Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Breakfast at Bill's place

One thing led to another last weekend and we ended up on Youtube.  We ended up on Youtube watching, no that’s not quite correct, watching and singing, Ian Moss’s all time Australian pub rock classic, “Tucker’s Daughter” (1989).

My first innate reaction was to sing louder.  My second was to be thankful I wasn’t the outback daughter of Ole Man Tucker and the object of Ian’s affection.  My third was to set off a multimedia juke box of classic 80’s and 90’s Australian tunes whilst debating: Johnny Diesel’s greatest hit? “Right on the Tip of my Tongue” or “Crying Shame”, discuss.  

Dream Boat Retrospective - Johnny Diesel despite torn off denim sleeves and subsequent identity crisis
Unless you are a foreign member of the Ian Moss fan club or an Australian descending through the 25-40 year old age bracket, you’re probably about as lost as my British friend Jo was while this archive of antipodeon chart toppers played out.  Jo understands that we didn’t attend Erinsborough High, that we call shrimps prawns and that pants aren’t pants they’re undies. But I am fairly sure she didn’t understand why we still, after 20 years, know every word to Darryl Braithwaite’s “One Summer”.  And just who is this Darryl Braithwaite anyway?!?

Contrary to our play list, I was glad I’d crafted a menu for the night that displayed no consistent cultural reference.  After fresh ricotta, Manuka honey and toasted walnuts we followed with a Way to Decadent in a Good Way Rabbit and Pork Lasagne. But it was finally ending on the left-field British high of sticky toffee pudding that gave Jo a brief caramel and culturally familiar reprieve.  We also had to stop singing during dessert as it’s incredibly hard to consume pudding, sauce and ice cream whilst effectively using an air-mic. 

While I’ve been assured Jo did have a great time at dinner (and probably afterwards at our expense recounting our unselfconscious antics to her more civilised British friends) the medium of nostalgic mullet anthems highlighted one of the many or few fissures diverging the British and Australian experience.   This sometimes-cultural divide between we convicts (of which I’ll erroneously include myself despite being first generation Australian) and The Motherlanders appeared before me again a few days later. But this time, it was personal.  

Ricotta hotcakes with fresh banana and honeycomb butter
While being served an exceptionally tasty butter-rich bacon-crispy plate of breakfast happiness my ears were forced to endure this statement: “Avocado has no place on a breakfast plate.  It’s just wrong!” 

Now hold on a minute Mr!  Avocado is what you say? Why you little [fist raised]….and it was at about that point of incredulousness that I got distracted by the crispy crispy salty bacon and lost my train of thought entirely…and then I was back:  Avocado is the number one draft pick for breakfast plate side orders for 9 out of 10 Australian diners.  That statistic in no way represents thorough or un-bias research but it was as true as it needed to be at the time before I got distracted by the creamy creamy buttery eggs…and then I was back: Avocado makes a breakfast plate, it’s the perfect duvet to a bacon, the greatest spread on sour dough toast, the perfect fresh substitute for over-cooked spinach or slippery slimy button mushrooms which are the eternally sad side-kicks of the core English breakfast characters. Avocado, it’s just right!

Unfortunately, no avocados were harmed in the making of this breakfast bun
I could swiftly see I wasn’t going to sway any voters with my New World argument for the monosaturated monolith so we entered a social treaty whereby the purveyor of that delicious British breakfast accepted the existence of, without agreeing with, my culinary dissent and we both returned to the bacon on which we very happily agreed.

After this polling failure you can imagine my joy when the long awaited opening of Bill Granger’s only European venture, Granger & Co (175 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2SB,, +44 20 7229 9111) came to fruition around the corner from my home here in Notting Hill.  Now Bill, he’s a man who understands the avocado.  In fact, it’s his number one side offering for eggs or toast.  Oh, and look at that, it’s his number two side for eggs or toast too – avocado salsa.  I’ll have both thanks Bill – no mushrooms, no spinach for me please.

The Full Aussie Breakfast: How did those pesky mushrooms get on there? 
The scrambled eggs at Granger & Co are super light and not at all too rich (there could be an argument for or against this state of affairs, but let’s carry on), the bacon is incredible, the breakfast plates loaded with full Aussie goodness and not a baked bean in sight. The ricotta hot cakes are just like Sydney…hang on a second…the whole place is just like Sydney.  The tables, the staff, the menu, the huge windows…should I be judging my own lack of originality in enjoying this replica establishment as much as I do? I am really enjoying it and judging at the same time. But mostly I’m enjoying.

Judging AND stirring as demonstrated by my more competent friend
Looking around, the dining room is packed. The wait for a table is over an hour and the confusing sunshine outside is offering those smug people seated in the window a lame excuse to inappropriately wear their designer frames inside. I detest them, but am too preoccupied trying to stir the Callebaut chocolate chips through my hot chocolate to care. I can’t judge and stir at the same time.

The bustling hum of the largely Australia via Nottinghill crowd is broken only by the intermittent steam of the coffee machine, the odd squawk of a Queensland ex-pat’s laughter or the conga line theme song rolling through my head: “I love av-o-ca-do! I love av-o-c-a-do! Ah dah dah, dah dah, dah dah”. 

Avocado and Breakfast: Best friends for ever xo xo
I haven’t been back yet for lunch or dinner service but the menu looks like a solid Bill-style offering of tasty BBQ and casual fragrant mains. Chilli pork ribs, whole baked fish, crispy duck with plum sauce.  No big surprises, nothing avant-garde but plenty of trouble choosing. 

I still think Peter Gordon's Providores serves up the best breakfast meets brunch in the whole of London.  I’ll also eternally love any breakfast offering me bacon and butter in perfect excessive harmony. Who knows if I’ll ever convince the avocado disbelievers out there that Granger & Co is worth the long wait for a breakfast table adrift a sea of Ralph Lauren? But it’s the simple good food and effortless Australian style of Granger & Co which just made me and Tucker’s daughter smile on that sunny Saturday morning…but please, you in the window, take those sunglasses off!!  


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