Jam and Cream

Sunday, 9 September, 2012

In a world of microwaved scones, fizzy cream and pretend jam, Thelma and I found an oasis of Nannaness and even though it isn’t a pub and even though it wasn’t Thursday, we felt we should share.

Thelma had heard about Jam and Cream and as it was a lovely day for a drive and Brad Pitt was otherwise engaged, we decided to investigate, all very Miss Marple.

The washing line in the front window, displaying freshly laundered Nanna type ‘smalls’ semaphored its intention loud and clear – this was a cafe of “old fashioned family values”.

I have to say it is an odd spot for a Nanna Cafe, in a service road, next to the discount shoe shop and round the corner from a couple of shuttered asian takeways but there it was, a piece of nostalia in Heidleberg Heights.  Any how in we went, tables were decoupaged with 1950s dress patterns, doilies were stencilled on the floor and the cash register is a reminder of the days before digital, and ever decimal currency.

Jam and Cream is run by a group of women who obviously enjoy and have a passion for a gentler, analogue time but most importantantly for quality food that Nanna not only would approve of but be slightly jealous that she had been out baked.  Have to say that my Nanna was not the best cook, she made excellent lamingtons and a mean roast but her pastry  could be used for roof tiling.

At Jam and Cream, the menu is purely 1950s home baking; there are sausage rolls, pinwheel sandwiches, sponge cake, slices and scones of every hue.  As Thelma noted, they are practicing the art of Experimental Sconing.  The Savoury scones had names like: Alfred, Clifford, Gilbert, Basil and Montgomery that reflect days and baking gone by.  The sweet scones were more ambitious, they started with Plain Jane (Traditional with jam and cream), but included Bertha (a Mars Bar scone), May (lemon & poppy seed served with lemon curd & cream) and ones with coconut, ginger and white chocolate, but not at the same time.  And the best thing about these scones, they are baked to order, yes, not pre done and ‘nuked’ or sitting on a counter going stale but rather baked to order.

What we had: Thelma went for the Plain Jane, your traditional plain scone with raspberry jam and cream and naturally a pot of tea (house blend) ($13), they were excellent exactly as a scone should be and the accompanying jam and cream was delicious and plentiful.  I had the pinwheel sandwiches ($9.50) and they were a grown up version of the fairy bread pinwheels I remember as a child; fillings include; squashed egg and ham.  Note for the whippersnappers: fairy bread pinwheels were available.  As we felt we had room for a little something else, and with the good  grace of the cook, we spilt a serve of scones and I had a May scone, with lemon curd and Thelma, in typical fashion went the truly exotic and had  a Beryl, one with cherry, coconut, served with chocolate ganache and cream, apparently delicious but mighty messy.

The tea was plentiful, proper tea pots, with tea leaves and at least three cups per pot and naturally it was served in proper cups and saucers, the good ones that Nanna would have kept for best.  Actually the cup in the photo had strong childhood resonances for Thelma as cups like this belonged to her Nanna.

And that is  the other interesting thing, for  Women of a Certain Age, Jam and Cream provides nostalgia, similar to the couple sitting behind us, singing along with the 1950s music, this was their courting music.  For the stylish yet eclectic young women sitting next to us, this was retro and for the Mother with the young girl and boy this was an illustration of ‘old fashioned family values’.

Just a final point I need to make: icing sugar has no place on scones, in fact icing sugar has no place in anything other than icing.  It drives me nuts,  why dust anything with icing sugar that doesn’t represent the Swiss Alps because all it manages to do is coat the bosooms in fine white powder, make everything slightly sticky and make you look like you have been snorting coke (not cola!).  I also have an issue with the affectation of dusting with paprika, one question -why? Here ends my rant, but be warned, this is my quest, the end to food dusting.

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The Royal Oak

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Royal Oak

We got soaking wet on our walk last night.

The evening started well, quite a nice night for a walk really as we hadn’t seen each other for two weeks, given Thelma’s theatre outing last week and there was plenty to talk about.  The main topics were the state of play with The Mother and the issues faced by Women of a Certain Age(WOACAs) in the workforce.   Regarding The Mother, after some confusion, she is off to have a shoulder reconstruction next week.  This means she won’t be playing in the finals, and will probably impact on her pre-season, but she should be right to return mid season 2013, should Geelong need her (Go Cats).

Regarding WOACAs, both Thelma and I,  fair to say, are well experienced and credentialed in our respective fields, and the issue is becoming, where to from here? Both of us are practitioners.  We really don’t want to take on management role where budgets, spread sheets and strategic planning are the focus of daily life; not that either of us mind offering an opinion on such matters, but we don’t want to be responsible for them. So where do we go?  This was the main topic on our journey.

