Sunday, 26 January 2014

KAZOO Japanese Restaurant & Bar

Kazoo Japanese Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon


We wanted to try a Japanese place in eastern suburbs that we hadn't yet been to, and Kazoo was one of the few left for us to discover. So we headed to central Glen Waverley and tried out the restaurant that had taken over what was once the apparently unpopular Circus. With Shira Nui, Monga and Waya nearby, Kazoo has some pretty fierce competition that I was curious to weigh it up against.

A couple of months later, we went back for a second round. I think that makes my opinion of this place pretty clear from the get-go. This post will be a combination review of both nights.


Deep Fried Oysters with Wasabi Mayonnaise

These oysters were among the best oysters I've had. they were soft and juicy inside, crispy outside... and damn, that wasabi mayonnaise was good. Really good.



Fried Prawns with Mango Mayonnaise
That. Mango. Mayonnaise.

I urge anyone that goes to Kazoo to try at least one of the dishes on the menu that includes mango mayonnaise; preferably this one.

The prawns were super crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and coated in that lovely sweet and tangy specialty mayo of their. Yum.


Oysters with Japanese Mayonnaise, Lightly Seared
Japanese mayonnaise, fresh oysters, light searing, lemon on the side... nothing in this dish could have gone wrong. We loved these oysters, and were tempted to get them again on our second visit.





Ebi and Avocado Maki

Nothing special.

It wasn't particularly bad sushi, but it wasn't nearly as good as most restaurant made sushi in this city. The ingredients were fresh, but it just wasn't very flavoursome.

Spicy Tuna Stack

I don't even know where to begin...Wow. Holy shit wow. Wow wow wow. Just looking at this picture is bringing back the most amazing memories for me.

By far one of the best bought dishes I have ever eaten. The fresh tuna, the crispy sides of radish, pickled radish and chili, the soft avocado... and the best part; the sweet, smokey, spicy, creamy sauce.

Kazoo's Spicy Tuna Stack is too good for words.
If you're a foodie, you have to try this meal. It's not even an option. It's an instruction. Go. Now.

Fried Tofu with Sesame Sauce

The sesame sauce was lovely. Kazoo definitely have their sauces down, I'll give them that. Sesame is one of my favourite Japanese sauces, and in my opinion pretty underrated.

The tofu was silky and of nice quality, but I personally would have preferred the outside to be crisper. It seemed like the dish was meant to be crispy, but the coating was soft and a a little bit soggy.

Deep-Fried Soft-Shell Crab with Chili Salsa

Ah, soft-shell crab, my old and faithful friend. This was nicely done; crispy outside, juicy inside, and the chili salsa was really tasty.

Not the best out there, but decent and satisfying.



Soft-Shell Crab Maki

Again, nothing special. The texture of the crab was nice, but the flavours were bland. It needed more sauce or something.
Sweet Chilli Prawn Gyoza
This was some of the best gyoza I've ever had. Prawn gyoza is very hard to find, most gyoza being either pork, or the less common vegetarian. I was really happy to see a prawn variety on Kazoo's menu, especially when it was paired with sweet chili.

I was not disappointed, the were flavoursome, lightly spicy and juicy.
California Maki


By this point I'm sure you've gathered that sushi rolls are not Kazoo's strong suit. I ordered this on our second time at the restaurant, because it had their mango mayonnaise in it.

Unfortunately, the mayonnaise wasn't enough to make this sushi special. I don't know why, their rolls just lack flavour, despite having everything going for them.


Cured Kingfish with Pickled Cucumber, Tobiko and Garlic Chips


Fresh kingfish, tangy pickled cucumber, crunchy garlic, silky tobiko... such nice and complementary textures were found in this meal.

It didn't quite live up to Hihou's equivalent, but it was still really enjoyable.




All in all?

