Thursday, July 23, 2009

399 Bar

Sunday 16 July 2009

399 Bar
399 William Street,
(08) 9328 8006

1. Comfort & Surroundings

Alexander: I think it's important to highlight at the outset that 399 Bar is not your typical breakfast café. First and foremost, it's a bar that also serves coffee, but with an opening time of 10am on weekends in a nod to early-morning types. It adapts to the breakfast venue vibe pretty well with a tempting coffee aroma and large booth seating, but its layout with a ubiquitous view of the bar and spirits shelf means that you're under no illusion as to where you are at all times. That's not necessarily a bad thing; I'm sure there are lots of people out there who will be excited by the prospect of somewhat edgier and grittier breakfast venue. It's probably not the most child-friendly venue in town, but if you do want to bring one, there are three inexplicable high chairs that will keep your kid at eye level with the bar at all times. Now that's good parenting. 3 from me.

399 Bar has popped up as a result of Western Australia’s new small bar licences and the product is a refreshing addition to the breakfast, and presumably evening, scenes. The bar is up the north end of William Street and, rather than juxtaposing the dreggy area, it embraces the grungy aesthetic. At the same time, 399 manages to remain clean and modern with its inviting booths, open plan and fresh fit out. After sampling another of the new small bars the night before, trudging into 399 was a fitting start to the morning and its relaxed and knowing atmosphere allowed us to wake up slowly. Points off only because the wide open doors made for a windier, chillier time than I would have liked, and the grandness of the booths means that had we come an hour later we would have shared our space with others, not the most desirable set up in a space that is otherwise so attractive to those waking up feeling a little seedy. 3.5.

2. Service

Alexander: Being seated within one metre of the bar at all times means that you don't have to go far out of your way to make an order. And you'll be happy to know that you get the cool, mild indifference from the staff that you'd expect from someone working behind a bar, but with a slightly more attentive vibe given that you're not shouting an order over loud music and a throng of other people. In keeping with the theme, we were brought two glasses of water without having to ask - but they came after we'd finished our meals. This sums up the service at 399 Bar perfectly; there's nothing to complain about, but they're not going out of their way to impress you. Which is probably how it should be. I'm going with 3.

Lola: Agreed. While the staff embodied the laid back vibe fitting for a bar in the morning, they were suitably attentive and polite. They did not have the sluggishness of having been out on the turps themselves, yet they were not disproportionately perky either. They settled into the surroundings perfectly and warrant a 3.5 from me.

3. Tastiness

Alexander: You get two food choices at 399 Bar: the "Bloody Bacon" or nothing. Let me explain. Food is not 399 Bar's specialty, but as an acknowledgment to hungry people, they have included one breakfast food item on the menu: a Bloody Mary/bacon & egg roll combo for $15. And if you keep in mind the context and don't mind the lack of choice, it's pretty good. Sure, the roll could be toasted and the fillings were a little undercooked for my taste but, in combination with the Bloody Mary (more on that below), it went down a treat. Plus, it's the ultimate hangover food for people who were at 399 Bar the night before and want to come back the next morning for more. Another 3 from me.

Lola: I really enjoyed this no fuss approach to morning ordering. Although it wouldn’t be my choice every Sunday, I think it’s ideal for the venue. 399 Bar also serve lunch and dinner, offering one option for each meal that changes daily. I really dig this idea! Like Alexander, I would have preferred my roll slightly toasted or warmed, but you can’t expect too much fuss here. I’m giving it a 3 as well.

4. Drinks

Alexander: Being a bar, the drinks category is 399 Bar's time to shine. And I wasn't disappointed. Lola and I took the opportunity to review two drinks again at this breakfast and both were of a high standard. I started with a cappuccino that was of a better quality than a lot of cappuccinos I've had from "coffee specialists". Then, as foreshadowed above, it was time for the Bloody Mary. I enjoyed it as the perfect accompaniment to the food - spicy and savory with cracked black pepper and a celery stick. I'm giving the drinks a 4.

Lola: A 4.5 from me, an extra half a point being awarded for the novelty of the Bloody Mary. What a perfect idea! My hot chocolate was, like Alexander’s cappuccino, above the standard of many cafés I’ve visited and the Bloody Mary was delicious. The staff really know what they are doing here.

5. Fiscal Matters

Alexander: The "Bloody Bacon" combo was $15, which is pretty reasonable considering you are paying upwards of that price just for meals at most breakfast venues. The coffee was very reasonably priced as well. However, despite the value for money, I can't give this a huge score because the lack of options means that there isn't really something for everyone. 3 from me.

Lola: I was more impressed by the value for money and am awarding a 4. I thought $15 was extremely reasonable, particularly compared with other local breakfast venues. If you're scraping your pennies together after a big night out, 399 Bar is definitely an option for morning nourishment. I look forward to returning on an evening before too long.

The verdict...

