Food, glorious food

I’m not much of a foodie.  Having grown up as the eldest of three children to a single, unemployed Mother in the north of England meant that we never had money for fancy food.  We never went hungry, by some small miracle my Mother always managed to ensure that we had full bellies.  I grew up on vegetables, fruit and meat and various combinations thereof.  In short, I’m a simple soul by nature, I’ll take a steak and kidney pie over something with french words in it’s name any day.  But sometimes, it’s nice to let you hair down and try something new and extravagant.

Rebecca and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary together yesterday.  It’s been fifteen short years since we first met in the “Friday Night Disco”, or FND as it affectionately used to be known, at Bradford University.  In that time, we have moved house six times, emigrated to Australia, built two houses, started a business and had two children.  It’s been an eventful time and now that our youngest is getting towards his first birthday we’re able to get out of the house more often without the little saddlebags in tow.  (Seriously, taking small children to a restaurant is an exercise in masochism).

Rebecca had done some research and found a new place that had recently opened at the Brisbane South Bank called: Max Brenner’s Chocolate House http://www.maxbrenner.com.au/.  Rarely have I seen her so eager to try something new and having looked at the menu I understood her enthusiasm, however I wasn’t convinced, like she was, that we should be having chocolate for our main meal so I insisted that we first pay a visit to Sitar at West End http://www.sitar.com.au/.  I can highly recommend them, the food is great, the service is fast, efficient and friendly and the price is very reasonable.  As usual I had Lamb Madras with chapatis, lovely stuff.

We had decided, since chocolate was also on our menu that evening, to not stuff ourselves stupid at Sitar’s and to work up an appetite for pudding by walking from West End down to South Bank.  In retrospect this was probably a mistake and I confess that I underestimated the distance, although the exorbitant prices charged for parking at South Bank certainly helped to offset the complaints from my legs by the time we reached the river.

But alas!  Max Brenner’s was completely full, and that is putting it mildly.  The queue to order was nearly out of the door and must have had close to thirty people in it, tables both inside and out looked to be in short supply.  Our hearts fell, personally I’d looked forward to my Mexican Spicy Hot Chocolate and Rebecca’s was dismayed at the prospect of being denied the Chocolate Fondue that she had been fantasizing about all afternoon.  As a mother of two precocious young boys she spends thirteen hours a day feeding them, cleaning them (hearing the plaintiff cry from the bathroom of “Mummy, I’ve finished, I need my bum wiping” is guaranteed to make you shudder), cleaning up after them and being a top class entertainer and educator then another two cleaning up after them and if she’s lucky an hour to herself with a cup of tea and a biscuit in front of the telly before having to get up at 5am the next day to do it all again.  If anyone needs to dive into a Chocolate Fondue it is my long suffering Rebecca.

I made a decision, “Let’s go for a walk around South Bank for a while and come back later” I said, maybe the queue will have died down a little when we return and it was getting towards 9pm.  Just as a side note, it’s funny the things you notice as an immigrant, 9pm seems to be a rather magical time for native Australians, at least the ones I’ve observed since arriving here, it appears, like Cinderella and her midnight curfew they must be home in bed by 9.01pm or something happens nasty to them.  Certainly, from 8pm onwards, most eating establishments are emptying and by 9pm the staff are throwing disgusted looks your way and noisily shuffling chairs and tables around if you are dare to nurse your last coffee for too long.

So, walk we did, and when we returned, the place was still overflowing and the queue had not diminished at all.  So we went for another walk, it was getting close to 9pm now, surely at least some of the people would be going home, surely there would be at least a couple of tables.  But no, the queue was still as long and one one or two of the tables were empty.  This time however we decided to just go and wait in line and chance our luck.  We wouldn’t be denied!  We spent close to twenty minutes in the queue, but finally, after three walks and nearly an hour we managed to order.  Incidentally, I noticed whilst waiting in line that in the very front of the shop there was a woman, in a quiet corner, brushing large squares of chocolate.  All she was doing, in the twenty minutes I observed her for, was cutting blocks of chocolate squares into two or three segments and then delicately brushing them with what looked like a paintbrush to remove any excess flakes.  What amazed me the most was the care and craftsmanship she employed whilst performing her task, it was like watching a true artisan at work.

Finally, the Fondue and my spicy Mexican Chocolate arrive.  Now when the menu says “spicy”, this is not an understatement, my first sip (from the strangely shaped but oddly appropriate “hug mug”) nearly blew the taste buds clean off of my tongue and the taste of chili, nutmeg and cinnamon pounded around my mouth like a gang of overactive toddlers in a playpen.  I’m a sucker for spicy flavours however, hence the visit to the curry house earlier in the evening, and stuck with it until I made the mistake of drinking right to the bottom of the cup.  My guess is that they mix a spoonful of actual spices, rather than say some granulated flavouring, with a standard hot chocolate for the last mouthful contained a potent, concentrated and rather gritty mix that sent fire raging down the back of my throat.  Luckily, and I was thankful for my foresight, I had also ordered a flat white to help keep me awake on the long journey home so I had something to help reduce the flames roasting my insides.

The Fondue was accompanied by fresh sweet strawberries, banana, marshmellows and chunks of banana bread and I have to say it was delicious.  You are given a pot of milk chocolate and a pot of dark.  Personally I favoured the dark chocolate, it was smooth, rich and just the right side of sweet.  As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m a simple soul and “fondue” was always for rich Southern folk who drove BMW cars and lived in semi-detached houses but the dipping of bread and fruit into chocolate is one of those experiences that I will now recommend to everyone I know as something they must do before they die.  It is simply exquisite and if you get the chance to check out Max Brenner’s I urge you to do so, if you’re a fan of chocolate it is not to be missed.  We will certainly be returning, although next time I might go with the Italian Chocolate.

Authors note

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