Friday, July 07, 2006


The suspicious reader could be forgiven for thinking that I am an unpleasable snob when it comes to eating out. The list of establishements I have scorned is long and varied (Valentinos, Terrazza, Milkd, Cafe Bella Rosa), while the ones I've publicly endorsed is short, perhaps even terse (Exomod).

We all know that it's more fun to criticise than to extoll, but I'm mindful of the need for balance. Therefore I really should share my new favourite local cafe, instead of just wallowing in the misery of bad dining experiences.

Ironically enough, Food For Me is right next door to Cafe Bella Rosa, squeezed into a tiny shopfront between that restaurant and a sex shop. There are seats for, at most, ten people inside and another four outside, and the only other piece of furniture is a large bookcase filled with magazines and newspapers. I've had breakfast there every Saturday for the last three weeks straight.

The first time I had french toast, prepared with bread from one of the finest gourmet bakeries in the city, with maple syrup and poached berries... and a couple of strips of crispy bacon. Mmmm... bacon. The second time I opted for eggs and bacon on a fresh bagel, with baked tomatoes and fresh spinach leaves. Mmmm... bagel. The third time I had eggs florentine, which included little florets of smoked salmon, and toasted fruit bread, which was heavy on the fruit and light on the bread, as the best fruit bread generally is. Mmmm... everything. Insert mental image of a Homeresque drooling head tilt here.

The food is wonderful, prepared with skill using good ingredients. But the regular clientele is also superb. They're so delightfully discreet. There are no gaggles of shrieking housewives, no teenaged skanks squawking "Oh my gooooord!" into their mobile phones, no packs of feral children, no businessmen arguing over their espressos. Customers slide in, exchange murmered pleasantries with the staff, then either slide out again or sit down and chat with each other in low, gentle tones. It's always busy but the noise is a calm background burble, not a raucous cacophany.

But the deal has really been sealed by the service. There is, apparently, no one in the world that the staff do not know. Every single person who walks through the door is greeted as if they were an old friend of the family. I'm pretty certain that if a Kalahari Bushman who'd never encountered a white person before stepped up to the counter, they'd cry, "Ah, !Xabbu, how are you? Been keeping well?"

They even remembered me from one week to the next, right down to what I'd ordered, despite the fact that I am a shy, quiet patron not given to memorable antics. Good food served by cheerful people in a peaceful venue - for what more could one ask? My only wishes are that a) there were more Saturdays in the week and b) I had six or seven more stomachs than a currently possess.


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