Sunday, 6 April 2008

A Minor Place, A Major Wait

I've been to a minor place
And I can say I like its face
If I am gone and with no trace
I will be in a minor place

From 'A Minor Place' by Will Oldham

E went through a Will Oldham phase years ago. We even once travelled from Edinburgh to Dublin to see him play. I had seen a groovy little café in Albion Street Brunswick a few times while out on my bike. So when I read Michael and Cindy's review and discovered it was called A Minor Place and had pumpkin cornbread I had to go.

A Minor Place is a little weatherboard shop front that used to be a milk bar. It is situated away from the bustle of Sydney Road and Lygon Street and feels a little bit local, a little bit grungy. Indoors we found people crowded around big communal tables with a few smaller tables scattered about. After a 5 minute wait we were given an outdoor table where we sat on milk crates with little cushions on them.

Milk crates remind me of my student days which I suspect many of the clientele are still living. Our neighbouring tables were full of hip young things discussing their love life, childhood literature or tapping away on their Mac laptops. This is the place to check out the student fashions and the trends you hope will not take off (a brownie guides beret on a grown woman!)

The menu looked promising. E ordered the Mumbler – poached eggs, spinach, rocket, tomato, fetta, dukkah and pesto on sourdough toast. I ordered the pumpkin cornbread with Henry’s beans, spinach tomato relish and (in lieu of eggs) avocado and roasted tomato. The staff were friendly and in no time we had our drinks (latte and oj) and cutlery. Then the wait began.

I’d eaten very little before leaving the house and now was quite peckish. It took an hour between being seated and having our meal brought to us. By the time I ate, I was very very hungry. I am sure there is a law somewhere that decrees the longer the wait, the higher the expectations and the harder it is to feel satisfied. So although I wanted to love this place, I couldn’t help but feel it is a victim of its popularity.

Our food was beautifully presented. My cornbread was a wonderful bright orange colour but a little dry and crumbly. The beans were very colourless and a little bland but rescued by the sprinkling of dukkah. The tomatoes were merely warmed rather than roasted (which is harder to forgive, given how long they had to roast). I enjoyed the meal better when I discovered that the dukkah and relish lifted it beyond ordinary. I did wonder if it would be better with the poached eggs which are usually served with this meal. E thought his Mumbler Breakfast was a great combination of flavours. His eggs were done well and his coffee was good. So perhaps on another day I would feel more favourable towards my food.

As we got in the car to leave, E commented that the place was so hip it hurt. We agreed that if we lived in easy walking distance we would probably go there regularly but it is just a little too far from our place for us to feel compelled to go back. But I am glad I have been and still feel hopeful that some time in the future I might return and have a happier experience. So to finish, here are some enigmatic words from Will Oldham.

Thank you man if for the thought
That all my loving can be bought
Was wisely in your gullet caught
Before my loyalty you sought
From 'A Minor Place' by Will Oldham

A Minor Place
103 Albion St
Brunswick 3056 VIC
Phone: (03) 9384 3131

11 comments:

  1. Past Will Oldham phases are something that E and Michael have in common. :-)

    I can understand your frustration with such a wait! I am most impatient in the morning when I haven't eaten yet.

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  2. Thanks Cindy - yes, I don't function very well in the morning til I have eaten.

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  3. The food looked good, but that was just too long a wait!

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  4. "a victim of its popularity" and "so hip it hurt." Sigh, why does it seem that so many recommended places fit those turns of phrase, regardless of the city? Maybe I'm just behind on the ball -- by the time I realize that a place is hot, it's already been stormed by everyone and their mother and is overwhelmed. Especially the "grudgy local joints" that end up seeming oh-so-self aware and hip, making them seem so fake. Sigh. Better luck next time!

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  5. You know, I don't think I would have waited an hour. Especially for breakfast.

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  6. thanks holler - it is terrible what a long wait does to good food!

    thanks Neen - it does seem to be an feat of timing to visit a cafe at its peak but I imagine it is also hard as a cafe owner to hit the balance between buzzing and just annoyingly busy

    thanks Kathleen - I just couldn't stand starting all over again somewhere else and I did want to sample the pumpkin cornbread!

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  7. Well, I can see how the purple cornbread would be tempting...

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  8. when i went there they served my girlfriend's full breakfast without any bacon as listed in the menu. then she had to ask twice--each time being greeted with an unapologetic glare (eating is meat is, like, so obviously uncool), before it was finally served up on a saucer just as we were ready to leave. i live down albion st but i no longer bother with this place. far too many nathan barleys...

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  9. thanks anonymous - shame you had such a bad experience of a local place. I found most of the waiters quite friendly although exuding art-school-cool! BTW I have never heard the expression nathan barley!

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  10. check it out, its well plastic yeah? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Barley

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  11. I've had nothing but good experiences at A Minor Place, thought haven't been there much (maybe half a dozen times). As I work hospitality tho, my midweek days are more free than my weekends, and whenever I've been, it hasn't seemed that busy. The most recent time I went was in the evenings as it's opened as a bar & tapas place now, and it's been done quite well, and better still it's not too busy yet (note to Neen: Get there quick before it becomes a victim of it's popularity!!!). The menu seems well thought out, with simple clean flavours, and the wine selection seems like it's had some good thought put into it. I had the Kangaroo skewers and the Spiced Chickpeas with a glass of Kangarilla Rd Shiraz. We sat by the open fire place on a cool and windy Melbourne Thursday evening. I'm definately going back before it gets too busy!!!

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