Today was a fabulous day. It was warm (for July) and sunny and I took the day off. I had a hair appointment in the morning and then met the lovely Sonia from Life, Love and Hiccups for lunch.
Sonia has been a blogging friend for about six months but until today we had never met. Sonia has only been blogging for about a year but has been incredibly successful and was a finalist in this year’s Kidspot Top 50 Bloggers competition. If you haven’t discovered Sonia’s blog, do wander over where you will find honest writing, great humour and a range of topics covering everything from how to make cushions to her husband’s vasectomy.
We decided to meet at The Inch Cafe in Mona Vale on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. By coincidence we discovered we have both been there many times. It’s in a great location where it’s quietly situated and in a very sunny spot so even in the middle of winter on a day like today, it was warm enough to eat outside. But we didn’t. We sat inside and close to one of the gas heaters.
In the past when Carl and I have been in the area we’ve often eaten at The Inch where the owner is a great guy who looks after his customers attentively and who recently employed a chef whose last job was being the private chef for Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch. The food has always been really well priced, interesting and beautifully presented. In the past I’ve had confit duck with apples and walnuts, vegetarian risotto and braised beef cheeks. The Inch has a wonderful wine bar and Sonia and her husband have often stopped by on a Friday afternoon for a few drinks. And it’s all been rather wonderful.
So what on earth was going on today!
Sonia was already there when I arrived. She had ordered a coffee and there were no problems with that. I sat down and immediately the young waitress appeared and asked what we’d like to order. I hadn’t even had time to glance at the menu as I was still trying to work out if there was a way to level the wobbly table. Sonia ordered fish and chips. I wanted something gluten free but there was little available on the menu that didn’t contain wheat. The menu appeared boring with no confit duck or beef cheeks or risotto or anything of interest. The waitress suggested I order a salad. But it’s winter, not summer.
The waitress said some gluten-free bread had just been delivered so I could order the burger on toasted bread with fries. No problem. We then wanted to order drinks but hadn’t been given a drink’s menu. Sonia asked for a mineral water with lime but the waitress said they didn’t have that but she could have an Italian limoncello drink instead or a sprite. We said we’d both have a sprite.
A few minutes later out came two Schweppes lemonades that we guessed were the sprites. Very quickly the food arrived and I was extremely underwhelmed by the presentation of the burger and fries. Sonia’s fish and chips faired better but we both had wilted rocket garnishing the plates. The gluten-free bread for my burger wasn’t toasted but thrown on the stone-cold plate as is with no butter, mayonnaise or even margarine. The meat pattie was clearly out-sourced and had that supermarket manufactured look to it. There was some caramelised onion on top of it. Then two slices (just two) of roma tomatoes, the wilted rocket, a bowl of store-bought tomato sauce and some blond unseasoned fries. I was in shock.
I put my knife into the edge of the burger to find the pattie was raw. We called the mostly-absent waitress over and showed her the raw pattie and she took it away and said she would have it re-cooked. Some minutes later it reappeared with the same fries that were now not only cold but soggy. And she forgot to bring me a knife so we had to call her back to remind her of this mistake. But this time the gluten-free bread had been toasted. But still no butter.
For a $20.00 burger I would have liked a pattie made in-house topped with homemade chutney or relish, some beautifully caramelised onions, a few pickles, some freshly cooked beetroot, some vine-ripened tomatoes, a few fresh greens and how about a slice of cheese. The bread needs to be toasted, served hot and lubricated with something – how about butter! And as for the fries – cook them until they are no longer blond, season them and serve them hot.
The entire dish was inedible and I left it alone. Some chap came over and noticed I had left the plate untouched and asked if I would like something else but I wasn’t up for it. He said there would be no charge for the burger.
I looked around for the owner of the cafe and noticed he wasn’t there. The chef-to-the-celebrities was also nowhere to be seen so who exactly was on staff today is a mystery but they were useless.
We stayed for another hour and a half and in that time the waitress never again approached us. Despite empty glasses we weren’t asked if we’d like anything else to drink and a dessert menu was never offered.
We were both extremely disappointed and having been to The Inch on many previous occasions where everything has been so wonderful we can only hope we were there on a day they would rather forget.
However, Sonia and I had a really lovely time getting to know each other and building a great friendship. We exchanged gifts of chocolate and promised we’d catch up soon. Over the weekend do make sure you acquaint yourself with a great blog, Life, Love and Hiccups.