Tag Archives: Clifton Hill

northside gastropubbing antics

Thanks to the font of beery information that is The Crafty Pint, the Australian Beer Writers’ Guild convened at the Terminus Hotel in Clifton Hill recently. Good god, the menu is superb, as is the massive dining room.

Most of the folks went burgers and the like but I wanted to be difficult and test out the specials. They had a few asparagus dishes to celebrate its return to season. However, the first dish I chose was the house-made black pudding with pigs’ trotter sauce and kipfler potatoes. This is a rich dish and was perfect for the chilly not-quite-spring evening. Apparently as a (British) kid I loved black pudding. Thought it was about time I tried to reconnect with the childhood love.

As my main, I decided upon the asparagus baked in prosciutto, with pinenuts and feta. You might think not substantial as a main, but after the black pudding, it was just what I was after. Might be something I can try reproducing at home too? Divine.

This meant room for dessert…again on the specials menu: baked Alaska. I begged to share one with Tris as it was $9 per person, but meant for two. A little bit pricey for its size and not quite as much finesse as the one at The Lincoln. No matter, it was baked Alaska, squee! It had banana ice cream inside, and none of that fake-tasting banana either. I actually chose dessert over beer too!

In what seemed like an excellent balance, Tris tested out some of the offerings on the standard menu. You have your parmas, burgers, salads and many types of steaks but he went with a carpaccio of beef, rocket, caramelised vinegar, truffled pecorino. Quite refined for a starter!

For mains, his selection was the English cheddar souffle with radish, frisee and pickled onions. If not for my wanting to sample the specials, I would most likely have chosen this as a main too.

While the service was always courteous and friendly, it was a tad haphazard. There were a few mix-ups with our drinks orders, being the craft beer-swilling wanksters we are. They never seemed to give any of us who ordered the True South dark ale that when asked! We did also have to wait quite a while and despite indicating that we’d prefer entrées and mains to come out separately, they still came out together. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other foodies despite this.

Craft beer aficionados should definitely put this pub on their radar to visit – there’s a damn fine selection of good beer on tap. I’m currently in the process of persuading my parents to have a long overdue family dinner here one evening!

Terminus Hotel on Urbanspoon

what does the bell jar mean to you?

If you’ve ever engaged in any sort of liberal arts tertiary study, then it was most likely Ferdinand de Saussure was thrown at you at some stage. Everybody knows about his ‘sign – signifier – signified’ ramble (more eloquently referred to as semiotics). By everybody, I mean the Beastie Boys.

Beastie Boys being playful and stuff

So, semiotics 101 (I apologise in advance for the ham-fisted explanation): society is full of codes. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to communicate. Naming a cafe ‘The Bell Jar’, for example is no accident: when I hear those words I think of Sylvia Plath’s largely autobiographical novel, then the actual jar used for medicinal purposes (which conjures notions of quackery I do confess). Thanks to one of my closest friends, I might even associate them with Serge Lutens fragrance (that’s even the same gorgeous fragrance I own).

some bell jars and a regular jar

When you enter a cafe and the wait staff say hello, it doesn’t mean you’re friends (duh), it means more or less “I’ve seen you, I’ll get you a menu. I’ll remember that your patronage is funding my next pair of Nudie jeans”.

You’d think.

After very unglamorously visiting one afternoon because it was round the corner from my yoga class and I’d pulled an all-nighter, I was just about ready to die. They could have put soaked cardboard in front of me and I still would have eaten it.

The Bell Jar is nice and yeah, hip. They have these cool heavy cast metal chairs and stark white walls. Also enticingly displayed was a Synesso and countless bags of their 5 Senses coffee blend – Ethiopian, PNG, Sumatran and Guatamalan.

“Oh, do you want a menu?” the waiter says. No, you idiot, I enjoy looking clueless at the specials board and frumpy as feck in my yoga clothes. Yes, I want a menu. Coincidentally, the menu is printed on fancy brown cardboard. The chef was no help either. Despite eye contact and me looking lost, he didn’t seem to give a toss. The hot bird in the gorgeous red dress who seemed to be making the coffee looked pretty disgusted by my presence.

I ordered a long black and thought the corn cakes special – spicy corn cakes with chipotle bacon, poached eggs and coriander crème fraiche sounded delish and got that. Despite my order hitting the ‘kitchen’ first (which in reality was just this one surly dude), the customer who ordered after me got her food first.

spicy corn cakes with chipotle bacon, poached eggs and coriander creme fraiche

The corn cakes were far too doughy for me (not enough corn and too much batter) but the dish was definitely spicy as advertised and did contrast nicely with the coriander crème fraiche – I’ll be pilfering that latter idea, mmm. The bacon was this limp piece of fatty meat that seemed to be added as an after-thought. Either cook it crispy if the slices are going to be that appallingly thin, or get some thicker slices so it doesn’t seem so…token.

In summary folks, when I next think of The Bell Jar, I’ll fondly remember that small but cute eatery with the disinterested staff where I once made the mistake of entering in my not-quite-expensive-enough-for-postcode-3068 yoga attire. To end the lesson on semiotics, I once was told that putting one’s used napkin on your empty plate after you’re done with the meal indicates that you didn’t enjoy the meal. You can guess what my one act of rebellion was… (don’t worry, I’d never do it if it were cloth, even if I did hate the food!).

After my most recent class, I stopped in at Big Dish for a good (Coffee Supreme) coffee fix. I love the staff there and the coffee’s good too! I took my closest girlfriend there when she was down from Sydney and she fell in love with it.

In the semblance of balance, the reader is directed to Mel: Hot or Not who had a considerably better experience at this same venue.

The Bell Jar on Urbanspoon