Maple + Clove has been open for just under a year, and in that time I’ve heard all sorts of reviews – but consistently that its food is amazing and its service is shocking. When an old friend suggests it, I’m keen – if only to find out whether these reviews still speak the truth.
I’m initially told by well meaning friends that Maple + Clove is in Hotel Realm. As I near Hotel Realm, I try to visualise where it could be, and am stumped. I call on vivacious blogger Rachi on Twitter – who reviewed Maple + Clove soon after it opened – and she reliably tells me that it’s not actually in Hotel Realm, but closer to the Burbury Hotel. (The website states it’s in the ‘Realm Precinct’ or ‘Realm Park’.) Whatever the description, Maple + Clove is behind Hotel Realm, almost across from Realm’s underground carpark, and I’m relieved to see plenty of signs pointing me in the right direction (this also must surely mean I’m not the first person to have trouble finding it).
I’m a little concerned as I head in – it looks packed – and of course the first thing I’m asked isn’t, ‘Where would you like to sit?’ but ‘Have you made a booking?’ – we haven’t. That said, a table is found and menus are placed on the table. Maple + Clove has a clever aspect for a breakfast place; thick and thin slivers of morning sun reach through the big windows.
Maple + Clove’s menu speaks – no, shouts – of freshness and wholefoods. The menu has inconsistently sized bolded headings, italicised snippets and boxes; it’s not exactly a simple task of working out which heading matches which foods, but it’s a fun read – almost like reading a ‘zine.
I get the orange, grapefruit, ginger, beetroot and pineapple juice (or is it the beetroot, pineapple, pear and ginger juice? Both are $8). It comes out reasonably quickly. There are just three words to describe it – and I’m sure you’ll agree: bright, fresh and frothy. It’s also amazing. I never want it to end (and I’m so grateful that it’s in a big glass!).
There’s a lot food-wise which tempts me from the menu. Spelt honey ricotta pancakes, with agave nectar, chia berry compote and vanilla yoghurt sounds great… except that I’m not sure what agave nectar is (well, I do know that blue agave = tequila… but I guess that’s not what they’re going for)… nor what chia berries are… nor what spelt is, for that matter. Fortunately, there’s a handy box which explains it all. There’s also baked eggs, sweet corn fritters, and big breakfasts – again with an emphasis on the spelt (this time used in the toast).
As much as I always want eggs, I’ve already had a pre-breakfast Frugii gingerbread icecream at the EPIC Capital Region Farmers Markets (don’t judge me) and feel that eggs might be over the top. With this logic in mind, somehow I still justify to myself that the avocado and tomato on spelt bread (remember, I’ve only just learned what spelt is) will be much less filling. Right.
It’s not what I expect. I have in mind some sort of tomatoey-avocadoey mash; the ingredients here are pretty clear – it’s exactly what the menu says – and it also looks like something I can easily make at home (I can’t say that about many dishes). It’s also $18.50 (!).
But it’s really, really fresh. And, to my complete surprise, my first disappointed impression doesn’t last. The spelt bread is chewy and tasty. The flavours don’t all marry together – they’re on a honeymoon. I normally hate spanish onion, but I can’t imagine this dish without it. No salt or pepper is needed. Even though I stand by my view that $18 is a pretty extraordinary price to charge, it’s worth it. As strange as it sounds, I feel healthier for having eaten it.
My only gripe is, sadly, my usual breakfast complaint. Where are the proper knives?! Like with sourdough, spelt bread + bread knives = embarrassing experience for everyone. (Elk and Pea is another repeat offender and even after my review early this year have not changed their ways; Capital Wines, on the other hand, provides an awesome knife to help slice through their ridiculously yum roast garlic bread.)
My friend has ordered what’s cutely described as ‘M+C ‘nutella’ on spelt toast with strawberries’. It’s cutely arranged, but it doesn’t hide the fact that this is just one slice of bread. (On second thought, I think my dish only had one slice of bread, too.) One slice of bread, with artistically smeared and, I’m assured, tasty ‘nutella’ with, it seems, not strawberries, but just one quartered strawberry. It’s $13.
I’m not sure if I’m just excited to be catching up with an old friend, but I don’t notice the service, so I can only assume it must be okay. The prices do bug me. Only coffee ($3.50-$4) seems a little more reasonable. I know, I know, it’s organic and wholefood, with a focus on local ingredients, and it’s in a lovely location… but really – $13? And $18.50?
I’ll keep grumbling, but it’s also good enough to keep me going back.
Date: 10am, Saturday 3 August
Cost: $43 (coffee 3.5 + juice 8 + my dish 18.50 + friend’s dish 13)
Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile
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