Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published October 9th 2013
Burgers, Chips, Pea and Ham Soup
When I was a young lad I recall my dad speaking affectionately about Mick's Pie Cart, a Cafe de Move-along that sold pies and puddings to servicemen during the Second World War.
Well into the fifties Mick's Pie Cart, which had branched out into bunny-chows (half a loaf of bread scooped out and filled with mild Malay curry), was supplying food to the drunk and hungry.
Hamburgers were not on the menu as hamburgers hadn't penetrated the South African cuisine in the way that they had in countries that had hosted American servicemen.
Countries such as Australia with its constant stream of American sailors happily adopted this typically robust convenient meal with gusto.
Burger with Everything at Alfred's (Photo by James Sutherland-Bruce)
In 1946, shortly after the tide of Americans ebbed, Alfred Cook brought a caravan up to historic Guildford and opened it up for business, selling the new-fangled 'patty in a bun' as well as the traditional English favourite - split pea and ham soup.
Today, nearly seventy years on, Alfred's Kitchen has moved from a caravan into a substantial brick structure but the menu hasn't altered much as Alfred's moved from a greasy spoon into a Perth institution.
Alfred's opens seven nights a week from 5:00pm on Sundays to Wednesday, closing at about midnight. Thursdays they stay open til 1:00am, Fridays and Saturdays until 3:00am, giving plenty of opportunity to every hungry patron.
There is no such thing at Alfred's as a 'typical' customer. They come is all ages, all sizes, all occupations. There are scantily dressed teens, denim clad truckers and post-theatre-goers in full evening dress.
I have been past when a whole pipe band in highland regalia were noshing down, been part of a Sherlock Holmes weekend eating there in Victorian dress and the local theatres, Marloo and Garrick, often drop by after rehearsals for a quick bite.
Because I have tell tell you, Alfred's is not just peddling tradition. The food is very good indeed. Their proud boast is that they offer forty different kinds of burger, and, while I haven't counted, I'm sure that's correct.
Alfred's Special Three-Decker at Alfred's (Photo by Douglas Sutherland-Bruce)
When we dropped by on a Friday night at about sevenish the place was teeming with people - people waiting for their orders, a surprising small queue of people waiting to give their orders, happy diners eating, seated around the huge log pit that burns every night when Alfred's is open or on the long benches on the walls. A rough count gave us about seventy people sitting in quiet anticipation.
We waited a matter of a few minutes to give our order in - three burgers, chips and some pea and ham soup, which I was enchanted to see is cooked in vast vats on top of two wood-burning Metters stoves dating from the early part of the last century.
The servers were swift, experienced, cozy and helpful. The cooks, glimpsed as they flashed by behind the scenes must be incredibly well organised and efficient since we waited less time than we might have at McThingummys.
The pea and ham soup was rich, tasty, warming and delicious.
My 'Alfred's Special' ($10.80) of a hamburger patty with all the fixin's served a la club with three slices of toast, the cheese and bacon redolent with juices and the enticing aromas of sharp BBQ sauce was delicious and as good as I've ever eaten anywhere.
This was accompanied by thick, rough hewn chips, beautifully fried and seasoned by oneself from the array of vinegar, salt, chicken salt and so on.
Excellent food, excellent service, very reasonable prices and over all the taste of living history. Even better, you can pop over the road afterwards and have an ice cream at Tubs.