A side of lies: streetfood serves up a swindle



Along with woke, work/life balance and self-care, streetfood is one word (or is it two) that I never want to hear again. Streetfood conjures up a myriad of overused travel article clichés: vibrant market, nose-to-tail, warm and friendly locals (preferably poor), authentic recipes handed down from Papaw and the backstory of hard-working immigrants having a go and bringing their invariably fabulous, but undiscovered, cuisine to the masses.

Trouble is it’s none of that. Not any more anyway. It’s Instagrammable food from a re-modelled vintage van run by some privileged hipsters who wouldn’t know a good hamburger if it smacked them in the face and are handily bankrolled by mum and dad. It’s designed to be eaten cold with pseudo-eco cutlery after it’s been insta-imaged to death. It doesn’t matter what it tastes like, as long as it “pops” on Instragram (pops is another word I never want to hear again).

But even if you just actually eat the streetfood and don’t even Instagram it, streetfood is not good. It’s not restorative to queue then stand up in a carpark trying to eat Gumbo with a fork or wrench open the packaging on your gluten-free panko-breaded oxtail taco and then chunder it down in a carpark with grease and dressing running down your arm and a brand new stain on your shirt.

Call me old-fashioned, but take me to a restaurant any day with table service, a plate, serviette and a knife and fork. I’d much rather make a reservation than stand in line under the sun, wind or any other weather event we are likely to get these days.

But even in restaurants, there is no escaping streetfood. Show me an eatery that doesn’t have the word streetfood lurking somewhere there on the menu. It’s like the restauranteur thinks this menu needs sexing up so what to do? Add the word streetfood to our spicy poke bowl number or New Orleons style kale po’-boys, jack up the price and start counting the moolah.

Of course real streetfood does exist. Sadly usually in poverty-stricken countries or the Royal Easter Show. It hits the spot and serves a purpose, it is quick, economical, tasty and hopefully doesn’t need too many rounds of Immodium afterwards. But if you’re not either drunk at 2am or at a sporting event, this hipsterised overly packaged, fake-authentic streetfood slopfest is just un-woke. You don’t need a cutesy truck run by smug millennials to eat good food.


How to get ’em queueing

It’s easy to make money in Sydney. All you need to do is not do anything people actually need and instead buy a struggling old business, do a Mexican streetfood refit and then advertise your new eatery.

There are virtually no post offices, old-school garages and butcheries left in this town, they’ve already been transformed into The Garage, The Butcher’s Block or La Stazione or Il Postino. Bookstores have already turned themselves into cafes, and next will surely be newsagents and banks.

Meanwhile the owners of the themed cafes are laughing all the way to the bank. People are queuing up faster than you can say doppia macchiato to get a slice of contrived action.

As for menu, well, basically sorted. Pepe butter, Sonoma bread, Hanks Jams. There must be macaroons, vine-ripened tomatoes and hay-fed pork sausages from Bangalow. And it must be overpriced.

Then – cue stroke of genius – the business doesn’t take bookings, giving the impression that they are really popular, cool, hip and in demand. And sit back let em queue, let ’em queue and sit back and walk to the bank. Hold on, it’s already a new cafe, La Banque. Heard it’s good.

Birchler muesli

I love breakfast menus. They are full of worthy foodstuffs, which no doubt does wonders for the alimentary canal, with names that come out of a German colonic school textbook.

Birchler muesli, spelt bread and bio-fermented kurd yoghurt. Trendy Sydney eateries (which if you ask any Sydney eatery is them) love this bioynamic cardboard and print it on their menus. Perhaps they love putting foreign words down on bio-ethical paper to make them sound a bit like if we close our eyes and astral travel for around 36 hours we could be in Berlin, which is a city on my bucket list.

But back to breakfast. I have seen these worth words on paper but am yet to see anyone actually order them. Have you? Have you even heard the following words uttered: “I’ll have a freshly churned Birchler Muesli wth new goat curd and fermented whey with a side of choko slaw with sliced first origin goji’s” I rest my case.

It’s Sunday for chrissaks. People are tired. They’re hungover, they are generally pissed off, especially if they have driven some distance to breakfast. You’re going to hear I’ll have a big breakfast with extra bacon. I’ll get a breakfast with the lot and a side of extra hash browns. I’ll have a triple shot of anything that’s going.

Breakfast eateries should quite honestly just give up and get rid of all that stuff on the menu that hasn’t been ordered since 1963. If people are that concerned they can order a salad for lunch or just eat at home. Which is what I suspect people who eat Birchler are doing, dressed in a sackcloth.

Get those wannabe frog dogs out of my cafes

Dogs have taken over cafes. In just about every outdoor (and many of the indoor cafes) across Sydneydogs are lounging about in cafes.

Cafe owners will do anything for the dog. It’s a VIP. The dog can even get free water and its own special bowl. I don’t know about you but I never get my own special mug and I’m a paying customer.

Annoyingly also there’s no size limit on dogs allowed in cafes, in fact the smaller the cafe the larger the dog that and ipso facto the larger the dog the more likelihood it will not be on a leash.

Now I have nothing against dogs. Apart from not liking them that is. If they want, I guess they can go to the supermaret and stop for a wagochino on the way home if it makes them feel grown up, but who I really hate are dog owners. (Note normal dog owners who treat their pet as an animal are OK – it’s the ones who take them shopping who I hate.) (But cats are still better than dogs.)

Bad dog owners think that because they own a dog, go to cafes and take the dog to the cafe then they are French. No they’re not. They are just some massive bogan who takes a dopey dog to a cafe, preventing paying customers like me coming inside. There’s nothing French about driving in your trakkies to a cafe and taking the dog with you. And theres definitely nothing French about those doggy bags sticking out the pocket of every dog owner.

Besides, if they were really French they’d know you just leave the poo lying around.  I rest my case.