Maybe not exactly, but we like it.
I love India. I went in January 2010 and it was the coldest, foggiest, and culture-shockiest (yes, I make up words) adventure I’d ever had. I was colder in India than I was in Europe. I stayed in Delhi and slept in hotels and also with a host-family who were just the loveliest people ever. My host family and their friends were very careful to make sure that I ate beautiful, safe and mild food so at no time I ended up attached to the loo (I didn’t get Delhi Belly once). Although I had a break from Indian food (for about one week) when I returned to Australia, travelling to India confirmed my love of Indian food and introduced me to many food not commonly found in Australia. I love me some Injun. I cook it, eat it and buy it whenever possible. I got to eat some this week.
So I went to Gandhi’s mid-week for a friend’s birthday. It’s one of two Indian places in Southbank and the other one doesn’t really rate. Gandhi’s is quite established at Southbank, and although it has, at times, received some rough reviews, I took a deep breath and recommended it when my friend wanted to some ideas.
The first mistake I made was forgetting that my friend’s fiancé wasn’t there, so it was a big old pussy party, plus Ben. Poor Ben. He really is a champ, although he can’t complain too much as he knows all the girls well. Many beers were had, so hopefully that made up for it.
A table was set up in the outside area. Plenty of water was supplied. We decided against starters as curry can be quite filling and ordered a variety of dishes, including Dahl Makhni, Paneer Saag and an Eggplant (Aubergine) Curry. Ben and I ordered Roti with ours as well and everyone ordered rice. Rice was $2.50 per person and we each ordered separately. I think if there was an option to order a large serve for the table, that would have made ordering easier. Of course you want rice with your curry!
Drinks and food were served promptly (it was a Tuesday night, so it was a quiet night).Most of us ordered medium heat but I didn’t really think it was hot. Ben thought his medium was more mild than my medium. If that makes sense. I ordered a Mango Lassi thinking I might need it, and it was pleasant but not necessary for accompanying the curries. The roti (a wholemeal bread and usually less oily than naan) was soft and well cooked.
I had ordered the Dahl Makhni, which is dahl (lentil curry) with kidney beans. It often has a more interesting taste than straight dahl to me. I avoid ordering vegetable dahl at restaurants, as nothing is more disappointing than frozen vegetables in your dinner when you’re paying over $10 for your meal. My meal had a nice, rich flavour. Ben’s paneer saag (sort of cottage cheese cubes, but much nicer than that, in a spinach curry sauce) was rather mild for his taste. He liked the paneer cubes but found the saag part a bit disappointing. Our friend who ordered the eggplant curry thought hers was nice.
Gandhi’s is on the expensive side of Indian, in my opinion. We paid just under $65 for two curries and rice, two roti, a mango lassi and two beers. Vegetable curries were $16-$19, which is without rice. We usually get Indian curries for around $15. That would be the top end. Vege curries tend to be a bit cheaper than meat, so it was nearly $20 for some of the curry options on the menu. I found the food ok. There was nothing that was poorly done, we found the service just fine, quick and helpful. There was absolutely nothing wrong, but nothing that was brilliantly done. I’ve heard some reviewers say that this is inauthentic Indian. I couldn’t see anything that was inauthentic about it (always look for Chicken Tikka Marsala on Indian menus. It’s a British dish and a good giveaway. I forgot to look this time around). I found it mild, but nice. I had a decent meal, but I’d expect to for the price we’d paid. I might not go our of my way to go back with Ben, but I’d go back with friends.
I really wanted to call this post “Cup Size” but just couldn’t figure out the right pun, dammit.
So the point is, I went to Cup, which is a fairly recent addition to West End’s coffee scene.
I can’t remember the exact blend they’re using at the moment, except I think it’s a 50/50 blend with one of them being Ecuadorian, but these (gorgeous and friendly) passionate guys roast their own beans, they’ve recently moved their roasting to Wooloongabba because they needed bigger premises and get in new beans every two months. And have a weekly blend. Lovely. As soon as I showed an interest in their beans (hehehe. Re-reading this, it looks kind of sus…), both of the baristas were chatting happily and knowledgeably about their practices and blends. They do aeropress coffees as well, and if you order soy (.50) you get Bonsoy, which is pretty freaking awesome. We paid $9 for the two coffees shown, but received no less attention than anyone else because we were only having drinks. The blend was quite a bitter, refreshing taste- bitter because it was meant to be bitter, not bitter you burnt my shot you bastards, and suited the warm day well. I was really taken by the huge wall art, whom I named Espresso Man. you can hide inside or glam it up at the outdoor seating area on the street (guess where we sat?). They have a short but savvy-looking menu with an avo toast, which means I will of course be back to try it out.
