15 February 2011

moving with the times

Sometimes you just have a feeling that things have moved on from where they once were. Sometimes, whether you like the change or not, you made just need to go with it.

This is what i have surmised, in my humble opinion, after my experience a few weeks back.

About two weeks ago, Jimmy and I were going to try out a brand new local in our hood - The Devonshire. Having read about it on twitter, noted its location very near to home, I thought it might be a nice one to try out when Jimmy returned home from a long work trip. The restaurant had some stellar reviews from very trustworthy tweeps - it sounded small, quaint and was promised to be good value for money.

These sorts of commendations set the place up, in my mind at least, to be a great new local.

What is a local ?

I think that a local might be a place that is very well-situated. what I think i mean by this is that it is a place which has opened up in a neighbourhood, to which it is well suited. If you love where you live, and I certainly do (ahem, iheartmyhood.net), then you will be excited about a place that is opening to appeal to you and your particular like-minded peeps in your hood.

So, with all this in mind, consider our response when we stroll up to The Devonshire and are quite taken aback by what we find. We find a restaurant awash with crisp, white tablecloths and low lighting...


Somehow, after very much looking forward to an evening of fine food in the 'hood, all of sudden, we became self-conscious about how we were dressed, how loudly we were speaking, whether or not we were in the 'mood' to go into a place that seemed to have such a 'serious vibe'...

This vibe was so unexpected, as was our reaction to it, that we were a bit 'weirded out' and decided not to go in.

And, I haven't even made mention of the menu - it looked delicious ! So, what were we doing ??

I had a bit of a think about what might have been behind this knee-jerk reaction.

Sometimes, I think, things just move on.

You read in Terry Durack's short article in the(sydney)mag that Warren Turnbull opened District Diner as "a more casual bistro than his Surry Hills fine diner, Assiette". So, when Durack describes District Diner simply as "Assiette without tablecloths", what does this mean ?

And then, of course, there's the world-famous precedent set by Rene Redzepi in his Copenhagen restaurant, Noma. Almost any article you find about the Redzepi-phenomenon describes his restaurant as a tablecloth-free-zone. I think this might be because Redzepi is quite adamant about the issue. In his own words, from an interview with the Guadian, Redzepi says he prefers "a nice wood table to a shitty table in fancy tablecloth".

What is the significance of this ? The article in the Guardian goes on to say:

In the early days, before Noma became insane He talks a lot about "rawness" and "authenticity". Only occasionally does he say haute cuisine-like things. "It used to be," he said, marvelling, "that people came into Noma on their way home from work, just for a meal!"

Hmmmm... I think that's what I was expecting. 

So I'm not saying that this place needs to place itself on a trajectory to become the next Noma... ! Just, white tablecloths says to me "stiff, dull, dated". As it turns out, unless I'm going out to a place that I expect to offer a real "sense of occasion", the places where I want to eat , do NOT have the tablecloths and, in my (humble!) opinion, are the better for it. If you're reading about the world (of food), the white tablecloth is not meanlingless.

I checked - it really isn't just me. Below a review of hip, verrry popular Parisian eatery Kitchen Galerie Bis:

Opened in the fall of 2009, KGB is riding high as one of the trendiest go-to spots of the moment. "The key is determining how to stay hot," insiders told Luxury Travel Advisor. Its white walls hung with colorful, contemporary canvases, the restaurant resembles an art gallery-- a minimalist space with no frills and-- needless to say-- no white tablecloths.


So, maybe a place on Devonshire St may may not need the crisp white tablecloths ? (Not to mention, crisp white napkins ..?)

If you would like to get a great sense of this for yourself, simply google "no white tablecloths", and you will see exactly what I am talking about. There is absolutely a movement AWAY from the white tablecloths in manyforward-thinking, innovative, authenticity-appealing restaurants, world-wide.

It just feels like the 'experience' (http://www.thedevonshire.com.au/) that the people at the Devonshire are aiming to provide for their customers is very much in line with the places around the world choosing to strip their tablecloths. My feeling is that, the appearance of a room full of tablecloth-clad tables will have a very significant impact on most people's first impression of the place.

So, that's all. I hope that wasn't too much of a rant. Just some food for thought.


Having said all that(!), the menu at The Devonshire looked DELICIOUS from beginning to end and I will DEFINITELY be going there... it's just, it will have to be one of those nights when I feel like a hush-hush, white tablecloth experience, that's all.

Redzepi quotes taken from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/nov/06/rene-redzepi-noma-restaurant. Photo from another Guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/may/24/noma-restaurant-copenhagen-jay-rayner


chocolatesuze said...

this was a great post! i definitely agree with ya sometimes you just want a casual burger and chips without worrying about topic and loudness of convo or clothes choice! tho the devonshire sounds like a great place for a bday or special occasion and would love to check it out when im not wearing jeans :P

tanja said...

Hello there ! Lovely to hear from you Suze, thanks v much for the comment. I thought quite a bit about this one, I'm glad it made sense to you... : )

Sam R said...

Just catching up on things over here. Yes. Absolutely right. There is a happy medium - viz my beloved local, the Glebe Point Diner. Nice marble tables, but covered in butcher's paper (linen napkins though). Excellent seasonal menu, very nice little wine list, excellent service. They know their food. It's a cut above little-local-bistro and several cuts above burgers-n-chips, but locals are still comfortable enough to turn up in jeans and shorts to eat there. Everyone should have one.

tanja said...

Thanks for the feedback Sam - I thought you might 'get' this one. Your relationship with Glebe Pt is exactly what I was hoping for.

leetranlam said...

I had the same reaction on first walking through the door at The Devonshire and I was entirely wrong! The staff is very friendly and unexpectedly FUNNY. My favourite part was when I said how much I liked the fact they served their tea brulee in an actual teacup and the waiter deadpanned, "Our grandmothers don't think so. They've got nothing to drink their tea out of." The service was tablecloth-professional but loads warmer and friendlier than you'd think. Give it a try!
PS Imagine Noma still being the place you could drop by on the way home for dinner.