Strop and I were a bit nervous. Well actually, we were very nervous. Friends are coming from all the way over-the-seas, and we want to show them a good time on the quest, impress them with the wonders of Newtown – but all we have to offer is Twelve. What does that even mean? Twelve what? The reviews aren’t exactly inspiring. We considered changing the order, but there wasn’t anywhere much more appealing coming up in the next few blocks either. There didn’t seem to be any point in swapping Twelve for Moan. In the end we thought fuck it, let them take their chances – that’s what we do every week. Ha! We laugh in the face of danger. We’re out there on the edge, risking food poisoning, and each other’s company, putting up with hipster irony and onesies, week in and week out. If we can do all that, our guests can take a chance on some less than spectacular looking eatery.
After that little rant we felt better for a while, then we felt guity, then we thought fuck it again, and then it was time to go to the restaurant.
I was on time but Wendy (a little surprisingly after her last outing) was even earlier, sitting alone at a big table with a beer and a little plate of warmed olives. I was impressed by the olives, especially as I thought they were some sort of complimentary starter thing. But no, after I had scoffed a fair proportion of them I discovered that Wendy had actually ordered them because she was hungry. Still they were very nice with a beer on a thunder-stormy Sydney evening, with the public transport system once again demonstrating its complete lack of water-proofness. The others eventually arrived, dripping and muttering about traffic snarls and dissolving trains. Tonight was not just a simple meeting of very old (bordering on ancient) friends to share some food and wine. We were also taking part in a new Underground Railroad involving the handover of Bruce and Laila (refugees from over-the-seas), from the care of Roy and Jill, to Wendy, the next stop in their secret journey to a new life (well a couple of months anyway) of freedom and safety. Though God knows why they would want to come to the land of #Abbottism.
By now everyone had arrived and was talking very fast. Wine is called for. We peruse the list, make some choices, tell the waitress, get told, “Sorry, that’s the old list, the new list is over there on the wall,” peer around the column in the middle of the room that is screening the new list, and wonder why the hell they gave us the old list in the first place.
The wait staff were very friendly though, despite their slap-dash attitude to fine dining. They were very prompt bringing the wine to the table but obviously thought that we were all big enough and ugly enough to take the screw cap off the bottles by ourselves. Which of course we are, we do it all the time at home. And the tables were jammed in quite close in the corner, so getting plates passed across was obviously more efficient than squeezing through. And they smiled. And they took a photo of us too. Twelve is that kind of place – comfortable and relaxed and suburban – a John Howard eatery, if John Howard was a Modern Australian – slash – Italian. Going there is like a slipping into a comfy pair of slippers, or a onesie, for an evening in front of the teev.
But what about the food? Well it was mostly pretty good really. Certainly better than the reviews had led us to expect. And there was plenty of it. We probably over-ordered on the entrees. The zucchini flowers were big enough to be mistaken for crab claws, the polenta chips were crisp and creamy all at the same time, and the antipasto stuff was good too. (I didn’t write much of that down – more olives I think, some meaty stuff too).
The only disappointment in the mains was my pork belly, which over-achieved on size, crispness and cookedness, and under-achieved on tenderness and digestibility. But everyone else seemed to enjoy theirs. Laila said the barramundi was perfect, and Roy’s lamb shanks disappeared so quickly, Jill didn’t even get a chance to taste test them. Strop enjoyed her lamb rump, particularly as it was better than my pork.
The most popular dessert was a mango-passionfruit-coconut something, that everyone except me ordered. I had an affogato with a generous slurp of Baileys over it instead (and I can report that this is an innovation worth pursuing). I didn’t taste the mango-passionfruit-coconut something but there was none left on any of the plates so you can draw your own conclusions.
In between the eating there was lots of chit chat about this and that – the usual stuff for our demographic: hearing aids, knee repairs, insomnia, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas…
As we stumbled out into the night Strop could be heard singing “ging gang goolygoolygoolygooly wish wash” which was apparently part of a combined apology and explanation of the cultural imperatives that require her to refer to Bruce and Laila collectively as the Laila-Shayler-Waylers. They’re still talking to us, so presumably they bought the story.
Outside the restaurant we decided to split up and make our way separately to a rendezvous in a dark Camperdown back alley for the refugee and suitcase handover. That way we would confuse anyone trying to follow us. It seemed to work.
Next up is the worryingly named M.O.A.N.