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It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Le Bon Ton

51 Gipps St Collingwood

Do you like food with a story? So do these guys. The number of things I’d read about the brilliant people behind this establishment are, frankly, amazing.

And this with the place having been open for only a week.  They MUST have a PR agent.

I first read about the Glasshouse Hotel reopening from a post on Facebook by Wally Kempton/Meanie, saying something like “hell yes”. It was a link to a site called the Broadsheet, and reviewed the newly opened hotel.

It was my sister’s birthday recently, and she suggested we go out for tea somewhere in Collingwood, which was great because that meant it was walking distance for me. I suggested this new establishment and she concurred, having already read reviews in Time Out.

“So what’s the story?” I hear you gasp in expectation.

Basically, it’s the story of two American brothers (from Texas), who opened a Mexican joint on Swan St, in Richmond, called Chingon. They’re “kick ass” smoked-meat cooks, one of whom also plays harmonica, and they’ve opened a N’Awlins style bar and eatery.

You can’t get more authentic than that.

I’ve been past the Glasshouse many times, and lived locally for over a decade, but had never been there. Why? Well, mostly because it was always shut, or closed down, and for a while I recall it being une “destination de les lesbians”, and didn’t feel like I fit the bill.

The new fit out must have cost a fortune and looks just great; like a theme park for hipsters. Dark corners, a pressed metal looking roof low over the bar, exposed brick, and ye olde Southern style gentlemen-a-bubble artwork, making it reminiscent of a theme park or possibly the Everleigh.

And it’s hip, baby. Staff with beards and tattoos, an endorsement by Sir Wally, not to mention that I spotted Kat Spazzy at the next table… out on a date! (hope I’m not spoiling anything there… shh!) And I was there, too, so you can’t get much cooler than that, really, can you?

The food was comprised of things like southern fried chicken that had been soaked in buttermilk, black eyed peas, chilli cheese fries, pulled pork, and coleslaw.

You know, poor people food. From the South.

But it was all being presented as being “slightly higher end”. They’re marrying champagne, absinthe, and fresh shucked oysters with black eyed peas and cornbread for chrissakes!

It was absolutely delicious, but I’d have felt more comfortable if there was a blues band playing and we all ate in the bar, maybe with people smoking as well. And if the drink prices were lower or the sizes larger.

As a newly opened establishment, they’re taking a while to iron some of the creases out. And, as I also mentioned, I was there with my sister; who has a rapier wit, an acid tongue and habitually makes a point of giving frank and fearless feedback to staff. I really felt sorry for the waitress:

‘Now we’ve only been open for a week and a half,’ our lovely waitress Eliza squeaked, all enthusiasm and about twenty years old. ‘So there’s a few things written on the menu that aren’t available. In the cocktails it’s our Bon Ton Bloody Mary.’

‘Why not?’ I enquired.

‘We didn’t have time to smoke the tomatoes, and we wouldn’t want to give you anything inferior. The wine list doesn’t have most of the wines here yet, either. They’re still on order.’

‘Where are they coming from?’ I asked.

‘France mostly, but all over. I think they just made one great big order and it’s all coming on slow boats. I don’t really know. But you can ask me anything about the food. That’s my area of expertise.’

‘I’ll have a bottle of the house red,’ my sister drawled laconically.

‘I’d better just check on that…’ She dashed off and returned. ‘Sorry, we’ve only got the house red by the glass tonight.’

‘You’re not doing very well, are you?’ my sister said. ‘You should just wear a badge that has a big “sorry” on it.’

I laughed, but the poor girl was crushed like a flower. And every time she came back, she was gun shy. Ma sceur went on to have a cocktail, and when the waitress came back told her:

‘Not very good value. Fifteen dollars, and it comes in a Marie Antoinette glass. Pathetic.’

The rest of our party turned on my sister (you’ll note she is remaining nameless here), and said in unison: ‘Well we’re glad you’re not afraid to pull any punches.’

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes, but it needs a while to wear in, like a brand new leather jacket. Joints like that take a while for the audience, and the staff, to find their feet.

The rich food from “le bon ton” gave me a freaky sleep – what I’ve heard described as ‘Cheese dreams’. But the food was absolutely delicious, calorific and gloriously decadent in a deep fried, full fat kind of way. I could have licked the plates clean and eaten the whole lot twice.

Don’t go there for a dinner party. Walk in off the street, sit in the beer garden and order some cheese and chilli fries, thirteen beers and as much smoked meat as you can handle. Friday and Saturday nights are also supposed to be their oyster nights, so stumble off the street in winter… and gorge.

Le Bon Ton was disappointing – since I’d built it up too much in my preconceptions as “fancy”, from the reviews, when it’s really not – but nice.

My rating? Five and a half tentacles out of eight, but heading north no doubt once the cricks are worked out.

Bon appetite, y’awl!


Anonymous said...

Well what a nice chap ya sister is ayy...

..and what a boring story to tell...

nice life you've got going there

Kit Fennessy said...

It's not easy being boring, or a chap when you're a lass, but thanks for writing!