I like Kazoo. I have been to more Japanese restaurants than any other cuisine, and this place definitely stacks up. If it was an inner city institution, I think it would be making a better name for itself.
Their specialty dishes are very tasty. The sweet chili prawn gyoza was some of the best gyoza I've had. The mango mayonnaise, wasabi mayonnaise, chili salsa and sesame sauce are all astoundingly tasty. Sauces and flavours are their strong suit.
Despite this fact, the sushi is a let down. If you're going to try Kazoo, I recommend skipping the sushi meals for other dishes on the menu. I'm yet to try their sashimi range, but those appear to be far more flavourful, much like the rest of the menu. I really don't know what they're doing with their maki, as it is fresh and has great potential. Regardless, it just doesn't hit the mark.
Everything else is great. Fresh, tasty, varied and, like all good Japanese, fills you up without being debilitating.
Finally, I must give the Spicy Tuna Stack a second shout out. If you have just one thing at Kazoo, it should be this. It was one of my most enjoyable Japanese dishes in memory. I wouldn't change a single thing about it; it's perfectly unique and interesting as it is.

So, overall, the majority of the food I ate at Kazoo was well received. The meat eater also enjoyed his steak, karage and lamb. It's not quite enough for a four star rating, but I think it may get there one day. For a  relatively new place, it's doing well.

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Monday, 20 January 2014

Bar Lourinhã

Bar Lourinhã on Urbanspoon

On January 11th, the eve of my 20th birthday, I headed into the CBD for a celebratory dinner with my family and my boyfriend. I picked out Bar Lourinha, hoping it would satisfy everyone involved. The group in total was five, one of which was a very fussy eater. Pleasing groups is a much harder feat for restaurants than pleasing one or a couple of people. Here's a recap of our experience.

Roasted Eggplant, Cracked Wheat and Nuts

I don't think I've ever had eggplant cold before. It worked surprisingly well. The texture was smooth, and not as slimey as eggplant can sometimes be.

They had given the eggplant a nice spice, then topped it with chopped nuts and a lot of coriander. I will never complain about anything covered in fresh coriander. It is one of the purest joys in my life.

Enough said.

Potato Salad (special)
Yum. Yum. Yum.

What's not to love about a potato salad sporting a generous amount of olives, onion, fresh herbs and whole anchovies? All in a light, creamy coating?

I really have nothing to criticize. Can you blame me?

Kingfish Wings (special)
Andrew just had to get this dish when the waiter rattled it out among the ten-or-so specials that were announced to us upon arrival. Fish wings? Too weird and whacky to let that opportunity pass by. If he hadn't gotten it, I think I would have.

This was basically the part of the fish between the fins and the torso. The skin was cooked to a crisp whilst the flesh was soft and tender. We really enjoyed it, and picked the bones/fins clean.

Roasted Mushrooms and Garlic Cream
The best meal of my night, hands down. And that was a unanimous opinion from those at the table who tried every dish. Alas, one of my fellow patrons has a thorough hatred of mushrooms, so he did not eat this.

The four of us who did were blown away by the beautiful flavour of the cream sauce these were served in, and the lovely texture of the crumbs that had been sprinkled on top.

Mushrooms, garlic, cream and what I believe was a hint of white wine? There is nothing to hate here. Nothing at all.

Beautiful food.

Chocolate, Walnut Torte and Praline
Oh so good. This was basically a thick, creamy chocolate mouse, layered with a light sponge of some kind and then topped with caramelized, crunchy nuts.

The flavours and textures meshed perfectly together.

By far my favourite dessert.

 Blood Orange Crema and Burnt Orange Caramel

This was the favourite dessert of everyone else at my table. I myself also enjoyed it; it's just that my love of chocolate mousse, and cake, trump all.

Even so, this citrus twist on the classic creme catalana was beautifully done. The orange added this memorable burst of flavour to the creamy pudding, and combined well with the silky smooth texture.



Churros and Dulce de Leche

These were nice churros. They were fresh, with the outside perfect cooked to a light crisp and the inside nice and doughy. I, however, find churros to be pretty similar across the board. There's nothing all that remarkable about them, and they're found all over Melbourne. These were no different to the others I've had.



The Dulce De Leche was beautiful, though. I was very impressed.


If I had any recommendations, though, I'd say go for the other desserts I've mentioned. They're a far more unique experience, despite how nice the churros are.

All in all?

I was really impressed with Bar Lourinha. They were packed, but easily accomodated a group of five. The service was attentive; they were happy to repeat specials for us, kept our water continuously topped up, and gave us about four lots of complementary sourdough bread slices over the course of the evening.

