221 – Coopers Hotel – Round 4 of the Burger Wars

221 coopers

My first thought as I sat down at the table Strop had snagged at the back of the Coopers Hotel bistro, was that it was a pity this wasn’t a named restaurant, because then I would be able to order the Crispy Skin Barramundi special that I can smell being prepared in the kitchen. Damn the rules – we will have to stick with burgers or be in flagrant contravention and at risk of letting chaos run amok. But damn that fish smells nice.

Coopers is a contradictory place. Downstairs is all old school pub style with an overlay of hipster grunge while upstairs is kind of modern-bland suburban pub bistro. There are even flowers on the upstairs tables. The only bit of downstairs grunge to make it up the stairs are the menus and the mural we are seated beneath – a colourful streetscape of King Street, featuring the pub on the corner, a punk carrying an Olympic torch, and a ladder leading from the pawn shop up into what looks like a UFO infested sky. It seems to be a fairly accurate rendition of King Street except for the skateboarders on the footpath. In reality they are usually out on the road mixing it with the traffic.

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The menus come artfully buried inside actual comic books. At first I thought they were just printed with a comic book style cover, until I noticed that each one was different. It’s a fun idea, but it does seem a bit of a waste of comic books. There is a pretty good rock soundtrack playing when we arrive, which seemed to get louder, to compete with the voices of the punters, as the evening wore on.

The menu is made up of fairly standard pub grub. There are four options in the burger department (Nice Buns). You’ve got your beef, your chicken, your vegetarian option (lentils), and your steak sandwich. We both opt for the Cooper’s Classic Beef Burger, accompanied by a Cooper’s (no relation I’m assuming) Pale for him and a Pinot Noir for her. Strop grimaces at her first taste of the wine, “Bit tart for a Pinot.” My beer tastes like beer.

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The burgers arrive on large rectangular plates with the chips up one end and the burger speared into place up the other end. (How did they serve hamburgers in the olden days, before satay sticks became available? You young people probably think that satay sticks have been around forever, but no, they haven’t, at least not in Australia. They probably had them in places like Indonesia and Malaysia where they invented satay, but they’re a bit of a Johnny-come-lately around this neck of the woods, I can tell you – but I digress.) The chips are all gold and yummy looking and there is a little pot of tomato sauce on each plate too. “Is there any aioli by any chance?” Strop simpers before the waitress can scamper out of range. “I can’t be doing with tomato sauce.”

The aioli arrives in another, larger pot, and looks remarkably like mayonnaise. Tastes good on the chips though, especially when mixed with tomato sauce. One nice touch – The Coopers Hotel trusts you with a pepper grinder. There is one on each table. Now there’s a novel idea that we can only hope catches on.

The burgers come with beetroot (tick), cheese with holes in it (tick), aioli (tick), and relish (tick). When Strop takes her first bite the aioli and relish make a break for freedom by squeezing themselves out of the wound in the bun left by the satay stick, which leads to much licking of fingers and lamenting the lack of Wet-Ones. The burgers are pretty good. More stable and less messy than the Burgerlicious burgers. Are they better than the Marly burgers? To tell the truth I can’t remember. As Strop put it, “The burger in the hand is better than the one you remember.” She is full of insight. We enjoyed the burgers but found the chips had us outnumbered, even with the added lubrication of aioli.

With the music getting louder and the lights getting dimmer we decide not to risk dessert (I was almost there with the lychee and coconut parfait, but the mixed berry coulis killed it for me) and head home to drink the last of our whisky. Which we did, all that is left now are two scary looking miniatures of uncertain origin.

Next week we will be crossing the road to Twelve and entertaining Overseas Guests. To tell the truth we are a bit nervous, the word on Twelve hasn’t exactly been glowing – what are we letting our guests in for? Maybe we should dump the quest and head for Enmore Road which everyone says is far funkier. Head says yes, heart says no. Stomach just grumbles.

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215 Burgerlicious – Part 3 of the Burger Wars

215 burgerlicioujs

I have a funny feeling niggling away at the back of my skull that Burgerlicious may have been the first King Street eatery that we ventured out to when we moved to the district all those aeons ago. My memories of that visit are unclear other than the choice was left to a couple of young Canberra-raised teenage girls and we ended up with burgers and fries. No real surprises there. So Burgerlicious is a definite stayer, outlasting many other food slingers on the strip. It looks and feels exactly the same as I remember it, just a bit more worn around the edges. In need of an injection of love and capital, just like the table we sat at, which had one leg projecting at an alarming angle, seemingly only held on by blue tack.

Tonight’s outing is a bit unusual because:

  1. It’s not Friday.
  2. It’s Halloween – although on King Street, really, what’s the difference?
  3. We are babysitting the Pancetta while the Stropette and the Stropolina worship at the glittering toenails of Beyoncé.

So it’s an early start and we are remarkable for our sobriety (responsible grandparenting 1.01 – don’t leave yourself open to an accusation of being drunk in charge of a toddler).

Burger Cave
Burger Cave

Burgerlicious has invested all its pretensions in its name. The room is just an unembellished cave, completely open at the street end, with tables along both walls, a counter across the back, and presumably a kitchen behind that. We choose a table near the entrance to the cave so that we can watch any Halloween hi-jinx on the street. The Pancetta is still a bit wary of us, wondering where the hell her mother and aunty have gone, and why Granma and Grandad have de-skyped themselves off the computer screen and into 3 dimensional touchy-feelyness. In order to allay her fears, it is important to feed her quickly and buy her goodwill with chips and ginger beer.