The Verdict? West End Coffee House might serve Campos coffee, but Cup has more seating and lovely staff. And a dern gud coffee too.
So I wanted to have coffee with an old colleague a little while ago. We often go to Avid Reader in West End because it’s fabulously booky, and so are we. However, as she lives on the north side of Brisbane, I wanted to even things up a bit and find somewhere close to her. The north side is a tricky spot for eating out and good coffee. Only in the last couple of years have quality coffee spots popped up, finally serving the jittery masses as they commute into town. For coffee, Dandelion and Driftwood gets the most attention, but newcomer Pod in Stafford (yes, I know. Stafford) looks like it could be promising and Metro Espresso on Edinburgh Castle Road has long served the passing traffic. When I worked on the north side, I never went to Metro Espresso regularly as it was a dangerous road to cross and because their iced coffee had ice cream in it. Period. It may have changed by now.
If I did get caffeinated libations on the way to work, it was often at Idea Cafe on Shaw Road. It’s easy to pass by but was safer to park and served consistent quality coffee. And they never minded my iced latte on soy requests. I can imagine locals enjoying this cafe a lot- it’s right next door to the local hydrobath, so diners sitting at the back table are rewarded on the weekend with cute pooches and children roaming around (but not too close; I don’t like other people’s kids sharing my experience too much). Just down the road is Shaw Park, a large sporting and parkland area, it would be a great way for Kedron-ians (Kedronites?) and Wooloowin residents (I give up) to begin the weekend.
We got a table at about 9 and ordered the avo and tomato toast on turkish. I ordered peppermint tea with mine, and my friend had a flat white. I would have liked a poached egg, but there is only a hot plate, not a hob, in the kitchen and eggs are done scrambled or fried. You can sit up front near the tree-line road, at the coffee bar on a stool, or on one of the little tables down the side. They also had several chairs that still had folded blankets over the back, which is a nice sign of consideration.
Although I prefer my toast as sourdough, this turkish bread was toasted flat, making it easy and manageable. It was a simple, nice meal done well. My friend liked her coffee, but I don’t know how fantastic their coffee is overall as I didn’t get a chance to try for myself. Although we hardly sampled the most complex of dishes (I want to try their banana bread with ricotta, honey and caramelised banana!), I really enjoyed eating here. When a waiter came to tell me I couldn’t have poached, it was done with grace and apologies. When we stayed for THREE hours catching up, we weren’t hassled or given passive-aggressive waiter body language to leave (it wasn’t a packed Saturday, so we weren’t keeping a table from someone). When we forgot to pay (yes, I’m awful) and came back ten minutes later, the staff laughed and said it happened all the time, but everyone always comes back and fixes them up.
I get the impression from other reviews I’ve read in the past that this is not the place for a huge group or a late lunch, but for a brekkie for two, it was clean, fresh food and a great start to my weekend.
And just because, check out this dude’s amazing garden just a couple of doors down the road. Amazing!
So why weren’t more people out with their kids at parks these schools holidays? It upsets me sometimes that kids are seen as too complicated, too demanding and only interested in trends and technology, when perhaps parents aren’t doing to groundwork needed to make their child well-balanced. But I get ahead of myself.
On Tuesday, Ben, a friend and I wanted to go on a picnic and a small bushwalk. By far the two easiest bushwalks to access from Brisbane are Mt. Coot-tha and Walkabout Creek, because both have bus access. Ben and I like to do Mt Coot-tha really quickly. Really quickly, powering up the hill and then sweatily enjoying the view at the top before strolling back down and this isn’t the best way to approach a bushwalk with a friend. Walkabout Creek, on Waterworks Road/Mt Nebo Road has been done to death, as we used to live near it and would go jogging along the track and even considered getting married at the function centre there at one time (it was too expensive for us). If you continue down Mt Nebo road, you pass several walking opportunities, picnic spots and lookouts. The first one past Walkabout Creek is Bellbird Grove, about 5-10 minutes more down the road (depending if you actually want to do the 80kms/hour on windy roads as suggested by the speed limit signs). You can find out more about the area here, including great PDF maps.