The atmosphere and decor were lovely; the whole night my eyes were scouring the walls, which had been intricately filled with old plates, clocks, art and all sorts of trinkets. The music was perfect for the setting, and not too loud or overbearing.

As for our fussy patron, despite being originally grumpy with his fist look at the menu, he left very content. He was shocked by how much he enjoyed the foods he'd never tried before, and the staff were very good at accommodating to his needs. For instance, they were happy to put the anchovies found in the potato salad in a separate bowl on the side for those who wanted them. I definitely did; anchovies are great. But fussier eaters with aversions to fish generally aren't with me on that one.

It was very expensive for small portions, much like Portello Rosso. I've come to accept that it's pretty standard for Spanish restaurants to charge a lot for a little food. We just ordered lots of dishes to share, and in the end we were all still satisfied. Our bill came out to $240, which for five people is actually pretty decent.

There were other dishes we tried that I somehow forgot to get photos of on the night. One of which was a special entree of Harvey Bay half-shell scallops. Three of us had these and loved them. The meat-eaters at the table raved about the lardo soldiers entree, and the red wine chicken main.

A classic example of one of Melbourne's hidden gems, Bar Lourinha is a great foodie experience. We all left the venue very full, and very happy.

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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Hammer & Tong

Hammer & Tong on Urbanspoon

I had been pining over the possibility of going to Hammer & Tong for months, but had resisted due to our new saving plan. However, Andrew surprised my with a visit on Sunday morning. He did this because Sunday was my 20th birthday. I think that's a good enough reason to break the spending-ban, yes?

Mushrooms in Truffle Oil (side)

Some of the best mushrooms I've had; and I've tried many. Even in dishes that don't include mushrooms, my boyfriend and I generally add them on the side. Hammer & Tong was no exception to this habit of ours.

These mushrooms had coriander (one of my most beloved flavours) mixed in, and the truffle oil gave a beautiful taste to the two types of mushrooms they used.
Soft Shell Crab Burger

The signature.

I had to have it. Words truly cannot describe how much I love a good soft shell crab based meal. I'd been stalking images of this burger on Hammer & Tong's Urbanspoon for months before I finally got to try it.

I was not disappointed. The crab was juicy and soft inside and crispy and gold on the outside. They had stuffed the brioche buns full of corriander and cabbage, with lashing of what I believe was a tangy chili mayo. It was the best soft shell crab meal I have ever had, and one of the best in general. Not a single criticism shall be heard from me. Andrew saw me enjoying it so much that he ordered himself one after he finished his original main of a Wagyu Salad. No judgement here; I wouldn't have wanted to miss out, either.

Cherry Ripe Lamington

Whilst Andrew chowed down his second meal, I ordered this fancy little dessert. I must stress little; I've had bigger cupcakes. That would have been fine, but for the fact that is was $12. I would have been happy to pay about $8, which I'd say is the going rate for miniature desserts from higher-class institutions such as Hammer and Tong. I was expecting something bigger, and something more along the lines of an actual lamington.


But, as is shown on the right, it's more of a chocolate mousse with crumbs coating it, and chunks of cherry here and there. I have no complaints about it being made of chocolate mousse; I love the stuff. What puzzled me was that the only similarity between this and a lamington was the fact that it was coated in something. That's about it.

It was nice, but overpriced, and not nice enough to make me go crazy, like its crabby predecessor. I wouldn't recommend it or order it again.

All in all?

The coffee was superb, our soy cappuccinos were made to perfection, and were almost identical in extraction and texture. We always compare the coffees we are given where ever we go, so that we can gauge how consistent the institution's coffee is. Hammer & Tong was spot on.

Nothing could compare the absolute majesty of the soft shell crab burger, though. We both loved it. I nearly cried it was that damn good. I could eat it over and over and over again. Wow.

So, the lamington was disappointing. Oh well. By that point Hammer & Tong had already secured my eternal love and loyalty. It's not like the dessert was awful or bland, it was just average; nothing to get too upset about. Except maybe the price, but I'm sure anyone attending this restaurant knows of its not going to be exactly cheap.

Andrew said that his Wagyu was amazing, and by the look of bliss on his face as he chewed, I saw no reason to question his statements.

So, overall, it was a damn good foodie experience.