Our walk took us to The Royal Oak, a quiet, unpretentious local pub, with a TAB and few patrons in the front bar. The strongest feature of the pub is the friendly nature of the staff.  When we arrived, the woman behind the bar introduced herself as “Alison”, and told us that she had taken over the Oak ten days ago. She has an Irish lilt and a genuine warmth that bodes well for the pub’s future.

Meanwhile for the here and now:  I have to say the on tap beer selection limited at best: Carlton Draught, Coopers Original Pale Ale and Bulmers Cider (I know its not beer, but it is on tap!).  We were offered a broader range in bottles, but that is not  part of “The Rules”.  We started with two pots of Coopers at $4.40 each.

The menu was an interesting mix: Thai Tuna Patties and Asian Chicken Coleslaw mixed in with pub standards of rissoles and mash and chicken parma.  When faced with such choices, I always following the sage advice of the Wise Stu, “When ordering food, remember where you are.” As the victim of many disappointing Thai Fish Cakes in country and non country pubs, I have taken this advice as a mantra. The Oak is a pub, nothing more or less, so I avoid the ‘asian’ and went with the pub cuisine.  This view was further solidified by the lovely Alison who told us that the Asian meals were ‘inspired’ rather than authentic.

What we ate: on Alison’s recommendation, I had sweet lipped snapper with salad and chips ($17).  Can’t you just imagine a fish with coral lipstick and a touch of gloss?  Thelma had the chicken parma, with, after much consideration, chips and salad (16), not veg and mash. Thelma will always be tempted by mash but your classic pub parma is chips and salad!

The friendly nature of the staff was further enhanced by the chef (assuming so as he had a stripey apron and came from the kitchen) who stopped by and asked us if we enjoyed our meals and actually seemed interested in the response.  We did, and at $50.40 for honest pub grub of two mains and 4 pots of beer you can’t complain!

After the repast, we continued on our way, and then the skies opened, the wind howled and the umbrellas blew inside out, so we caught the tram as far as we could but still managed to get soaked in the tropical downpour that is indicative of Melbourne’s Spring.  I discovered what a ‘shower proof jacket’ means , you get wet when it rains, and Thelma discovered that wearing summery clothes at the beginning of spring is naïve at best and leaves you soggy at worst.

Finally a confession

I’m not sure whether you have noticed, or care but the postings on our blog have been random at best over the last couple of month; there are reasons and I have become a ‘frozen moment’ about it.  I have had the drafts and images but something happened between that and the actual completion.  No more! I have decided to get over it, and get on with it. I will do my best, the posts will reflect our experience and the date we were there will be noted, they will be posted as soon as it can and hopefully the backlog will be clear in the next month. Confession over.

The Parkview Hotel

Thursday, 14 June 2012

I know it’s not the best photo, but have a good look.  See the figure on the top of the post? Thelma and I tried very hard to get a clear image but give that we are just using a basic phone camera this isn’t a bad effort.  Now to the real questions who, what and why, and will we ever know?

Actually I wonder if there are figures on other tram stops?

Life at the moment is topsy-turvy; Brad Pitt is still in the country ministering to The Mother, I am still on zoo keeping duties, so Thelma and I demonstrating flexibility by not so much walking but rather feeding, driving,then taking and forking, so the essential part of the evenings activities are still intact. These are really the most important parts anyway.

Now nothing gladdens the heart like 2 for 1 offer, and that was the sign that beckoned us to The Parkview, two mains for the price of one.

With such a budget saver, Thelma noted that “we can have as much beer as we like, and dessert!”  Well we didn’t go that mad but we did start with nachoes ($11) because we could . And they were exactly what you would expect of $11 pub nachoes, nothing more, nothing less.

Interestingly, even though it was a Thursday and I assume a pay night for many, the pub, bistro and even the pokies area seemed very quiet, perhaps this is why the 2 for 1 offer?  The lack of patrons seemed to encourage the barman to chat, we were offered wine but as you know, Thursday is beer night. After some discussion we went with Thunder Road full steam pale ale x 2( $11).  The barman, a friendly man with time on his hands was more than happy to chat and we all agreed that Thunder Road was a good ‘summer’ beer and apparently its a local brew, from Brunswick.

