Thursday, 3 September 2009

On a Savoury Note?


In early 1979 we were cooking at the Grace Darling Hotel in Collingwood. This was when John Pinder’s Last Laugh theatre restaurant was reaching its glorious peak . The Grace Darling or, Grey Starling, as many chose to call it was home to the Lenny’s Black and White Minstrels from San Francisco. Hotel California meets Come in Spinner in Smith St Collingwood. We ran a gonzo kitchen pumping out bar meals of real schnitzel [Gruner's veal] mixed grills with fresh offal and Jonathan's’[shop next door] sausages to the bar where Jack Dyer would hold court while the art/food/theatre world was occasionally diverted into our dining room slumming it from Huey’s and Ziggie's Clichy across the road to indulge in what we thought was pretty cool food.
I recall one dish on the menu Gattopardo Visconti We had just read The Leopard and seen Burt Lancaster in the film and found a version of the recipe for the famous Timballo in A Portrait of Pasta by Anna del Conte . Del Conte uses hard boiled eggs but on closer investigation it needed unlaid egg yolks. I had often seen my mother buy these at the poultry shop in St Kilda so we were well set.
At the end of summer we all needed some well earned r and r and took off in an old Peugeot 404 to spend 4 days in the Little Desert in the Wimmera. After two days of camping someone had the bright idea to go to Bewora Waters for lunch. The stories coming down from Sydney of Tony and Gay Bilson’s cooking were like a powerful electromagnetic field to our inexperienced hungry ironised hearts. About two hours from Sydney we rang the restaurant and confessed that we had been camping and that we might not look too flash? maybe a bit dusty? on arrival. A stern but amused voice told us to relax and that all would be fine. On arrival alighting from the punt that took us over the river, we were greeted by Anders and escorted to a bathroom where fresh towels were waiting. Another level hospitality was revealed to some dirty young strangers, and our appreciation of service was changed forever.
At the end of the meal I was still regretting not ordering the sugar cured mackerel and ordered it for dessert.
So when people ask why we serve Black Pudding? or slowly poached livers? or rarebits of smelly cheese? or sweetbreads? or kippers? or salt cod? or sugar cured mackerel in the desert section?
I remember the fresh towels at Bewora Waters and ask them- don’t you sometimes wish to finish on a savoury note?

2 comments:

steve said...

that was a great read George, almost stream of conciousness stuff, kerouac-ese or a scene from the great Australian road movie, yet to be realised for the screen-perhaps you should get an agent & secure the rights now?
What I also love is the way you captured the pace & sense of the times, the excitement of eating at Berowra Waters & the revelation of what good service really means. No doubt you have also added another layer of legend to Anders already iconic status. I'll be expecting a book soon from yourself & Stephen Estcourt soon!

Thermomixer said...

Congratulations again - what a bloody interesting life you have led!

As Steve said - another part of that film that has to be produced.

Savoury for dessert has certainly been my go. Berowra Waters just before it closed - after having mains, said to Gay that I really had wanted to try the tripe, but as we were up to dessert I'd better not - she brought out a plate on the house and some of Janni's Gold Cake as a chaser. I felt fuller than a goog. But it was nice.

Good to see Gay (& Janni) on Compass on Sunday evening. she is a bit like you - not keen to charge the customers for all your wonderful work.

Remember a truffled white bean soup for my dessert at Est,Est.Est - even Phillipa's desserts could not sway me.