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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Adriano Zumbo Patisserie

Adriano Zumbo Patisserie on Urbanspoon

On the same day that I tried Soda Rock for lunch, I also ventured to the Adriano Zumbo Patisserie for somewhat of an afternoon dessert. Several of my friends had previously tried Zumbo's very famous macarons and all of them swore that his were the very best of the best. Obviously, I was pretty excited to try them for myself and compare them to my pre-existing favourites; those that are made by La Belle Miette.

They did not disappoint.


Box One

Butter Popcorn
Butter Popcorn was by far the most impressive flavour that I tried. The cripsy, textured outside was the perfect complement to the gooey, buttery inside. The flavour was phenomenally accurate to the real thing, with just a hint of sugary macaron. I loved it.

Pandan Sticky Rice
This Asian-inspired sweet had me salivating the moment that I saw it. Pandan is my favourite Asian dessert flavour, by far. I liked the macaron, but I can't say the texture of the sticky rice, impressive as its inclusion was, blew me away. It was enjoyable, but the rice was chewy and crunchy and took away some of my enjoyment.

Box Two

Finger Bun
One of my favourite treats as a kid were fresh finger buns from the bakery. I would beg for them. Also coconut (generally found sprinkled on top of finger buns) is to this day one of my true loves. So, when I saw that my old favourite was one of Zumbo's macaron flavours I basically hit the ceiling.

It did not disappoint. The outer meringue was sweet and bready, with a hint of coconut to it. The inside thick and gooey, filled with what I'm sure were crushed saltanas. For me, the finger bun macaron was only second to the popcorn. I would definitely get it again.


Belgian Chocolate
I'm a lover of chocolate through and through. It's probably my most loved item of food in the history of the universe. But, despite this fact, chocolate flavoured things have never really appealed to me. Chocolate ice-cream is one of my least favourite flavours, chocolate cereals also have very little appeal to me. Nothing can live up to the real deal. This, it was Andrew who chose this macaron, and I'm glad he did. Because it completely surprised me.

The inside tasted like pure melted chocolate. It probably was ganache made from good quality Belgian stock. The outside meringue was pretty basic, but that perfect, creamy inside made up for it. Though it was the flavour that I liked the least, I still really enjoyed it.

Box Three

Salted Caramel Toast
This was a pretty weird concept to me. Salted caramel is a normal macaron found across the board, as the flavour appears to have swept the foodie world by storm. I'm a fan myself, and the idea of toast intrigued me, so this was a must-buy.

No regrets. The outside of the macaron tasted like a piece of well-toasted, buttered bread, and the inside was the gooey, salty-sweet heaven that we've all come to love so dearly. It worked perfectly.

Blueberry Pancake
I was expecting the blueberry to be the more dominant flavour here, but was (very happily) mistaken. I adore blueberries, but not as much as I adore thick, fluffy pancakes smeared with maple syrup. At the end of the day, the fattening, indulgent options are the ones that excite me the most.

And, for me, maple syrup was the most dominant flavour to be found in this macaron. The tangy hint of blueberry and the doughy hint of pancakes were like the back-up dancers of the maple syrup's main act. Which was great. I could write poems to maple syrup, I love it that much.

All in all?

Yeah, these beat La Belle Miette. Hands down. Nothing compares to the way Zumbo has crafted his macarons; they have crispy, soft shells that lead to a hidden gooey perfection within. I was really impressed, and would go back time and time again if I was rich and had a metabolism of steel. Sadly, I don't have the means. But I will definitely go back one day. I won't be able to stop myself. I just know it.

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Sunday, 5 January 2014

Soda Rock Diner

Soda Rock Diner on Urbanspoon

If you're walking down Chapel Street or Toorak Road, it's pretty hard to miss Soda Rock, with its imposing size and colourful signs. I'd always wanted to go and check out how the food measured up to the well-designed 1950s Americana decor, so when we were in the area one day we decided to try it out.