What we ate: Thelma went for the beef cheeks, celeriac puree, roast field mushrooms, dutch carrots and mushroom sauce ($16).  Apparently, while hot, the beef cheeks were enjoyable but as they cooled they got tougher. Me? I had scotch fillet with roast veg and mash, and despite the garlic butter recommendation from the barman, went the red wine jus; should have gone the butter.

Finally a word of warning regarding the sobriety test on the way to the loo; it’s 1/4 step down then 1/2 step up; easy to miss and the result would be unattractive.

Percy’s Bar at the Astor Hotel

Thursday 31 May, 2012

It was Thelma’s turn tonight and she opted for Percy’s Bar.  There was a moments confusion when were planning our journey as she was determined that Percy’s was on the corner of Lygon and Alexandra Pde, whereas I ‘knew’ it was Lygon and Elgin.  We knew if we walked down Lygon st one of us would be proved right; and I was!

Walking down Lygon Street means running the gauntlet of the spruikers from the phalanx of Italian restaurants that Lygon street, especially at the city end.  This is a tedious process, and tests the patience, how many times does Signora have to say “no thanks” when asked if we want to see the menu for dinner and “no, we don’t care if it is warm inside” – we are feeling decidedly frosty out here.

I understand that everyone needs to make a living but I would like to offer the following advice to the Lygon St Spruikers Guild.  When you are purposefully  walking and talking down the street, not strolling, looking  wistfully into windows like something out of Lady and the Tramp, there are no signals that we are in need of garlic bread and carbonara of any sort, if you need to say something, try,” lovely evening” and maybe next time when I am in the need of carbonara, I will come to your establishment.

Anyhow having fought our way through “Little Italy”, we were at Percy’s Bar at the Astor Hotel, on the corner of Elgin Street.  Percy’s is a well know establishment, owned by Percy Jones, a legendary Carlton football player, he must  be legendary as I know about him and my football knowledge is limited to the odd fact I have picked up from my Geelong mad aunty, “Go Catters!”.

Now before you say “Bar”?!”, Percy’s is a pub in the classic  tradition, there is a front bar, populated by classic style patrons and at the back is the bistro, I assume, in times gone by it was “the lounge”.

We went in through the bistro, did discuss whether we could eat there but then determined that in the spirit of The Quest ‘bistro’ did not fit in to The Rules.  We managed to get the only table in the bar, next to the Hot Cupa Nutz machine  and sat under the shrine to the Carlton Football club, dominated by a photo of Perce and Alex Jesaulenko holding a cup aloft.  Don’t expect more details as that is stretching the limits of my footy knowledge, and Thelma knows decidedly less that I do on matters of the local religion.

Looking round I realised two things, we were the only women in the bar area, and when ‘young people’ came in to the pub, they avoided the main bar and its regulars and congregated at the end near the bistro,that was their place.

Sitting, holding court on the other side of the bar was Perc himself.  The general bar chatter was football and Carlton in particular and the regulars looked to Percy for acknowledgment and approval of their ideas.  As one said:”He’s the boss, the Buddha”.

The menu in the bar was limited and classic:, chips, sausage and mash, steak and naturally a parma and chips .  Thelma opted for steak, feeling in need of the iron, I was not inspired until I saw that you could have corned beef, from the bistro menu.  Now in my thinking corned beef is a pub bar meal, I would never have ordered the roast duck, that would be far to fancy but after consultation it was agreed that corned beef fitted into our remit and budget. And can I say it was delicious!  The meals were excellent.   Thelma had  rump steak with chips and paid a bit extra for salad, but with this she also got a free pot. Now salad in many pubs can be a few tired leaves and a bit of tomato, but not here it was fresh and plentiful, the steak was cooked to her liking “on the medium side of rare” and the chips were plentiful but not over whelming.

My corned beef was better than my Nanna used to make who tended to boil things into submission , with mash, fresh  broccoli peas and beans that weren’t cooked within an inch of their lives.  There was a small dish of sauerkraut and mustard sauce to pull the whole thing together.  Again, fresh and delicious.

The beer, well given that the signage throughout the bar was Carlton, so it was not a surprise that the only beer on tap was Carlton Draught.  Other beers could be had in a bottle, and I guess at a price, but that would break the rules.

All up, our dinner cost $45, and I would have to say good value as well as delicious.

On our way out, use the facilities, it’s a long walk home you know, Lygon St to Merri Station.  Have to say that I was bemused but the advertisement in the ladies, it was  a poster for steak.  Perhaps it could be seen as a health message to encourage women to increase their  iron uptake.

Just a comment on the “Walk” part of our evening, I was injured in the line of duty. Note to self: trim toe nails before undertaking significant walk in boots or the results can be ugly.

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