrow. Should we really be judging chips on how they are cut? 

While this spiel possibly suggests that I hold some passion about the matter, I can confirm that I do. Where the method of chip cutting is concerned that passion is my declaring ambivalence. I’ll happily stomach all and any of the acceptable methods. 

Mankind advances on many fronts. Indiscriminate and far-reaching are the impacts of technology.  It’s commendable. Technology even impacts the all-important Realm of Potato Chips—now this, I wouldn’t have thunk. There’s comfort also in knowing that the only thing being completely uprooted by technology as far as potato chips are concerned are potatoes. Clearly not the practice of cutting chips by hand.

Machine cut or hand cut, dissected potatoes better be worth their salt. 

Chips just better be bloody tasty. 

And so, the burger arrived looking hot and the perfect plate for a cold evening. 

Here we have the stabbed beast and the decidedly hand cut chips. 

The bun was a shiny, sesame seed one. Lovely and soft, toast marks apparent. Unlike the last burger named after its joint I had, this bun was as it should be: fresh and unstale. 

Inside was a heap of meat, sauce, and onions. I realise on writing this now that the lettuce and tomato this was stated to have were non-existent. Dammit, meat-heavy I expressed at the time but it hadn’t registered back to their menu. Oh well. It came with a large patty and crispy bacon. (Bacon for brekky and for dinner was making the day amazing.)

The thick meat patty held its juices. Together with the layered on bacon, and a sizeable portion of very wilted down, fried barbeque-flavoured onions, it was a substantial lot. Joyous to bite through. Flavours of the meaty heap jumped out, violently hitting the palate with enthusiasm and chutzpah. Yum. 

The burger​ was so good. It could have done with the salad elements.

The hand cut chips were good. Better than those I’ve had of late. Perhaps I need to revisit the subject. Perhaps hand cut connotes more than the method: a description of the layer of care applied, the time spent on sculpting perfection… 

We had the ‘salt and pepper spiced squid’ with tartar sauce, $16, as a shareplate. The soft, lightly-battered deep-fried squid tasted delicious. They were the type you’d order a stackload of, munch on, then wonder where it’d all disappeared to. Dipped in the sauce, the squid was a winner.

Taste verdict Great burger. One of the best ones I’ve had this year. Great hand cut chips. Great squid. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I Caved: Whiskey Prune and Mascarpone Ice-Cream at Simmos Ice-Creamery, Dunsborough

We visited Yallingup’s Ngilgi caves after brekky. The caves were absolutely fascinating, humid, and they took my breath away. The concentrated CO2 levels within the caves, the tour guide advised us wannabe cave-dwellers, was two-hundred times that of above-ground air. 

Our enthusiastic guide told us about the cave’s spiritual and cultural value. The magical properties our guide alluded to were at work as I explored the cave. I know not how this magic worked. Only that when I emerged from the cave, my love of stalactites and stalagmites was stronger than ever before; peaking, if I may say.  I observed also, on emergence from the cave, that I was gifted with a genuine and new found appreciation of life without claustrophobia.

It was ice-cream time after the caves.

Late in the afternoon, Simmos Ice-creamery was busy. Kids and adults were all sitting around a picnic area in their own worlds, licking their ice-creams. They have the concept right: a bunch of fancy-pants flavours brings everyone comes to the yard.  

I caved and went for two scoops: mascapone fig and a top scoop of the whiskey prune. 

And here we have the lip-smackingly gorgeous full-flavoured duo in a before shot—before things took a turn for the worst. Well, a small turn for the worst.

Seconds after this was taken, the ice-cream decided it didn’t like me and tried to escape. Thankfully I executed a just-in-time-spider-man save off the table. I had been lucky, but my perfect duo was tainted. Its potential enjoyment bruised.

I decided consuming the ice-cream as fast as possible was the best way to move forward without further a mishap. 

My thoughts were of the softness of the ice-cream. Not in a Maccas softserve cone kind of way, more like a Bulla Frozen Custard kind of way—if you haven’t tried Bulla’s Frozen Custard, get to it, because it’s so, so soft; the texture is smoother than a baby’s bottom and for what it’s worth Coles frequently has specials, 40-50% off. 

