Monday, June 05, 2006

Rathdowne Street Food Store, Food Store-y Style (Modern Australian? Bit of Italian/French), North Carlton

617 Rathdowne St
Carlton North
Tel (03) 9347 4064
Mon-Fri 8 am – 10 pm
Sat-Sun 8 am – 5 pm
Cost: Breakfast/Lunch around $25+

It seems like I have been going to the Rathdowne Street Food Store my entire life. Actually, it's been roughly half, which is very good going in the inner city where rising rents have forced a lot of the original restauranters out of the game.
I used to get hot chocolates at the Food Store as a teenager when my mum worked across the road, we'd bring our own mugs in and walk down the street with them. Environmental, we were in the '90s.
And when I was slogging away through my honours year, and was really depressed in winter cooped up in my cold house trying to write about Virginia Woolf, I would go and get takeaway stew and mashed potatoes from the Food Store, and although it was ridiculously expensive for an arts student who paid her way by attempting to teach Koreans English and getting artists drunk on cask wine at openings, it was worth every cent for the comfort it brought.
And no matter how many times I hear they've gone downhill, or the food's not as good as it used to be, I always have an excellent meal everytime I go there.
So the other Saturday morning, post-Friday night housewarming party, I awoke at a frightfully early hour on my friends' single mattress on their living room floor. My friend Kate groaned from her own single mattress next to mine 'oh god I'm so hungover. How am I supposed to write today?' We both are no good at keeping promises to only have one drink and go home early to write that article/chapter we have to do by Monday. When we finally woke up properly, some hours later, our friend Mia was sitting at the kitchen counter, diligently tapping away at her laptop. Mia always goes to bed early and is a Very Good Girl. But then again, she writes about fashion so it's not really so hard, is it, it's more like fun, really.
Anyway, to shut us up mostly I think, Mia mentioned the words 'bacon and eggs' and I remembered it was my birthday. 'Forget B&E!' I shouted 'You all know my favourite food of all time, the entire reason I have a French boyfriend?' 'What has that got to do with bacon and eggs?' asked Mia. 'Isn't it obvious?' I demanded 'BECAUSE I was under the misguided impression that he would cook me SOMETHING everyday.' They looked fairly blank and not a tad unsure I wasn't going to suggest a nice breakfast of escargot and frog's legs. 'Continue' said Kate, cautiously. 'CREPES! Let's go eat crepes! Hell knows my boyfriend won't make them for us. Let's go out for breakfast. I know a place nearby.'
So we wandered out. Sasha found a great what she termed '50s/80s frou-frou skirt' (she's currently very into what she has termed '50s/80s frou-frou', she thinks she's inventing her own new style, or something) at a garage sale along the way. The French place on Rathdowne St didn't do crepes (unbelievable, and it's too forgettable for me to remember its name), so we went down to the Rathdowne St Food Store, with me insisting that I remembered some sort of pancake thing with lavender icecream. Thank god Kate has the imagination and food curiosity that she does, as Mia and Sasha tried to go into several places on the way, but we ignored their cries of 'I'm starving!' and persisted.
And boy am I glad we did. 'Were they still serving breakfast at 2 o'clock in the afternoon?' Yes, they were, they serve it til five.
That ALONE is good enough for me, but this, well, get a load of this:

Ricotta hotcakes with poached pear and lavender icecream

Seriously, what else could you want on your birthday? They weren't crepes, but they were just as good. There's something about the sensual combination of hot buttery hotcakes with the poached pear and the lavender icecream, which isn't strongly lavender-infused, but is more like vanilla icecream with a subtle hint of something sweet and flowery and damn right yummy.
They've been making them for years, and to me there's really something comforting about a menu that doesn't change much. Just a bit of seasonal variation then and there, but all the best stuff stays put, so when you most need it, on a cold Saturday hungover afternoon when you are turning thirty, it's there, just like it was when you were 19.
We had our own table in our own little section, which you want at the RSFS, as it's kind of the place where you meet your godmother for lunch, only she's having lunch and you're only up to breakfast.
You don't really want to be around all those well-dressed 50 something women who look down their noses at you and your unbrushed hair, and possibly stench of alcohol from the night before. You want your own little corner with your mates and the friendly waitress with the red lipstick who takes one look at you and tells you the fresh juices they've got (pink grapefruit and pineapple, orange and pineapple, yes please, just bring it, quickly), and places in front of you a strong coffee (good, strong, but not too earth-shatteringly so) without the usual weekend interminable wait.
Normally I sit outside under the trees and dream of living in one of the wonderful old unrenovated huge terraces next door, and of being able to pop next door to the Food Store for freshly baked muffins, croissants and their incredible bread (which my mother gets for free on her morning walks, they don't forget their old time customers) and god knows what other delicacies when writing gets too much, but in winter they've got a nice fire up the back and it's very cosy and sophisticated without being overly pretentious.
The other girls had a lamb soup and bacon and eggs, which they demolished in under 2 minutes, then helped me finish my hotcakes, which they were simply amazed by. Particularly the lavender icecream.
As we were leaving, Kate, unable to resist their 'wall of food' at the counter, a display of mouth-watering biscuits and pies and stews and cigar-shaped chocolates, bought me a neenish tart which was without a doubt the best neenish tart I have ever had.

Overall, Rathdowne St. Food Store will never change and I hope it will be there for ever and ever.


Susanne said...

Those ricotta pancakes look awesome. I must go to this place.

Another Outspoken Female said...

We were there when Ricky slept in one easter and forgot to put the buns in the oven, when he got married (what? I thought he was...?), when he had kids, when he split up, when he came out (at last!), when the business went belly up :((...but he and the RFS are still there and that alone deserves a medal.

As for the food, don't forget the jams, chutneys and other take home items. The tomato relish is my fav. Goes really well with their vege pastie.

If you want a total artery clogging breakfast try eggs foodstore (eggs, smoked salmon, hollandaise).

The only thing that has put me off the place in recent years has been waiting for a table on the weekend and slow service. Maybe that's changed? I don't know, I tend to only get takeaways now. And of course, to catch up on the Chronicles of Ricky!

sublime-ation said...

Isn't Ricky the best? My mother was telling me about him the other day, how he just makes up a ridiculously low price for her, and then pretends that is the real price, and the other day he saved my life with his apple muffins.
Best muffins I ever had.

Chai said...

Nice piece. I liked it.

sublime-ation said...

Really?'s very rambly, I realise now how my stories do tend to go on. But that's unfortunately how I am, speak, write, blog, blah...

Husky Nutmeg said...

I loved this post. It's not rambly - it's full of life.
It sounds like a great place to go and feel welcome.

Another Outspoken Female said...

I like the fact that we are real reviewers ie: people who eat - not from the industry or journalists. This means we can write what we want and HOW we want. Life is a ramble...its easier to read that way :)

sublime-ation said...

Thanks husky and aof...I'm an eater and a writer, a lover and a fighter...ha ha!

fluffy said...

HELLO. On a day when I'm hard pressed to answer things actually addressed to me I find myself compelled to say how much I enjoyed this post. Enjoyed the rambling nature of it most of all. Perfunctory critiques be damned! I wish they were all as rambling as this post; and let's face it, this comment.

I got a very memorable RSFS hammper on the birthday of one who was once beloved buut could now rot in hell for all I care. We took it here and had a glorious picnic.

sublime-ation said...

Perfunctory critiques be damned!

Couldn't have put it better myself (definitely not as succintly).

Mel said...

I refer to this place as the Rathdowne Street Expensive Store. Best visited when someone else is paying.

sublime-ation said...

Yes, tis pricey...but soooo gooood. And it WAS my birthday...

MEM said...

Dear me. Have any of you tried to make this at home? I know I've seen recipes for all of the components before, but I'd be interested if someone who tasted this version had tried to replicate it....

there's also something about the underlit conditions of the photo that make it look like it's being eaten on a rainy sunday morning in bed....

sublime-ation said...

No, I can make a good pancake/crepe, but lavender icecream is beyond me, and I don't have an icecream maker, although there's talk in my house of getting one...the Food Store did do a cookbook a few years back not sure if the recipes in there.
It was a cold wintery day, but sunny, but we were inside by the fire...