Vegie Burger and Classic Fries

As a pescetarian, I have tried a lot of veggie burgers around Melbourne. Even though I eat fish, I generally opt for a veggie burger over a seafood one. I've had some great experiences, some terrible ones and some mediocre ones. Soda Rock's version falls under the "mediocre" category. It's better than the bland and effortless ones that the big fast food chains like McDonald's, Hungry Jacks and Nandos put out, but it's nowhere near up to independent burger joint or restaurant standards. It had pickles, tomatoes lettuce and a decent amount of sauce. It basically tasted like what I wish a McDonald's vegetable burger tasted like. Not awful, not great. Just "eh". The chips were also pretty average - extra salt was most definitely needed. They weren't overly crispy or soft or anything. They had nothing "wow" about them whatsoever.

All in all?

Average, or possibly just short of even that. Andrew's "Two Tons of Fun" burger was also described to me as pretty disappointing, as were his chili chips. I picked out a few chips that were free of the beef mince, and was horrified by them, to be honest. They were bland but for a slight spice, and very soggy. For the price we paid, the food was beyond lacking.

The service was awful. Some poor German girl was working the floor alone, whilst a few of chefs ran around the kitchen in a bout of panic, evidently unable to keep up with the orders. We were there at 1:00pm, which should be an expected busy period, and yet they were completely understaffed. Almost every table had patrons, and they were served their orders very sporadically and without logic. We waited over half an hour for our meals, and the poor waitress was apologizing to all the customers profusely. I wanted to get up and help her out; the poor thing also had to make all the drinks and clean alone. Several tables were left filled with mess because she just couldn't get to it. It's no surprise that her stress left her rather tense and not all that friendly. I didn't hold it against her at all.

Food? Mediocre. Service? Mediocre. Decor? Pretty cool retro vibe. Music? Pretty cool retro vibe. Were the decor and music enough to save the food and service? No. Because food and service are the two most important parts of a hospitality business.

All in all? This place wasn't horrible enough to get a "dislike" from me on Urbanspoon, but it came very close. Soda Rock is nothing at all special, bar its physical appearance. It's just plain "okay"; which in a city overrun with "wow"s, is not something to brag about.

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Friday, 27 December 2013

The Proud Peacock

The Proud Peacock on Urbanspoon

Don't get me started on Cafe 57.

But I've wanted to try The Proud Peacock for a while now, due to it being a) Vietnamese, b) reasonably accessible to me, c) classified as cheap and d) very highly rated.

Most typical Chinese, Vietnamese and South-East Asian restaurants, to me, differ very little. You go into one and you know what you're going to get; the dishes, flavours, quality, service and price are basically the same across the board. Honey chicken, sweet and sour pork, satay, sizzling plates, fried rice, etc, are to be expected, at a decent price and high speed. More authentic Vietnamese restaurants with less Chinese influence are starting to appear, which makes me happy because I much prefer Vietnamese food. Of course there are fine-dining twists on Asian foods, like that found in Chin Chin, but these are not as widespread as the simple Asian eateries most Australians are familiar with.

Thus, I tend to be pretty shocked if one manages to give me a unique or exceptional experience. The Proud Peacock did manage this, and here's why.



Mixed Seafood Pineapple Fried Rice

This is the best fried rice I have ever had. It was flavoursome, varied in textures, and was not the slightest bit oily.

It was also a gigantic portion, for a mere $10. I could only eat half, and Andrew then took it upon himself to eat the rest for me. What a soldier.

The Freebies

Never have I been given so many freebies by a restaurant. When we were seated we were given a giant bottle of apple juice, which later on was switched over to a 2L bottle of Coke. Wow.

We were then given a complementary dessert plate with a cut up orange, four snowballs and two chocolates. At the end two free ice blocks were then dropped in front of us, which somehow still managed to surprise us, despite how generous they had been throughout our entire meal.


All in all?

The woman who runs The Proud Peacock is absolutely lovely. She told me that she gives out of gratitude, as she feels privileged when people choose her restaurant to eat at. She runs around at the speed of a headless chicken in order to give her customers the best experience possible.

The premises is cheap, the decor thrown together; but that's not what matters. Once her splendid food reaches your table it is all you can focus on.

Then there's the amazing inclusion of both a vegan menu and a gluten free menu, on top of the base one. As someone who dabbles in veganism, but struggles to maintain it due to the lack of vegan support in restaurants, I was really impressed. All you have to do is ask them to make a dish gluten free or vegan, and they'll do whatever they can. Asian restaurants very rarely accommodate to these dietary needs, so I think she's right on the money by doing so.

