As you know, Tuesday is my “study day”. It’s the day where I don’t have to be at work because the majority of my classes fall on a Tuesday. The majority of my classes, however, also happen to be lectures that are available to be downloaded online so when one faces a choice between spending up to 2 hours commuting to Monash (and mind you, that’s just ONE WAY) or doing whatever the heck one pleases and listening to the lectures whenever one wants to, the answer is obvious.
Which is why I decided to spend today in the city as I have been doing for the last several Tuesdays. But don’t you have tutorials to rock up to, Libby? Yes, I do. But only one of my two subjects have tutes and they don’t start until week six. So there. Mwahahaha! While everyone looks at me in disapproval, I will defend myself by saying that my day in the city was not ALL fun and games. In fact, I did “do work” by going to Melbourne Uni’s law library to study for my criminal procedures test which will be held next Tuesday. After a few hours of hard labour (half of which was spent staring out the window and watching people play footy on the grass), I met up with Adam for my reward: A late lunch consisting of crepes and a bit of francophonia at Creperie Le Triskel, a newish cafe on Hardware Lane that specialises in… yup, crepes.
Now I’m of the belief that Hardware Lane, once considered to be the playing ground of the “hip” and “sophisticated”, is up there in the tacky stakes with Lygon Streets. There are many restaurants, many of which are not half-bad but none that particularly serve extraordinary food. Sub-standard parmas as well as annoying spruikers have prevented me from stepping a foot within the area since my last visit in 2007. After seeing a review of Le Triskel in The Age, however, I brushed aside any negative feelings I had towards Hardware Lane and ventured into the wilds of fobby students from Taylors College and annoying spruikers keen to have my company at one of the many cafes that line the red cobblestoned lane.
Although it was just past 2:30pm when we arrived, half the tables were still full of people eating a late lunch including a county court judge still in his gown. The little cafe is charming and filled with all things French, from French-speaking staff to French juices to French novels in a box by the window. It’s shabby-chic, slightly left-of-centre, oh-so-real and very Charlotte Gainsbourg… kinda like what Carla Bruni is to Jacques Reymond. And although Le Triskel‘s motto is “arrogantly French”, the staff are anything but arrogant. Upon entering the door, we were immediately greeted with “Bonjours!” by a friendly young lass with a strong French accent. We settled for a table inside and studied the menu which comprised of laminated A4 sheets clipped to a wooden clipboard.
There is even a blackboard that tells you how to order your meal in French! Had I spent more than a half-arsed year (in high school) studying French, I probably would have given it a shot but I whimped out. Nevertheless, the waiter didn’t laugh at me when I DID attempt to say “Un bol de cafe au lait, sil vous plait” so perhaps my French accent isn’t THAT bad after all!
The menu was divided into sweet crepes and savoury galetes which are savoury buckwheat pancakes filled with all sorts of things. There are also several non-crepe dishes for those who aren’t into crepes as well as a separate cheese menu for those who come here for “Stinky Friday” (Cheese and wine night) as well as a breakfast menu for those who want to sneak in some ham and eggs before heading off to work. While the sweets menu was extensive, the savoury menu, though long, was a bit disappointing as the majority of items were merely permutations of egg, ham/prosciutto/turkey, gruyere cheese mushrooms and spinach. Adam wanted something “meaty” but alas, there was nothing for him so he went for a croque monsieur instead of a crepe. After placing our orders, we sat back and relaxed with a newspaper each while listening to the soft sounds of Tété playing in the background. If you’re facing the kitchen, you can see the dude make your crepes from scratch or if you’re a wannabe Francophile like me, you can saunter over to the magazine rack by the door and read one of the many French magazines and newspapers available for patrons. Okay so my copy of French Vogue might be four months old but because it’s French, it’s cool… and besides, the stuff inside the magazine probably has not even reached pre-hype status in Australia just yet. Not long after, my cafe au lait ($4) arrived.
Sipping a cafe au lait (which was nothing more than a flat white made with organic coffee beans so don’t you expect a “latte” with froth!) and reading French Vogue was a great way to pass the time while we waited for our food. Adam, aka Mr Coffee Snob, didn’t think the coffee was all that extraordinary but I’m a huge fan of milky coffees so I enjoyed mine just fine. It was mild and the beans were naturally sweet so no extra sugar was necessary.
This is my galette. Called “La Broceliandre” ($11), it is a thin sheet of buckwheat pancake cooked on one side which explains why it’s crispy to the touch and soft on the inside. With more folds than an origami paper crane, it breaks apart to reveal an oozing lava of creamy French Bechamel, slightly sharp Swiss Gruyere, thin slices of salty prosciutto (you can have it with ham or turkey instead, if you wish) and sweet herbed mushrooms.
Damn, it was good! Two small slices of cut breadsticks and a pat of Tatura butter were chucked in with my galette as well as a small bowl of sesame green salad with a tangy French Vinaigrette which wasn’t all that special but nevertheless added something essentially “green” and “healthy” to my meal (not pictured but we all know what lettuce leaves and endives look like).
Adam’s Croque Monsieur ($9). It looks a lot like something gross you’d find on Thisiswhyyou’refat.com but it was delicious as what a decent croque monsieur should taste like. The toasted sandwich came with the prerequisite ham and melted gruyere as well as the added bonus of bechamel sauce. Again, we got some sesame green salad to make the dish look healthier than it was. Indeed, it wasn’t THE best croque monsieur in the world – a bit more crunch would’ve made it better – but Adam finished it off in a jiffy so we can be sure that it didn’t suck. And hey, they sure beat Hudsons Coffee ham and cheese toasties !
While we would have been quite satisfied to leave immediately after our meals, we decided to linger a little longer and order something from the “sweets” menu (I still wasn’t finished drooling over Balenciaga bags in the magazine and I had only just started reading today’s edition of Epicure). Thus, a strawberry, chocolate and vanilla ice cream crepe was ordered to round off a very lovely lunch ($8.50).
A plate arrived at the table not a moment too soon, this time topped with a very thin sheet of sweet crepe laced with fresh strawberries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A generous squirt of what was not dissimilar to Cottee’s Ice Magic created chocolate circles on the masterpiece to give us an awesome finish to what was a delightful lunch. I’m never going back to those Asian creperies again!
After that meal, I guess it’s fair for me to say that I will not be afraid to venture into Hardware Lane again. I could easily come here for a late lunch (or early dinner) during the week or have breakie before I start work (my office is only a short walk from Hardware Lane). Maybe I could even convince my uncultured non-foodie workmates to come here for cheese and wine night on Friday after work (though that would probably be a long shot). While it may not look like we had all that much food, I still feel stuffed enough not to eat dinner tonight thanks to the richness of all the ingredients and godknowhowmuch fats I consumed. French women may not get fat from eating all of that but sadly, Miss Libby would (life is unfair sometimes, innit?). Which is why I ought to stay away from that place until I’ve slimmed down just a little bit more!