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 February 5th 2012
I have a new favourite restaurant; Broads Cafe at Upper Reach Vineyard, owned and operated by Anthony Broad and his wife Annalis.
The place is modestly called a 'café', but put out of your mind any idea of asking for 'double soss, egg, chips, spam and a fried slice'. It really isn't that kind of a place.
The word that springs most readily to mind after 'wow' is 'professionalism'. It has been said that 'genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains' (Hopkins). Be that as it may it is certain that professionalism relies almost entirely in attention to detail.
And this is amply displayed at Broads. Newly re-opened after an extensive and expensive re-fit and re-model the café is light, airy, modern and relaxed. But more importantly, it is all of a piece - even the font on the menu has been carefully chosen to reflect the ethos of the restaurant.
The service was wonderful. Fast, polite, helpful and efficient. Friendly without being matey and ready with an opinion when asked.
The menu is a judicious blend of original and familiar at reasonable prices.
However, I must point out that either innovative or traditional, the food is beyond good - it is uniformly good. I started with one of my favourites - Caesar Salad ($14). The actual recipe for the original invented by Signore Caesar Cardini in early 1920s has been disputed, but generally speaking it involves Cos lettuce, anchovies, bacon bits, croutons, coddled egg, olive oil and lemon, shaved Parmesan Cheese and Worcestershire sauce.
Almost no-one takes the effort to make it as accurately as that - but Chef Anthony does. Oh he poaches the egg, but he does so only moments before serving the best Caesar Salad I think I've eaten since 1977.
Angela's 'Chermoula Marinated Grilled Prawns' ($22), seen above being served by Sophie, came on warm, flat Turkish bread and coriander yoghurt - an inspired choice as it gave a suspicion of curry flavours and the exotic east.
Main course was where I ran into a dilemma and asked Sophie's advice. I was torn between 'Aged Angus Sirloin of Beef' ($38), 'Moroccan Spiced Baby Chicken' ($34) and 'Braised Pork Belly' ($34). Sophie's vote for the pork was the decider, and I shall be forever grateful - it was tender, succulent and rich in flavour. It rested on roasted gold sweet potato and dressed with a red current and orange glaze, and a few strips of crisp crackling.
Angela, very sensibly, had a second entree instead of a main - 'Crisp Mushroom and Parmesan Risotto Balls' ($17) with a salsa of tomato, capsicum spiced with coriander. A delicate and rich balance of subtle but delicious flavours.
The soft, relaxed atmosphere lends itself to leisurely meals and a tempting suggestion would be the 'Mediterranean Plate' ($58) of grilled Chorizo, with spiced mango chutney, grilled marinated prawns with tomato and pumpkin salsa, and mushroom risotto cake with ham and herb mascarpone.
Chef's Plate ($58) offers a totally different, while just as enticing, range.
Ideal for browsing while sampling the wine list, heavily featuring Upper Reach wines. There is also a small but serviceable range of cider, local and imported beers and some soft drinks.
Strictly, we should not have had a sweet course, but by this time we were so enamoured of the food we had to try. So a spiced poached pear and frozen white chocolate mousse ($12) and two spoons was ordered (see photo) and it was so good - the spices so subtle, so original I couldn't identify them but was blown away by their combined effect.
Broads is incredibly busy on the weekends, so I suggest you take some time off work, book a table and try some of the best food I've eaten in years.