The whiskey prune was wonderfully strong. The flavour overtook my mascarpone fig dollop. Visible bits of prune throughout had been crushed into sizeable chunks adding texture and another layer of complexity to the ice-cream. The whiskey and prune were well married. 

The second serve, of the mascarpone fig ice-cream, mirrored a tennis service game. Serve two was a weaker and safer option that struggled to wow. As a flavour, it was drowned out and overly plain. The light flavour would work best quenelled against something sweet. A slice or a richer cake, perhaps, an accompaniment to achieve the ‘balance’ so crucial to every dessert. All that said, it was a nice ice-cream—just a little too vanilla for my liking. 

Next time I’ll hopefully pick another flavour to find something that’s interesting in its own right, something that knocks things out of the park. 

There were heaps of flavours that looked great: licorice, salted caramel, orange. I’d have been up for trying them all.

Overall, yummy stuff. There’s a reason they don’t do ice-cream samples!

Taste verdict Quality ice-cream. Texture is divine and the range of flavours could make for a fun, calorie-heavy ice-cream only day.

⭐⭐⭐1/2

Mocha and Eggs Benedict at The Happy Wife, Bunbury

I wrote about doing more brekkies and alas, yet another delicious brekky this morning! 

The morning was cold. Rugged up we headed into the café, choosing to sit indoors—which wasn’t much warmer. Places, all places, need temperature control or at least good insulation. 

For a smallish café, the options are impressive. Thinking of the all day breakfast and lunch so makes me want to go back.

Feeling like brekky food for breakfast, I went the eggs Benedict ‘poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce on Turkish bread with honey glazed mustard ham’ $18. I washed it down with a mocha, $4.50.

Out came the mocha, it looked fab. It was also perfect for defrosting my hands. The coffee to hot chocolate ratio tasted like an 80:20. It was a weak coffee, tasty nonetheless. Hot chocolate on a cold day? Yummy enough I can forgive the smidgen of coffee. Maybe it was intentional. 

My photo of Mr Benedict doesn’t quite do him justice. What you don’t see is a generous amount of Hollandaise sloshed on top a generous amount of bacon, and two perfectly poached eggs. 

This was real good brekky food. 

The eggs were lovely and runny. Silky smooth orange yolk flowed out on piercing the delicate white exterior, coating the bacon better than Dulux on a wall. I was trying to think of a way to describe it: I think that does capture it. 

The Hollandaise was average. It was more mustard-y than buttery and not quite smooth. I wasn’t fussed. I’d already had quite the damage done to my recommended daily intake of fats from the layers of bacon on this thing. Crispy was the bacon, and of course, no complaints from me. No additional​ buttery-ness necessary. The mustard was actually pleasant. 

The toasty bread, the bacon, the sauce, the eggs, the bacon. What can I say. The bacon. The egg on the bacon. It was amazing. 

We finished off brekky with a slice of lychee and berry cake, and lime and lemon curd cake. Both arrived at our table served warmed. I half-joked with the brother that the cake had been thoughtfully warmed, unlike his car which he’d preferred at the ice cold temperature it’d been at when we’d gotten in. (We’d had a bit of a tiff: me wanting the heater on, being denied a most basic need not to freeze; and the eventual, reluctant acquiescence on the part of the brother). My discovery of Elsa’s secret twin—who also isn’t bothered by the cold—aside, both cakes had subtle, interesting flavours that were very moreish. The lychee cake was especially unique. The flavour was like lychee syrup through  a butter cake and there was a beautiful lightness to it. It’s a flavour I’m inspired to look into. The lime cake had a firmer crumb. The icing on this was suitably tart and great palate cleanser to round out brekky.

The breakfast atmosphere gets a mention. It’s one of those things. Going out for it is always fun. It’s early. The day’s just started. It feels like a productive start to the day, even it’s a longer brekky than usual. It’s something about breakfast. And when you’re at a place that does the food so well, it’s doubly good.

Taste verdict Recommended. Food is tasty. Or should I say amazingly tasty! Good portions too.

⭐⭐⭐⭐