The freebies may be simple, but the very thought and intention is what matters most to me. I left there feeling grateful, happy and very well fed.

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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sketches

Sketches Cafe Bar Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Sketches is not your typical restaurant; it's nestled away in a converted house off the Burwood Highway, complete with a homely backyard that they've filled with outdoor tables. Whilst it's next to some other restaurants, the area is not at all considered a hub for food  and it's not where one would expect to find a decent restaurant.

As a result, Sketches is somewhat of a hidden gem.

Grilled half shell Hervey Bay scallops with cauliflower puree & Parmesan crumbs

I'm still thinking about this unique little entree... and my visit to Sketches was two weeks ago. Definitely one of the highlights of our meal, the flavours in this dish were absolutely amazing. The cheese sauce was like the creamy, homely version my mum is a master at whipping up, the lemon and herbs a perfect complement. We were really impressed.



Pan fried salmon fillet, orange & fennel salad, orange reduction, and a side of shoestring fries


So good. The skin was perfectly crisped, the salmon flesh was soft and nowhere near overcooked. I'm not much of a salad person but the one provided was flavoursome and crunchy in texture, which went really well with the other ingredients on the plate. The orange was a perfect finish, a nice twist on the typical use of lemon.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Disappointing. I'm 95% sure that the "meringue" is marshmallow fluff, straight from the jar, peaked up and torched. The lemon was nice and creamy, but overall it was just an average lemon meringue pie. Nothing to rave about. I'm sure it was bought in, rather than house made.

Classic Creme Brulee

The menu mentioned a display cabinet of cakes on top of the basic dessert they had listed, so I went and had a look to see what else was on offer. The creme brulees were already pre-made, in the cabinet, on the top shelf, waiting to be torched. I was slightly worried about that, as it meant they weren't made fresh. The few cakes they had out were pretty unappetising, so in the end I opted for the creme brulee anyway. It was freezing cold below the upper layer, and was just a very basic, very unimpressive, dessert. I wouldn't order it again.

All in all?

Sketches has potential. We were blown away by the quirkiness of the entrees that were available, and by how amazing our scallops were. We were both impressed with our mains. My salmon was a really delightful food experience, and probably the best restaurant bought salmon fillet I have ever tried. My boyfriend had the porterhouse steak (served medium rare), with char-grilled onion, seasonal vegetable, red wine jus, and a side of shoestring fries [pictured by the Urbanspoon information at the beginning of this post].

One nit-pick: both of our meals were meant to come with shoestring fries, yet we got only one bowl. At first I thought they had just combined both serves into one to make it easier, but the couple next to us had a similar order, and they were definitely given two separate bowls. I'm not cheap enough for this to really impact my opinion of the restaurant, but it was an expensive place. Our meal was over $100 all up, and we did technically pay for something we never received.

The mix-up may have been because the place was absolutely packed. We arrived before the rush and were the first customers seated for the night. But boy did the place fill up fast, and the staff seemed rather stressed. Our waitress seemed to thoroughly hate her job, but I find waiters and waitresses like that pretty amusing. At one point, when she was setting down our mains, she groaned and said "that fucking Santa" referring to the figurine that had been placed in the centre of our table. "He's been in the way all month, and he just keeps smiling, and I hate him." It was really amusing. I enjoy seeing personality in staff. Though it does make me wonder about why she was so dour.

The dessert were a real let down after the amazing food that had come beforehand. They were overpriced for what we got. I would recommend skipping dessert, cutting down your bill, and going somewhere else if you really feel like a sweet treat after your meal. Glen Waverley isn't far away, nor is Box Hill. Just go find a nice dessert place and you'll be better off.

But, the quality of our entree and mains is what has stuck with us. I think Sketches is going to go places, and they can really only improve from here. For now they seem to have more business than they can handle, but once they learn to cope with the influx of customers they should be able to improve their desserts, and have staff be more attentive to service. My boyfriend and I are chilled customers; we never complain or make a fuss. I'm thinking that if middle-aged upper class people had parts of their meal missing, or weren't impressed by any given course of their meal, the staff would really cop it. Maybe that's why they were so down and anxious. I don't really know.

All I know is that I wish this place the best of luck, and would like to return for breakfast one day.

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