We decided that no picnic should be simply sandwiches and soft drink, so we went by the one and only Green Edge on our way to get supplies. As my friend is vegan, this is perfect. The Green Edge is the only 100% vegan supermarkei in Brisbane and is just around the corner from where we began in Enogerra. They have everything from staples such as grains, legumes and soy milk to fancy-pants soy whipped cream, marshmallows, ready meals and so much more. I discover something I want each time we go. They also have a cafe that serves amazing smoothies, juices, ice cream sundaes, pies and burgers. Oh, and I forgot to mention the cakes, many of which are made by local Brisbane business Delicious, Regardless. We ummed and ahhed our way around the shop and thought we wouldn’t go mock meaty or soy goodness, as Ben wasn’t feeling the best and it can make his stomach hurt (poor, poor man). We finally decided upon refried beans, cous cous, popcorn, almond milk, brownies ($3) and triple layer Belgium chocolate cheesecake ($5), or cheezecake, as vegans sometimes spell it. We popped back to my friends house for cutlery and to heat up our beans and cous cous. They would still be warm when we got to the park. We also made a quick salsa cruda with diced tomato and spring onion. Rocket, coriander, avocado and chilli were added to the picnic basket (aka, shopping bag) and we were ready to go.
The meal was great- healthy and fresh and Mexican-inspired. My friend’s idea to make the cous cous at home, which would then absorb the hot water while we drove was genius and one I will do again on picnics soon! The vanilla almond milk was new for me, and I liked it. It’s apparently easy to make and has been on my to do list these holidays, so I’ll have to pull my finger out and actually try it. Ben wasn’t a fan, but our friend enjoyed it as well. I think a homemade one would be amazing in a banana smoothie- you could have a raw dairy-styled smoothie that way.
I was especially impressed by how utterly awesome the brownie was- chewy and maybe (just maybe, my brain makes these things up) a hint of ginger. The cheesecake was amazing but unsurprising- vegan cheesecakes routinely rock (especially Green Edge ones) and don’t leave that bloated, slightly oily feeling one occassionally gets after eating cheesecake. All food tastes so much better in the fresh air who no city sounds around.
While we ate, we were seranaded (and I use that term loosely) by gallahs (or Rose Breasted Cockatoos if you must have the correct term), sulpher-crested cockatoos, one lorikeet, one drongo (or so my friend identified) several hilarious and curious bush turkeys who flirted with us by fanning their feathers and coming in close and a couple of very relaxed kookaburras. Here’s one:
We went along the two short walking tracks, both of which are less than 2kms and one has a signed walk that tells you about the gold mining in the area. You can peer into (safely covered) mine shafts and read about gold. Which brings my back to my rant.
This park is free. It’s pretty. It’s educational. You get some exercise. It’s very close to Brisbane. It’s well maintained and has parking, toilets, mobile reception, tables and free BBQs. Why did we only see one father and his two children in the two+ hours we were there on the school holidays? It makes me sad. I understand you’re probably not going to get your teenage children suddenly interested in going to the National Park, but it’s such an easy way to spend a morning. One of my favourite memories as a small child was mum and dad (my very un-outdoorsy mum and dad) packing us into the car early on weekend mornings and driving up to the Dandenong Ranges to hunt for bowerbirds. We never saw any, and we had a picnic of scones that were still hot from being wrapped in a tea towel. Neat. Still love a good scone. I guess the experience upset me (you know, after. I was having fun at the time) because we are so quick to blame kids for their values, but they simply reflect what they have and have not been exposed to. I would never say “kids these days” seriously, I would say “parents these days”. I know not all parents are like this, but I see so many parents allowing shopping centres to take the place of natural areas and it makes me sad. In conclusion, picnics are awesome and no wrong can ever happen from them. Ever. No, I haven’t seen Picnic at Hanging Rock, why do you ask?
And to the father with the two kids that ran around the grassed area with them and actually showed and discussed the natural world with your kids: I take my figurative hat off to you, Sir.
Ok, so it’s healthy(ish) food porn. But whatever gets you off.