Monday, January 13, 2014


There's a fundamental tension between those who hold very specific and reasoned social and political views about food and those who don't. One group places great importance on food being organic, locally sourced, humane, and not poisoned by lactose, gluten, sugar or nutrient-destoying heat. The other places great importance on food tasting good.

When one is obsessed with food politics, one considers a meal to be a success when it is raw, vegan, cruelty-free, wheat-free, pesticide-free and sourced from within fifty kilometers of the eating. Whether is tastes like distilled summer sunshine or like a compost heap resting on a section of very unhappy cardboard is so far down the priority list that it scarcely registers.

Sadly for the eating public, Solomon's Cafe on Beaufort Street comes down firmly on the "never mind the taste, feel the karma" side of the equation.

The staff are no doubt proud of the fact that even the most highly strung earth-nurturer in a mood of highest dudgeon couldn't find anything bad to say about their food. Pointing out to them that their food tastes terrible would no doubt draw a similar response to that of Neil Perry if you spoke up in Rockpool and bemoaned the fact that your steak wasn't from a sufficiently self-actualised cow. Both would wonder what you were blathering about and suggest that maybe you had chosen the wrong restaurant.

The conceptual jumble that is the menu is perplexing, and the simplest explanation is that the staff, or more specifically the chef, simply has no idea what he or she is doing. The fact that the breakfast menu has a Carnivore's Plate, despite the fact that the rest of the menu is largely and pointedly vegetarian or vegan, suggests a prickly over-reaction to desires of the less enlightened . "Some of you want meat? Well here's your meat! HAVE A WHOLE FREAKIN' PLATE OF MEAT! YOU MONSTERS!" The idea that some of us might like both meat and vegetables seems to sit uncomfortably with them, like a radical atheist discovering that the devout Christians next door are actually kinda cool once you get to know them.

For the record, I had the cutesy-named 'Green Eggs and Ham', which turned out to be lawn clippings mixed with wallpaper paste slathered over some the very unhappy cardboard I mentioned earlier, along with a few fragments of decent bacon no doubt embarassed by its proximity to the rest of the dish. My friend had 'Mushroom Bruschetta', ate less than half of it, then suggested rather scandalously that it needed more butter and glumly abandoned it.

If we'd known that the chef had such disdain for flavour, we would have quite happily ordered something better suited to the uncompromising ethos, like, say, the raw muesli. If there had been a big sign on the door reading, "Warning! We consider your qi to be more important than your tastebuds!", we could have made a more informed decision and gone somewhere else.

But we weren't to know, and we suffered for it.

P.S. It should be noted that the coffee was exceptionally good. Maybe it was surrupticiously brought in from a less evolved cafe next door.


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