Lunch at Maple + Clove

31 Oct

I last visited Maple + Clove in early August for breakfast, catching up with an old friend. I thought the food was yum (and loved my drink), the service didn’t bother me, but the food serving sizes were questionable and it was a pretty expensive experience for what we got. Maple + Clove prides itself on premium handmade and nutritious food (I’m quoting from the website here!). A group of us are heading out for lunch, but a few have some not trivial food allergies. Given Maple + Clove’s dedication to whole foods and a large number of gluten-free options on the menu, it seems like the perfect choice.

It’s a surprise lunch, so when we book, Maple + Clove ask those of us in the know (everyone bar one) to order in advance from the menu, and the one who we’re surprising can order when she gets there. Simple and straight forward enough.

We arrive on time, to a relatively empty restaurant, but the dishes take their time to come out – even though we’ve ordered early. I assume (wrongly, it appears) that they’re trying to bring out all the dishes at once (including our special guest’s).

Maple + Clove is very prettily designed, with sun streaming through big glass windows

Maple + Clove is very prettily designed, with sun streaming through big glass windows

Empty, but picks up while we're there

Empty, but picks up while we’re there

In the meantime, I ask for the wine list. After all:


Our waitress (waiter? What’s politically correct these days?) brings it out and says she’ll explain it to me. How lovely, I think, talking me through the wine list.

I couldn’t be more wrong. She’s talking me through what’s on the list but not actually available.

Beer’s on the list. It’s not available. (“We don’t do that anymore.”)

Sparkling rose from Lark Hill is on the list and available, as is a $110 bottle of champagne (the only champagne/sparkling wine other than the rose).

Two of the three white wines are available.

One of the three red wines is available.

So, basically half the list is unavailable. I’m all in favour of restricting choice (er, sometimes), but if there’s so little available, I can’t work out why there’s a list, particularly a list that has to be explained? It’s a paper menu – is it that hard to reprint it? But I guess if you only have five wines available…

The list is whisked away before I have a chance to take a picture (or helpfully cross out the unavailable wines for them). For the record, we order the sparkling rose.

Meals arrive at the table in fits and starts, but the rose is delivered quickly.

The meals are pretty, but (not surprisingly) small.

Beef burger with sweet potato fries

Beef burger with sweet potato fries


The sweet potato fries get a big thumbs up. One of our group with food allergies gets a spelt-crumbed chicken schnitzel which is safe (first big tick) but a little bland.

Another of our group is severely gluten intolerant, but the number of ‘gluten free’ options on the menu is reassuring…

…until his ‘gluten free’ thai beef salad comes out. The staff can’t guarantee that it’s gluten free at all – not just cross contamination issues, but actual presence of gluten. His meal is removed and they prepare a salmon for him instead. It’s 15 minutes from when everyone else is served to when his re-made dish arrives… but this is something that simply nshouldn’t have had to happen. (Our special guest’s dish also eventually arrives.)

For a restaurant which proudly trumpets its commitment to organic and natural foods, you’d expect them to be completely across this. At least, if something is low in gluten, write just that: ‘low in gluten’. Don’t write ‘gluten free’ which, ya know, suggests there is no gluten at all.

Burgers – small as they are – are left unfinished. One Veggie Burger‘s pattie and bun are so dry that they’re inedible (but the accompanying juice is lovely).

I can confirm it's dry because I touched it - all in the name of reviewing

I can confirm it’s dry because I touched it – all in the name of reviewing

I’ve ordered the salmon and tuna sashimi. It’s pretty. And small.

Salmon and tuna sashimi

Salmon and tuna sashimi

There’s a lot of rocket, and not much fish, for $22. I can get a pretty good sashimi takeaway from Sushi Sushi with more sashimi at a fraction of the price, so I expect this to be good.

And it is.



Uh oh!

There’s a bone. Sitting on top of my otherwise innocent piece of salmon sashimi. It’s fortunate that it’s so obvious, I guess, because this could have become dramatic.

Plates start being cleared away while others are still eating (and I believe before our severely gluten intolerant friend is even served)… but they merely start being cleared away. Everyone else soon finishes, but they’re left with their finished meals sitting in front of them for another 10-15 minutes.

This isn’t an experience you’d expect from a venue which has been open for over a year. In fact, it’s comparable to A Baker, and when I visited A Baker, they were packed and had only been open for a few days.

