Thursday, January 28, 2010

All talk?

Rowena Parade Corner Store
44 Rowena Parade
Richmond 3121
Ph: 03 9421 3262

When I think of those tiny little cafes and restaurants one sometimes discovers in Melbourne's many laneways, those hidden gems treasured by locals, I think of places with happy staff, fabulous food, consistently good coffee. I knew that to some Melbourne foodies, Rowena Parade was one such gem, so when I stumbled across it by accident I was expecting a unique, memorable breakfast experience.


First impressions were good. On a warm morning, the windows were wide open, and tables of what seemed like regular customers almost filled the room. The "cafe/milkbar/continental deli" has a Greek theme, with a huge picture of Santorini on one wall; above the counter, a big sign reads "Mamma's takeaway", and cute little messages are found all over the room (above the counter, a blackboard reminding patrons that "For every minute you're angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness"; beneath a bell, a stern warning to "Under no circumstances ring this bell").

We found a good selection of basic breakfast and lunch dishes on the menu and specials board, with a few traditional Greek dishes featured.

Kaski, from Neveska in Northern Greece: Roasted red peppers, cooked in tomato reduction, with fresh ricotta, fetta cheese and a hint of chili, served with organic Turkish toast ($8.50)

I considered a BELTAC (bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese - Rowena Parade's super take on the BLT) but decided I was having an "It's-too-early-for-eggs" morning so instead, my little ramekin of tomato and chili was an excellent start to the day. Yes, the presentation could have been better - the dish was a bit of a mess. But it was creamy and rich with a subtle kick of chili and went well with the Turkish bread.

Two free range eggs on Turkish toast ($7.00) with mushrooms, tomato, avocado ($2.50 each) and bacon ($3.00)

A simple big breakfast, and what a disappointment. Bf, a man who has no chef training and cooks beautiful creamy scrambled eggs at home, is constantly amazed at how often kitchens ruin breakfast. The eggs he was served were a dry, bland, solid lump. The sides consisted of a flavourless half tomato, extremely crisp (in fact, black) bacon (which was cooked to bf's liking - we both like our bacon very crispy - but we both agreed the kitchen was taking a risk here), the tiniest portion of an average tasting avocado, and some mushrooms which were the only decent thing about the meal. He was also served a warm strawberry milkshake.

Bf was very unsatisfied, and I must say that my expectations of the place were a lot higher. Rowena Parade has so much charm, you would think the service - wait staff had zero personality - and food would match. "Good Things", reads a heading at the bottom of the menu, above a paragraph explaining that their eggs are free range, their bread is organic, they source local produce wherever possible. But is it all talk? It's one - very important - thing to source the freshest, best produce you can find. What you do with it is another matter. Rowena Parade is good on paper, but in practice things are very different.

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