With this post I paused to consider the title of my blog site and ask myself whether a food review should just reflect upon the food from a single establishment – as I generally do within these pages – or whether a food review could also provide reflection on menu items that may becommon to a number of cafes and restaurants.
This dilemma was triggered by a recent visit to Paper Avenue; from what I am lead to believe this is a rather newish cafe located in the heart of the Joondalup city centre.
When travelling it is my (self-imposed) policy not to return to the same place twice – that way I force myself out of my comfort zone and try to visit as many places as possible.
And so, during my morning walk I stumbled across Paper Avenue. A local cafe whose breakfast menu reads like most other cafe menus, but also like those cafes who wish to present a twist on the classic cafe menu. In this instance, Paper Avenue appear to have taken the ‘we’re-young-hip-and-healthy-and-here-for-you-after-your-gym-sesh’ approach to their menu.
Most menu items will be familiar To most of us, but even more so to those who frequent the current raft of cafes wanting to be ‘now’ and eco-wise with alternative takes on traditional menu items. For example, lots of pumpkin, beef brisket, quinoa, field mushrooms and other smashed things: you get the picture…
Two gentlemen were on the door the miserable cold morning I arrived. It was blowing a chilly gale along the street and I hoped to find a seat inside. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the two guys talking to other patrons seated around the door were connected to the cafe. Being no seats inside I helped myself to a menu and sat outside.
I returned inside only to be greeted by an abrupt cashier who was distracted by her surroundings, particularly the kitchen staff buzzing around behind the counter. After several attempts to place the order I managed to pay for the House Made Honey Crunch Granola and a traditional macchiato.
I enquired as to whether there were was a variety of roasts offered and she queried the barista who said he only had one. I returned outside into the gale only to find my table had been taken by another set of diners. After settling into another table I was dismayed to see one of the door guys usher the newly arrived diners inside out if the wind.
Moments after the newly arrived diners were ushered inside my macchiato arrived. It was great! A lovely heady aroma and just enough froth to stain the strong and pungent dark liquid underneath. What an awesome robust flavour…
And so the wait for the granola bowl continued. Despite the frenetic pace behind the ordering counter, there was still a long wait for the bowl. Meanwhile, other meals came out – most being cooked and having been ordered after mine with the staff apologising for the long waiting time. Ironically, there was little turnover of diners so I’m not sure what was contributing to the lengthy delay in service.
During the wait the sun came out to shine – while still blowing a chilly gale. It was then I wished there was a shade umbrella above me such as the other cafes nearby had provided for their patrons. The cafe was still full inside and I watched as hopeful diners looked in and chose to walk away to the other cafes.
The door guys provided great service to those seated in the gale. Bowls of water for dogs, and rugs and chats to a certain type of clientele; in much the same manner as that 70s British sitcom portrayed the hotel proprietor fawning over a certain range of guests. Unfortunately the door guys were rather indifferent to single males, older couples and tradies.
Some 25 minutes after ordering, and long after I had finished my coffee, my granola arrived. And did it look a pretty picture! The presentation was almost worth the wait alone. Yoghurt to the side, fresh raspberries, orange segments, a single strawberry cut in half (?!), a compote of rhubarb and tart cherries, toasted granola, more yoghurt, kiwi fruit, pomegranate seeds, mint, and more yoghurt…. topped off with a violet-like flower.
The granola – what there was of it – was lovely. Toasted with a subtle hint of spice, predominately cinnamon, there was a noticeable lack of honey. Unfortunately, the chefs had missed any chance to highlight the honey element by even simply drizzling honey over the top.
I mentioned the yoghurt before – the proportion of the key elements was completely wrong. There was more yoghurt than you could poke a stick at. The bowl was presented with two equal halves of granola and yoghurt. In reality the granola was simply a sprinkle over the top of a bowl full of yoghurt. Really what this bowl should have been labeled as was a yoghurt bowl with seasonal fruit and toasted muesli. That would have been closer to the truth.
And flies. The one thing the wind wasn’t blowing away was the flies…
Back to the granola bowl – and this is where I have an issue, and why it has taken me so long to post this review. My gripe isn’t just with Paper Avenue, but with most cafes who offer ‘granola bowls’. They seem to be the trendy addition right now on the menu of any cafe that wants to appear hip, healthy and relevant. But how much of a granola bowl represents cheffing..? cooking….? food preparation…..?
Unless the granola itself is a house-devised blend of raw grains that are then toasted or roasted to perfection with a mixture of spice and other embellishments, served with maybe an in-house cultured yoghurt (come on guys, it’s not hard to do), and served with the very freshest fruit, compotes, honeys or other sauces – then what is it? Can they justify the current prices? Most of the granola bowls that I have sampled over the past 18 months have left me with the impression that they are simply lazy money spinners for the cafe.
But back to the Paper Avenue. Once I had finished eating my plate and glass were collected but the paper napkin left behind to blow down the street; and not just mine either for the street was littered with brown paper napkins that matched those that were in use by the cafe. Sadly I watched as customers were chasing and picking up the stray napkins and tucking them into the table decking. Additionally, no-one apologised for the wait, asked me if I had finished, if I had enjoyed the meal or coffee, or if I would like anything else.
I understand that this is only a newish venture. As far as I can see, there are a few wrinkles service-wise yet to iron out. Would I return on another trip? Sure I would – should the proprietors survive the honeymoon period and lift their game for regular (all?) punters. There’s plenty more of other interesting looking items on the menu left to explore.
Macchiato Traditional –
Collected my empty plates but left paper napkin to blow down the street – and not just mine either, the street was littered with brown paper napkins that so obviously originated from the paper avenue. Customers were chasing and picking up the stray napkins and tucking them into the table decking.
I understand that this is only a newish venture. Would I return? Sure – should they survive the honeymoon period and lift their game for regular punters, there’s plenty of other items on the menu to explore.