Comfort & Surroundings: 6.5/10
Service: 6.5/10
Tastiness: 6/10
Drinks: 8.5/10
Fiscal Matters: 7/10
TOTAL: 34.5/50

399 Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Imp

Sunday 28 June 2009

The Imp Café
863 Albany Highway,
East Victoria Park
(08) 9361 2600

1. Comfort & Surroundings

Lola: I've always had a soft spot for Vic Park. One mention of the suburb and my mind floats back to the mid 1980s when I would
accompany my mother on visits to the bank, the post office and the big Sands & McDougall stationery store, for the family business. These afternoons were blissful and carefree, and were often rounded out by a visit to the old cake shop in Heart of the Park for a sweet treat. It's lovely to find a place with the potential to recreate such blithe memories. Inside, The Imp is comfortable and relaxed with its long bench seat down one side of the room overlooking a cabinet of cakes and smiling staff.

It was fortunate that we were able to move inside after a short stint sitting on the pavement. The tables outside were incredibly small and arranged so closely together that I felt like we had a party of four, not two, and the cigarette smoke wafting from the other tables was not at all conducive to enjoying food and drink. Although we were able to move and enjoy a lovely setting indoors, I have to consider the unpleasantness of our original seating arrangement and award a mark of 3.

Vic Park has a special place in my memories, but for a much geekier reason. As a super cool 14 year old, I used to come to the Vic Park recreation centre every few months for collector fairs. You know, with toys and comics and stuff. Like I said, super cool.

Anyway, I was happy to be back in Vic Park but for cooler reasons this time, a breakfast with Lola for our blog! Running late, as usual, I arrived just as some tables inside were opening up, so I didn't have to spend much time outside. Which was fine; there's not much of a vista outside unless you like watching the cars drive by on Albany Highway. Inside, The Imp packs a lot of tables into a small space, but it manages to feel buzzy rather than cramped. I liked the exposed brick walls and condiment/water counter. Weighing it all up, I'll give it 3.5.

2. Service

Lola: I was incredibly pleased with the politeness and affability of the staff, and the speed of service. It is counter service, so I am giving a 4.

Alexander: I placed the order and the person behind the counter was friendly and fun - chatty, but not too chatty. There was no attitude in sight, so taking into account the fact it was counter service, it gets the highest it can get - a 4.

3. Tastiness

Lola: I loved this menu, with a variety of options from Coco Pops to a 'Hangover Roll'! I settled on the mushrooms and spinach on toast with mascarpone cheese and was presented with a generous portion of topping on two slices of my selected seven seed toast. One half of my meal was absolutely perfect, though the other half left a lot to be desired. Although I dug in straight away, one slice of toast was already soggy, and the promised mascarpone was absent (although a small, yet perfectly satisfactory, portion was present underneath the topping on the other piece of toast). I am sure this was just bad luck and due to the deliciousness of the good half, I'll still give my meal a 3.5.

Alexander: The menu at The Imp has some interesting features which makes it stand out a bit from the crowd. I ordered the Hangover Roll (although I wasn't hungover, I swear) and it hit the spot. An omelette with bacon, tomato and jalapeños, served in a fresh roll with spinach and relish, the Hangover Roll will definitely fill you up. I had no complaints, but it wasn't something I absolutely loved, so it gets a 3 from me.

4. Drinks

Lola: Our leisurely morning had room for us to sample a couple of drinks each, and it was a good thing we did. I began with a hot chocolate that was, unfortunately, lukewarm at best. My mocha granita, however, was a perfect marriage of chocolate and coffee in the refreshing iced form. It was fairly small but it was enough for me, and raised my score up to a 3.5.

Alexander: Two drinks! Who would have thought? My first was a cappuccino - completely acceptable but not all that special. My second was an iced mocha - deliciously, perfectly apportioned and satisfying. It seems as though cold drinks are done much better at The Imp, so maybe keep that in mind when making your own choices. I'll give the drinks experience a 3.5.

5. Fiscal Matters

Lola: This is where The Imp really stood out. Prices start at $3.50 for a muffin... okay maybe this doesn't count, but the way they put it on the printed menu makes it seem like it's a reasonable breakfast option! Regardless, you can enjoy some brand name cereal for just $4 or various toast options for $5.50. And my selection cost me $9.50, a price point around which most of the menu sat. It's so refreshing to see a well priced breakfast menu in our fine city! A 4.5 from me.

Alexander: I don't know if it's the location away from the more well-known breakfast strips, but The Imp is extremely reasonable. As Lola pointed out, there is a wide range of options to suit any budget. My food only cost $11.50, whereas I would expect to pay at least $16 in Mt Lawley or South Perth. Get in before the cool kids discover it and all the prices go up - 4.5 from me.

The verdict...

Comfort & Surroundings: 6.5/10
Service: 8/10
Tastiness: 6.5/10
Drinks: 7/10
Fiscal Matters: 9/10
TOTAL: 37/50

The Imp on Urbanspoon