Replete, and a note on this blog

October 10, 2011

302 Barkers Road, Hawthorn

Note: Following the publication of this post, I received comments from the Replete management. While I have altered any inaccurate factual representations made, the concept of this blog is an expression of my personal, honest opinions, and as such my opinions on this cafe must remain the same. While I appreciate all comments, I stand by my opinions and therefore also my blog. I am not attempting to write reviews that are simply fact-based and impartial: this blog is an exercise in self-expression, and the positive or negative words that I write are how I feel. If I can express these feelings accurately and honestly, which I always endeavour to do, then I believe I have succeeded. I write this blog, for those curious among you, because it makes me happy, not for any other gain. As long as that remains so, the blog will go on.

Some weeks ago I was invited back to my school for the 2011 Year 12 Breakfast, a heinously early morning before school starts (because year twelve students are simply getting too much sleep), where year 12’s and ex-students in their 20s have breakfast, listen to a few casual speeches, and chat about their exams/plans for next year.

I was initially unsure of how I would enjoy the event: I had a premonition of sitting alone and ignored at a table, while year 12s chattered around me and swapped in-jokes. This thought brought forth such a sense of abject terror that I needed a “social pep talk” from Mum (and people say everyone over the age of 18 is mature and self-confident). But after consulting some of my friends who’d attended in previous years, I decided it would be worthwhile. As it turned out, I was right, but unfortunately the food, (supplied by the school canteen) wasn’t particularly good, so N (also attending) and I hot-footed it down the hill to Replete for something a little bit better.

I have been wanting to blog about Replete for ages, partly because of its abundance of awards won in past years, and partly because I didn’t particularly enjoy my last visit (pre-blog), and wanted to double check once more before writing a review. So here I go.

The place was surprisingly busy for a weekday morning, and we were sat by a waitress who appeared to be dressed in super loose lounging/sleeping clothes, and wore an expression to match. Her supreme levels of zest and enthusiasm were only matched by her nonchalance in casually pointing us to a menu that was sitting on another table (because it was our fault that we hadn’t found it). For those of you who haven’t picked up on my sarcasm, the service wasn’t great. Polite, yes, but not particularly attentive or proactive.

Also for sale at the cafe is a wide range of produce from bread to sweet baked goods to preserves. I didn’t buy anything, so can’t comment on the quality, but thought some of the shelves looked quite sad and empty.

First up, the requisite coffees. Our lattes were nice, actually, a well rounded flavour with a fine froth. The house blend, which was written up on a blackboard above the register, read, “PNG, Indian, Columbian, Brazil” – but struck me more as a list of places where coffee is grown than a genuine and informed description of what we were drinking.

N and I decided to share two dishes, first up were the corn fritters with crispy Istra bacon, tomato and avocado salsa, sour cream, and Replete’s chilli sauce. We both agreed that the corn fritters were nicely fluffy and packed with sweet bursts of corn, and the bacon was a winning partner. However my liking of this dish came unstuck at the chilli sauce, which was far too sweet and tasted somewhat like the bottled stuff. I think that above all this dish was crying out for a good pinch of salt.

The presentation of both dishes was lovely: the appearance of two sunny stacks cheered me enough to forget about the sad scrambled eggs seen at 7:30 the same morning.

The second dish we shared as a sort of breakfast-dessert was the ricotta hotcakes with Replete’s lemon curd, fresh strawberries and pistachio praline. N and I searched and searched for the elusive ricotta in the somewhat dry and crumbly pancakes; I finally managed to come across a piece, but it’s dearth was a disappointment. The lemon curd was delicious, my favourite element of the dish, but the so-called praline was more giant rocks of sugar with a slight green tinge, which N affectionately called “crack rocks”.

As I was eating, I was trying to pick which of the two dishes I liked more, but after some thought had to adjust my question to which of the dishes disappointed me less, because that was the overall sentiment for me. Because, as much as I was planning to wear my scathing-hat and tear the place to shreds, I honestly was hoping to be proven wrong. Alas, I found both dishes lacking in a number of elements. Coupled with the lackluster service, it made for a disappointing meal.

N felt a similar way to me, and wanted to have her scathing comments heard as well, so here’s what she had to say.

“Replete, you peaked during the early 00s and you have the awards to prove it. The phrase resting on your laurels springs to mind…like when you advertise ‘Victoria’s (voted) best brownie’, how about telling us when that occured? This place literally does just enough to keep the (many) not so discerning customers flowing in. Just like our waitress who just got out of her PJs, I guess.”

Her comments sound catty, but there are a couple of truths in there – the place was busy at 8:30 on a Wednesday morning, they do have a wide array of foodie goods on offer (including the brownies), and they did win many awards, as I mentioned earlier. But to me the whole place smells of past-success, and it’s not a nice feeling. Like a kid who peaked too early at school and has since become complacent, Replete simply did not thrill either of us enough to inspire a return visit. I’d much rather drive on by and face the parking dilemma on Glenferrie road than get crack rocks and a half-asleep waitress again.

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Filed under: Brunch, Hawthorn