The Inch

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.

The Inch Cafe, Mona Vale

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.

Seating is inside or outside

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.

A perfect winter’s day in Sydney

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.

Blond, boring chips with wilted rocket

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.

Is this the worst looking burger ever?

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.

I’d love for you to join me and my adventures on Facebook!  




  1. InTolerantChef says:

    What a shame when good cafes go bad, especially when it’s one you have really enjoyed in the past. I’m so glad you didn’t pay for that ‘burger’, it would have been a travesty!
    I was really worried when you said you got a haircut, given your post is called The Inch. I know all about a hairdressers interpretation of an inch, its the same unit of measurement used by A Man- always grossly exaggerated! 🙂

  2. What a sad looking burger! And what a shame today was so off after your previous good experiences. Luckily it sounds like the company made up for it, and hopefully your next lunch date will have better food to cancel out the memories of today’s edible components (or inedible components!).

  3. Somehow not paying for the burger wouldn’t make it better for me. What a disappointment and so many people now won’t go there.

  4. Well at least you two could bond over the awful eating experience! I guess maybe while the owner was away, the whole place went to hell!

  5. Norma Chang says:

    That sure was a huge disappointment. May be there is a new owner????? Glad you enjoyed your visit with Sonia and a friendship is developed.

  6. Ouch … as a former reviewer of local burgers, nothing like a bad burger to ruin the lunch.

  7. Minnesota Prairie Roots says:

    What a horrible, rotten, no-good experience. I would be upset, too, with food like that for $20, or even $10.

  8. A_Boleyn says:

    How disappointing. I’ve never had an experience that bad. I hope it was just a bad day all around and not an indicator of how far the restaurant has fallen.

  9. Oh, too bad, I hate it when that happens! Such a waste of calories. Perhaps the ownership changed. You should definitely go back when the owner is there or better yet, email him your review which is very well done.
    How cool to meet up with another blogger. I should try and do that in Toronto. How nice that you can actually consider eating outside in the winter; it’s not entirely possible in Toronto, where we could have -24°C in a wind chill!
    have a great weekend Charlie.

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I know. We are so fortunate with the climate in Sydney; it really doesn’t get below about 12 in winter (during the day and if it did get that low it would be on the news). But we do whinge a lot as our homes aren’t built for the cold weather and we love to be outdoors. xx

  10. Jed Gray (sportsglutton) says:

    That is one sad, sad, sad looking burger there Charlie. Boooooo!

  11. Caitlin @livelovenyc says:

    what a terrible experience! those fries look pretty awful too.
    when i visited australia, i remember thinking that ‘rocket’ was the cutest difference 🙂

  12. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    Chocolate? Sorry, I got distracted. Maybe new owner? Maybe bad day? I hate when a place I’ve grown to love and trust turns on me.

  13. How nice for you to meet Sonia, but how annoying that your meal was so crap! I hope the owners read this and do something about it!

  14. You’re right….that’s a truly not good looking burger…I hate it when a tried and true restaurant lets me down. Such a bummer, but glad you got in a good visit.

  15. Lisa@RandomActsOfZen says:

    That’s a tragic burger! Talk about an opportunity lost for that cafe. So lovely that you got to meet Sonia, and both swap chocolate!

  16. That really does look like the worst burger ever…and for $20!!!! What a shame…it’s such a let down when old favourites disappoint.

  17. Oh dear, how sad – that burger definitely does have “the supermarket-manufactured” look to it. Probably chucked on the grill from frozen. The funny thing is, if the rest of the meal had been a bit better they could have written “wilted rocket” on the menu and turned it into a “feature”, lol 😀

    The french like their burgers under-cooked… whenever you order one outside of a fast-food joint they’ll always ask how you want it cooked, as if it were a steak. I mean come on… it’s a patty… usually the worst scraps of meat mixed with a load of fat. I’ll take it cooked through, thank you!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      I don’t mind a rare steak but I’m with you on raw mince. I think mince should be cooked through. Thanks for the warning – I’ll be sure not to order a burger when next in France! xx

  18. Marina@Picnic at Marina says:

    Ouch, not good… Good thing you had a friend to be with, that’s important,right? 🙂

  19. It’s disappointing when you go to a restaurant that has been wonderful in the past and have a horrible experience! At least you had good company!

    Wanted to also let you know that I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t receiving your posts and then realized that for whatever reason, they are now going into my junk folder! I have fixed the problem. Hopefully some of your other followers aren’t facing the same issues.

    Have a nice day! ~ April

  20. Victoria at Flavors of the Sun says:

    Twenty dollars for an inedible burgers would break my food-loving heart! But at least you got to spend happy time with a fellow blogger.

  21. Looks like a good venue under the gas heater!!

  22. love2dine says:

    Fantastico! Oh my what a beautiful and delightful dish!

  23. Wow. That really is a laughably nausea-inducing burger. But hey, now you and Sonia will forever remember your first meeting by the hilarity of the food-wreckiness.

  24. The best looking on that plate could be the arugula. I am sorry, Charlie, that you had such a bad dining experience in Inch.

  25. yummychunklet says:

    At least your time with your new friend was good!

  26. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Oh what a shame, the food doesn’t look very inspiring at all and yes the bun is such an important element to a burger! Toasted and “lubricated”!

  27. Karen (Back Road Journal) says:

    Lovely to spend time with a fellow blogger but such a shame that the food didn’t match the company. That is a horrible burger.

  28. Jackie Brown says:

    What a hideous looking burger, doesn’t even look like one, good you didn’t need to pay for it.

  29. J Cosmo Newbery says:

    I’m guessing you wont be going back there again…

  30. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says:

    Oh no, how incredibly frustrating but how lovely that you got to meet and get to know a fellow blogger.
    🙂 Mandy

  31. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    How disappointing Charlie. $20 for a slab of bread with a manufactured pattie, raw chips and old leaves is quite ridiculous. How can the person putting it all together thing it looks good?!?

    At least you had a good time meeting another blogging friend!

  32. That meat patty for the ‘burger’ looks like a “cow patty’…….what a disappointment!

  33. niasunset says:

    I wished to be there too 🙂 Thank you dear Charlie, love, nia

  34. The Inch looks like a wonderful place and the kind of spot I usually enjoy! I really do hope this was just a fluke…otherwise your experience doesn’t bode well for its future! But what a great opportunity to meet a blogging friend! I would really enjoy that, and hope to at some point meet one or two Los Angeles-based blogging friends! It’s a fun communal experience, isn’t it? If you’e ever in SoCal…you must let me know! 🙂 Debra

  35. ChgoJohn says:

    That sorto f dining experience is so irritating! It’s as if they didn’t want to be there with so little care being given to the food and service. Terrible!

  36. Ohhh you are too gorgeous for words. It was so fabulous to finally meet you in the flesh and despite the dissapointing meal, I had such a wonderful time chatting to you. lets definately do it again soon xx

  37. Oh, I hate a wobbly table & bad service … thank goodness you didn’t have to pay for it.

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