The wine list must be embarrassing to present to guests. Food we’d almost entirely pre-ordered arrived in fits and starts, was inconsistent in terms of quality, and two meals had serious health hazards.

I’m not gluten intolerant, but stating that something is gluten-free when it isn’t seems terribly dangerous to me.

The experience was decidedly amateur. I guess it’s a nice venue, though?

Cost: Between $14-22 per person; wine (not that there’s much to choose) extra

Food creativity: 1-2 out of a possible 10 (the fries looked pretty good; the burgers looked like Grill’d)

Ability to take photos without a flash (ie lighting): 5 (out of a possible 10). It was daylight, but we weren’t seated next to a window.

Canberra region wines on wine list: One, I think (out of a total of 5) (out of an original total of 8)

Waitstaff pretentiousness: It was something, but it wasn’t pretentiousness.

Worthwhile factor: Not worthwhile. It makes A Baker look amazing, and we all know I wasn’t a fan.

Want more? Here’s their Spring Menu (potentially untrustworthy). You can read about my previous, more enjoyable experience here.

Maple & Clove on Urbanspoon


21 Responses to “Lunch at Maple + Clove”

  1. Monica November 1, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    Interesting comments Tara.

    I went to Maple and Clove about a month ago and I am severely allergic to dairy, eggs and peanuts. Unfortunately the waiter who served us pointed out as soon as we ordered that they couldn’t guarantee cross contamination with other products in my dish. I appreciate I’m only one guest with some quite difficult allergies, but the waiter than aggressively pushed me to order something by saying “what you gonna do?” (his English wasn’t the best which didn’t help!).

    I then tried to ask which dishes would have the lowest chance of being contaminated (maybe some were prepared using products offsite?). I explained that I always know there will be a risk eating out, but I’d like to know what the safest choice was. The waiter went back and forwards between the kitchen and us without too much more detail. I ended up getting annoyed and asked to see the chef myself. I was expecting to see him busy and not too flexible. He was the complete opposite! He assured me that he was going to cook my food on a side burner with completely new utensils. He also went through the menu coming up with new meals for me. It was really good.

    So, I guess my point is, if you are at Maple and Clove with food allergies, don’t bother with the wait staff, just ask to go see the chef directly and you’ll get much better service. I was surprised at the lack of knowledge of allergies for a place that constantly stocks products like ‘almond milk’. They are seriously missing out on a market there…

    • Daisy Coltheart November 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

      Somehow sharing disappointment at headlined food principles that aren’t makes me feel better after two disappointing breakfasts at Maple + Clove. The last time – definitely my last – was this week, when I ordered the walnut and fig toast. The waitress returned after a while to say there was no fig & walnut, it would raisin toast. What she didn’t say was that for the same $12 price they served two slices of supermarket raisin bread toasted, a teaspoon of tasteless strawberry jam (how DO you get a strawberry in spring to be tasteless?) and some butter with cinnamon sprinkled on it.

      This should be a terrific place but it isn’t – the disappointment made worse by the website claims of ‘fresh, local, seasonal and wholefood
      ingredients’. Thanks Tara and everyone for making me feel better!

      • inthetaratory November 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

        It’s a bit cathartic, isn’t it! What a disappointing experience.

  2. Gary Lum November 1, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    Thanks for this Tara. I don’t think I’ll be eating here anytime soon.

  3. Rob November 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    This is a serious failure on the restaurant’s part. I can’t eat wheat, but I’m fortunate in that I’d need to eat a reasonable amount to get sick. Coeliacs, on the other hand, can end up in a bathroom for three days if just a tiny bit of wheat or barley flour contaminates their food.

    This restaurant is off my list for good. “Low in gluten” on the menu, fine. Gluten-free and not? They’ll get sued.

    • inthetaratory November 1, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

      Exactly. Shocking. They would earn such kudos if their menu was honest – ie this is low in gluten; this is gluten free but we can’t guarantee no cross contamination; while we can’t guarantee no cross contamination, these are the measures we put in place. So simple.
      The food otherwise was pretty disappointing, too!

  4. Amy R November 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    I’m shocked to be honest with you. I’m intolerant to mushrooms – eating them makes me vomit – and have to be careful when I order in restaurants because some people don’t take it seriously. I can tell you, if I throw up on your table in front of your customers, you’ll take me seriously next time. Everyone with allergies/intolerances knows that cross contamination is possible, but don’t put something on the menu as being free-from if it isn’t.

