Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

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.

Want to know more about me? Friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or even look up my New Yorker cartoons on instagram! NB; different platforms not all food related)

A big thank you, as always, to my sponsors at Blue Vapours (use them for all your design and advertising needs - we are waiting for your call!).

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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Melbourne Food Scene On the Slide®

Low Food Becoming the New High

Right, that’s it!  Melbourne’s food scene has gone far enough.  Dressing up junk food as high food is the direction dining has been taking in this city, and I am frankly fed up.  Up to the gills and wiping my face of grease and feeling self-loathing.

I heard a junky girl at a KFC twenty-five years ago ask: “And could I have extra mayonnaise on my chicken burger?… and when I say extra, I really want you to drown it in the shit”.

Who knew she would be forecasting the future of dining in Melbourne?

Want some evidence? Here’s a critique that reveals a city-wide trend through the microcosm of my local eating neighbourhood of Fitzroy. Now, read on…

The closure of fine dining and proliferation of fast food disguised as fine dining has been driven by simple economics - with the cooling of the economy, people were turning their noses up at paying $130 for a dinner out.

And with this push has come a glorification of Americana.

You may recall my observations on the opening of Le Bon Ton back in February 2014 , specifically:

"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”.

If we are to trace the real beginning of the (tooth)rot in Fitzroy's food scene, however, we need to go back further.

The thin end of the wedge came with the opening of Huxtaburger; a spin off of the small plate eatery Huxtable (and as on the nose as Bill Cosby!!).  Despite my objections to such establishments, I went there with a friend who had kids, and had a cheese burger and a beer. It was just like a visit to the great Shaitan, McDonalds (which I have eaten only once in the last seventeen years – a hot chocolate while stranded out of doors at night; both long stories I won’t bother you with here).

Little did I realise what the opening of Huxtaburger would portend.

Around the same time, “Belle’s Diner” opened up on Gertrude St, serving southern fried buttermilk chicken, milk shakes, hamburgers, with slaw, and a bar.  Admittedly they were at the pointy end of the white tiles decor every new coffee shop is now using, and at least it’s directly below the fantastic bar the Everleigh

But then tragedy struck.  All the French places started closing. La Niche no longer open for lunches, Msr Truffle - gone, Boire - gone…

Then another bar opened: Mr Scruff’s.  It’s in former locale of an S&M club called Blue Moon, where they used to tie people up and wear gimp masks; now serving hamburgers and southern fried chicken with big beats and a bar.  As Jane remarked; “If they don’t get you coming, they’ll get you going!!”

Then “Meatballs” opened.

This restaurant sounds like a shit teen-comedy, in no way as good as Blue Vapours upcoming production “Mellon-Camp!”®™ featuring theme tunes by John Cougar Mellencamp; the story of a summer holiday US camp where girls with large breasts grow watermelons and cantaloupes on one island, and some teenage nerds on a rival nearby island find love (read “boobs”) and beat the jocks at their own game.

But I digress.  Meatballs.  They have a neon sign reading “now balling”, promising red wine and sliders. Why don’t you just call your restaurant: ‘Mince, Mince and More Mince – Eat It, Eat IT!!!’?
I can hear the marketing strategy meeting now:

“Hey, you know how to make money?  Buy a low grade ingredient for five cents and then give everyone impacted colons and heart disease while charging them ten bucks a pop!”


Need we mention Jimmy Grant's (a play on the rhyming slang term for “Immigrant”, apparently, not Father James Grant, Catholic priest) in the suspect line up?

If I wanted a souvlaki I could go to fourteen souvlaki joints within a five hundred metre radius, just not with a bar with hot young people in tight tshirts, selling me half the food for twice as much with twenty times the mayonnaise and sugar!  Shame, shame, George Calombaris!

Around the same time Po’ Boy opened on Smith St; southern fired chicken, slaw, “a genuine lemonade”, and most importantly fried shrimp on a sweet bun.

It’s the Americanization of food I predominantly object to: could you put any more sugar on it?  Drown it in coca-cola, fill it with grease, and then hold your hands up as everyone blows up like toffee balloons because they’re eating things off the chart on the hyperglycaemic scale.

Jane suggests I see That Sugar Movie, though the trailer will probably suffice.

I just wonder what Diabetes Australia has to say?

I also blame the Gen Y’s for the shift in tastes.  They’re becoming entrepreneurs in their thirties, and eateries are running to their dietary tastes; which seem to fall in line with that purple dinoasaur  Barney (WARNING: only follow this link if you are prepared to gouge your eyes out with forks or stab yourself in the ears with pencils)

Don't believe me?

My friends on Facebook may recall my entry about a cruffin I was forced to ingest because of the closure of quality cafes in my neighbourhood.  No?  Here, let me remind you:

Kit FennessyFebruary 17 · https://www.facebook.com/kit.fennessyI don't want to sound like a queer or nuthin', but La Niche is closed during the day, Dr Java had shut down, Msr Truffle is gone, the local bakery can't make croissants, so I just had to go to a "pop-up" scroll shop where I bought a five dollar "cruffin"; a croissant muffin.... and I think Depeche Mode are are really sweet band.

This is what’s happening to our dining scene.

The last straw, and reason for this article, came with the opening of a franchise of the the Beach Burrito Company on Gertrude Street this week.  This is a Sydney franchise that has opened right next to the much loved vegetarian Mexican shack TRIPPY TACO.

I ate there, IN FACT I THINK I'VE EATEN AT ALL OF THEM, and its fine, really, but I am now drawing a line in the sand.

No more.

Bring back the baguette!  I want boeuf bourguignon, cassoulet, chicken salads, blue cheese with cornichons and caper berries, bottles of rosé and beautiful girls serving me to the sounds of jazz and accordion.  You want cheap?  Open a tartine restaurant that does pate, terrines, tins of tuna with carrot salads and green leaves.

I rate the direction that Melbourne’s trendy food scene is taking akin to someone ramming a pig’s head into a trough.  Lift your game, gourmets!

Rant now complete: though curiously I'm now really craving some fried chicken and a beer... and some pulled pork.