A Little Lunch By Myself
photo from http://www2.visitvictoria.com/
On Friday, I found myself unexpectedly in town, pretending to work. I don't work much and what I do, tends to be done from home. But occasionally I have to come into the office and justify my pay packet.
I didn't dream of driving, as much of the CBD was locked down and cordoned off for the G20 summit over the weekend. And when I went off for an early lunch, I decided not to walk across town in search of a tasty meal.
Last week, I decided to pop into David Jones Foodhall, in order to grab something quickly and be back on the job asap. I made the ridiculous mistake of going at proper lunchtime ie 1pm and the place was packed. I stood at the noodle counter for 15 minutes and couldn't even get my order taken. The heavily perspiring chef was growling at people that their orders would be at least 20 minutes. So I thought I'd just grab a plain roll from the bakery. At which point eleven people materialised at the bread counter and took their sweet time.
I left three quarters of an hour after entering, with plain bread and water. Yes, they may have been ciabatta rolls and Fiji spring water, but it was still bread and f*#&ing water, okay?
So when I caught sight of the Bistrot D'Orsay, I decided to treat myself. No $10 quickie noodles today. Bistrot D'Orsay has a handful of wicker tables and chairs on the pavements, but I chose the dark interior of the restaurant instead. And while outside would have been easier for people-watching, the occasional clouds of exhaust and dust would not have been pleasant for my food.
Bistrot D'Orsay is a medium-priced French restaurant, with a consistent 14/20 rating from the Age Good Food Guide. There were several dishes I would have liked to try, however today I plumped for the pan-fried gnocchi with mushrooms, chard and hazelnuts. And a side salad of "rocquette, pear and parmesan".
My reactions to the food were mixed. The gnocchi itself was a dream - browned yet soft, with a consistency that did not fall apart after one bite. I could, and would, have eaten a giant bowl of that by itself. The mushrooms were large peeled slices of field mushroom, perfectly cooked alongside small wilted pieces of chard. There were a few shavings of parmesan and then the hazelnuts. The nuts were a wrong note in this dish. They were skinned, but their texture lacked the creaminess that comes from roasting. Perhaps they had been blanched, but all they did was detract from the overall harmony. I pushed them to the side of the lovely white bowl (I do like unusual crockery in a restaurant) and ate them at the end, so did they irritate me.
The salad was decent, perhaps a little heavy on the balsamic, but with good leaves and ample parmesan. The one thing that puzzled me was the pear. The sweet crunch of pear is required in this salad to offset the sour of the dressing and the sharp of the cheese. And it is seriously cheap - pear costs probably 1/4 the price of the rocket and and 1/10 of the price of parmesan. It therefore makes no sense to stint on it and force the diner to hunt around to find the occasional piece. Maybe their supplier couldn't get through the barricades.
Speaking of which, it was actually quite peaceful on the Friday, although this report says that "At times the Paris end of Collins Street looked more like Paris '68". I saw a straggle of girls in fluro pink tutus waving tambourines. They were escorted by a pack of policemen up the street. Otherwise, apart from the Falun Dafa demonstration, it was remarkably quiet.
Sidenote: I don't know much about the practice of Falun Gong, apart from reading reports of persecution in China, but I have to say, I have never seen a more peaceful, serene group of mostly middle-aged people. After watching them meditating en masse just off Swanston Street earlier I was surprised by the numbers marching up Collins Street. I had no idea it was so widely followed here.
But apart from this demonstration, it was very much business as usual and I sat watching schoolkids and workers in suits. Shoppers in Melbourne for the day, looking for a quick rest from their Christmas lists.
I don't often eat in public by myself - for starters I usually have the Little One or Figman along. But on Friday I sat back as the plate and glass opposite me were removed. I relaxed, I looked out the window and I enjoyed my food. Being a guest to myself and all that. And I got back to work long before I'd have returned from DJs. A little treat that paid for itself.