    • inthetaratory November 1, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

      You’re absolutely right.
      That’s quite a reaction! If everyone had that reaction maybe more restaurants would take people with allergies seriously!

  5. Greg Hutchison November 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Well an honest appraisal T! Their web site promises so much its a pity that they failed you. It looked like a swish place with lots of healthy promises. I guess they failed “the eye of the beholder” . You!

    • inthetaratory November 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

      Agreed Greg! It’s a lovely venue with so much promise but no real dedication to the intent.

  6. Sarah P November 2, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    This all sounds eerily familiar. We went on a sunny Saturday morning a while back after having heard that they were all about whole foods and eating things that are both delicious and good for your body. I mistakenly took this to mean that they would be well equipped to deal with people with food allergies/intolerances.

    I’m on a really restricted diet thanks to a range of intolerances, but when eating out can generally get away with simply asking for gluten, garlic and onion free meals. I ordered something that came with a side of avocado. I asked more than once whether it was JUST avocado and not guacamole (likely to contain onion and potentially garlic). The waiter kept assuring me it would just be sliced avocado, and double checked with the kitchen upon my insistence.

    Fast forward to the meal arriving, and something doesn’t taste right in my avocado. The waiter is nowhere to be found, nor are any other staff. After a good five minutes of waiting, I wander inside and find him, and I’m once again reassured that it’s just avocado. I insist that there is seasoning in there, so could the waiter just triple check with the kitchen that there is no onion involved. The waiter goes back, checks again, and tells me it’s all clear of onion. Fast forward again to about three spoonfuls in and WHAM! I hit a whole mass of freshly diced onion.

    I spent the next 40 hours on the couch in absolute agony.

    This probably isn’t the time nor the place, but I’d like to say a big **** YOU to Maple + Clove and their consistent inability to take into account the needs of their customers.

    On the plus side, the experience taught me that gluten is no longer my biggest enemy; it is onion that I need to avoid at all costs.

    • inthetaratory November 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

      Bloody hell! Even after triple checking you were knocked for six… That is just shocking. Do they not prepare their product themselves? How would they not know?

  7. Lisa November 2, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    I had breakfast there a week ago and we had to chase the waiters to take our order and again for our coffee , which arrived after the food. Finally we asked where our juice ws twice during the meal and endp up ktaking them takeaway as we left as they had not arrived after an hour. The waiters were rude and my walnut toast was burnt and tiny

  8. andrewmagoo November 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    It’s always disappointing to hear of bad service experiences, especially as I worked in hospitality in Canberra, Sydney and overseas for nearly 20 years, and still work casually in a local restaurant here in Sydney.

    Some restaurant & hotel operators don’t realise that all you have to do sometimes is as open and upfront with your customers so as to firmly establish an expectation, and then employ staff who will always attempt to exceed these expectations. Looks like Maple+Cove has done neither!



    • inthetaratory November 4, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      You’re right, Andrew. Be honest and open and people will appreciate that. But if you pretend to be something you’re not, people will notice.

  9. Liz November 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    I like to see what people think of this place and I am glad to see most people seem to echo my sentiments. Before I left Canberra in July, I lived in the Realm complex. I ate here on 2 occasions (both for breakfast) – I am breakfast obsessed. Both times the wait staff were hopeless (irrespective of busy-ness). On one visit I ordered the fig and walnut bread which was dry, small portion and came with such a small scrape of butter and maple syrup that I couldn’t even cover the small amount of toast I got. Anyway that was just shy of $10 (rip). The other time I tried the spelt waffles and a “chocolate” shake. The waffles woffered with a choice of toppings. I ordered the coconut yoghurt and the person I was with got plain cream. The waffles were not cheap at almost $15. Despite being the only people there, we waited a fair time for the waffles. When they came out, they were dumped on the table and looked exactly the same. Before I could ask which one was the coconut, the waiter had left. So I tasted both of them and they were both just thickened cream (not even whipped or anything). I am not really a fan of cream so I asked the waiter for the coconut yoghurt as ordered. She curtly replied that they were out of the yoghurt (but noticably didn’t go and check or tell us that when the plates arrived). The waffles were dry and not filling enough (again not enough topping) and the $9 shake was undrinkable. Seriously disappointing place proving a captive market will keep anything open.

    • inthetaratory November 12, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      These stories just get more and more unbelievable! What strange experiences – and really, completely unnecessary. Some basic communication from the staff would have gone such a long way.


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