It's only ginger beer...
It’s only ginger beer…

While Strop and the Pancetta venture to the back of the cave to do the ordering (Pancetta is in charge of holding the purse – how cute is that!!), I am left in charge of the bags and the stroller. Strop reckons she has just seen the chief suspect in the Good-Friday-Purse-Lightening-Affair, out on the footpath, so nothing is to be left unattended.

The order is a Jalapeso, a Bostino and a Cheeseburger, plus chips and ginger beers. While we are waiting for the burgers, Strop introduces the Pancetta to the joys of ginger beer and we watch the passing parade of tranny’s dressed as sexy-nurse-zombies. Just another weekday evening on King Street.

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The burgers arrive on actual plates, and with chips (not fries) on the side. They are big lumps of deep-fried potato that you can sink your teeth into. Pancetta is a natural. She cottons onto the concept of chip eating so quickly that Strop and I have to quickly invent a new rule: One bite of chip / One bite of burger. She doesn’t cotton onto this quite as quickly. The burgers are delicious but messy to eat and we soon find ourselves running off for more napkins (Note to the Burgerlicious management: this is the kind of food that napkin dispensers on the table were invented for). I am very impressed with the Pancetta’s expertise with the napkin, dabbing and wiping her fingers like a professional. The girl is obviously very advanced.

100% Pure Angus Beef
100% Pure Angus Beef

The only other customer is an old guy sitting on the street wearing enormous DJ earphones and sporting an I ♡ Phoenix Arizona tee shirt. It is a pity that he doesn’t want to listen to the Burgerlicious soundrack because it is quite good, featuring a selection of hits by the late, lamented Chrissy Amphlett. When Cyndi Lauper comes on she is accompanied by the arrival of a giggle of ten year old girls, who look like they just want to have fun too. The Pancetta is smitten of course. She can see the future, and it is looking goood. While she goes down the back of the cave to stand in awe, watching the big girls having fun and eating burgers, Strop and I discuss burger ratings. Very nice but tending towards structural failure is the general conclusion. Probably better than Burger Fuel, but messy to eat (a six napkin effort), and not as good as the burgers at the Marly, which is still the one to beat.

The Cooper Hotel is next up so we will continue the Burger Wars there.

Hey this ginger beer is good stuff...
Hey this ginger beer is good stuff…

199 – Fringe Cafe – 9am isn’t early unless it’s Newtown

199 fringe

Fringe is our first cafe and it throws up a couple of issues for us to resolve, because we are now entering the cafe-dense midlands of King Street. The first problem is that Fringe does not open at night – so do we go for lunch or breakfast? Secondly, what basis are we going to use for comparison with all the other cafes? I resolve that we shouldn’t think of them as problems, but as opportunities to make up more Rules. Making up Rules is fun, so here we go with the Cafe Suite of Rules:

Cafes are a breakfast outing.

At Cafes the order must include the Big/Full breakfast option.

There will be coffee.

There you have it, two points of comparison and a whole new time-slot to explore.

So on Sunday morning we take our grumbling tummies up the hill, anticipating the bacon and caffeine to come. We have Steve (of Tamana’s and Radio National fame, back in town for more parent-extraction duties and recreational questing), and the Stropolina (Thai Yindee), in tow this morning. We had assumed that 9am would be a reasonable hour, time for a few other punters to have started breakfasting, but not so late that we wouldn’t be to find a table. Around our place, the cafes open at 7am for the early rising dog-walkers and boot-campers, but when we got to Fringe they were still putting out the tables and chairs. “We’ll be ready in a moment,” they said as we stood dumbfounded on the sunny but mostly empty footpath. As we did a slow amble up to Missenden Road and back we mused that this was King Street after all, and different rules and time frames apply here. When we got back to Fringe there was already one table occupied so we didn’t feel too stupid or lonely or suburban.

Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down

I quickly checked the menu looking for the Big breakfast, and there it was, just above the Massive breakfast. Now what, I thought, is Massive the new Big? Will I have to change the rule before it has even been tried? No, I decided to give Big a chance – Massive has too many coronary connotations. We may be close to RPA but who wants to spend Sunday morning trying out their triage. Strop opts for an omelette and the rest of us have the big, with Steve asking for extra spinach. We all order juices.

Fringe is located on a street corner and has big windows that allow in plenty of light. This is good because the place has nothing else that could be mistaken for decor. There are a couple of big and decidedly dusty blackboards along one wall and a shambolic mixture of furniture, but nothing resembling style, not even grunge.

Mmmmmm, juicy
Mmmmmm, juicy

The juices arrive first and they are all huge and excellent. Then the plates arrive and they are huge too. I am glad that I didn’t go for the Massive – it would have defeated me, even if it didn’t kill me. Steve’s spinach fails to arrive at first, causing a moment of consternation, but it appears soon afterwards. Strop’s omelette is almost too big for her, but every time she says she can’t finish it, a bit more disappears, and in the end there is nothing left to bag up. The food is good quality, if fairly standard, cafe fare.

Our coffee order throws the Canadian waitress into disarray, and I am worried that we won’t get out of Newtown alive when Steve orders a quarter-strength flat white, but the Stropolina rescues our street cred by creatively ordering a long black over ice. “It’s an iced coffee without all the milky shit,” she explains helpfully.

Steve offers up the comment that the Kris Kristofferson song Sunday Morninin’ Comin’ Down would be a good soundtrack for our visit to the cafe, but you can’t take a reference to a song about a hangover seriously from a man who is drinking a quarter-strength flat white.

One thing about cafes: you don’t have to feel self conscious about making notes in a cafe in Newtown. Every second bastard is a poet or is working on a screenplay. And all the others have blogs.

Don't make any sudden moves, there's a poet just behind you
Don’t make any sudden moves, there’s a poet just behind you