Altitude Cafe

15 Dec

Ever since the Altitude complex opened in Belconnen, there’s been an empty business space on Chandler Street and another on Emu Bank. Boyfriend and I have watched eagerly to see what would emerge in each. A few weeks ago, there were signs of life down at Emu Bank, followed by the placing of a sign that looked like it had been pulled from the 90s announcing “Altitude Cafe”. Just a little obvious, but it certainly wasn’t enough to quell my excitement. What was enough to quell my excitement was the experience we had there today.

Outdoor seating at Altitude cafe

Outdoor seating at Altitude cafe

There’s a generous ourdoor seating area but no umbrellas for shade like at Black Pepper down the road. Inside, it’s light and airy,  with huge windows facing the road letting in plenty of light. Wood is what stands out inside cafe, with (faux?) wooden floorboads and wooden feature walls.

Inside Altitude Cafe

Inside Altitude Cafe

The menu is interesting. I’ve complained elsewhere about menus which are uninspired; this one takes its inspiration from around the globe. Menu items range from buckwheat pancakes ($14.50) and “The Junior” (two eggs with bacon and fried potatoes for $9.50) to the Tassie Treat (salmon with bacon and onion, poached eggs and seafood sauce at $17.50), Roseworthy farmhouse (lamb cutlets with sausage, egg and toast for $19.50), French Twist (turkey, brie, red onion on a croissant at $12.50), Bangkok Rice Soup ($12.50) and savoury rice porridge ($12.50).

Altitude Cafe menu

Altitude Cafe menu (see what I mean re the font for ‘Altitude Cafe’ from the 90s?)

Altitude cafe drinks menu

Altitude cafe drinks menu

The drinks menu is a little more traditional, but its lack of specificity frustrates me. Yep, juice, milkshakes, smoothies and iced tea is available – but what kind? Are the juices and iced teas in bottles? (We later determined that iced tea is from a bottle, juice seems somewhat freshly squeezed.)

Orders are taken up at the cafe bar. Both our dishes come with toast ‘of our choice’. Again, what does that mean? Sourdough, or thick fruit toast, or…? It means do we want white bread from a packet, multigrain bread from a packet, or brown bread from a packet? This is hardly a deal breaker, but given the quality of bread at other breakfast venues in Canberra, I get flashbacks of servo breakfasts in Central Queensland. We each choose multigrain.

It’s about a 20 minute wait for our meals, during which Boyfriend’s flat white arrives (I haven’t ordered a drink out of protest for the lack of certainty over what I might be getting). I’m informed he enjoys it.

Flat white in a mug ($4.30)

Flat white in a mug ($4.30)

Our orders are a little strange, and they arrive together. Boyfriend’s got “The Scrambler”: scrambled eggs with onions, mushrooms and tomatoes and shredded chicken and avocado on toast ($17.50).

The Scrambler ($17.50)

The Scrambler ($17.50)

I’ve got the Bieberstein Pot: German wurst and bacon embedded in a pot of baked beans, topped with bacon and served with greens ($17.50).

Bieberstein pot ($17.50)

Bieberstein pot ($17.50)

You’ve probably noticed that even though we were specifically asked what toast we wanted, we’ve been given buttered wholemeal instead.

Other things strike me in quick succession: the bacon is limp and very pink/white; the wurst is huge; there’s one egg, not eggs; the egg is watery; there’s a helluva lot of baked beans and even more sauce and… there’s a surprise of mushrooms (which definitely weren’t mentioned on the menu).

Surprise! There are mushrooms in this dish! Surprise! We don't listen to your bread order!

Surprise! There are mushrooms in this dish! Surprise! We don’t listen to your bread order!

I am utterly bemused. Fortunately, we’re fine with wholemeal bread and mushrooms, but what if you weren’t? What if you were allergic to mushrooms and started eating this dish and, surprise!, not one mushroom, but two!

For the taste, it’s underwhelming. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I realise now that a pot of baked bean sauce is going to leave even crispy bacon soggy (not that this bacon was anywhere near crispy) and completely overtake all other features of the dish. The wurst, looking pretty sad in the dish, is hard to eat and cut because, well, it’s in a pot. The egg is also undercooked, leaving clear gloopy bits on my plate. The best part is the baked beans, and I’m pretty sure they’re from a tin.

I’m really not sure the dish can be improved, either; its components are all wrong. Maybe some homemade baked beans without the runny sauce, another and better cooked egg, proper bread, wurst that’s cut up so it’s easy to eat and no mushrooms.

Boyfriend’s dish is a mix of breakfast and lunch; separately they’re okay, but they shouldn’t be together on a dish. Boyfriend finds the taste of both components to be average. We both find our ‘green leaves’ token and silly.

Yes, we’re the ones who ordered these bizarre dishes and we got what we ordered (well, not quite) – but we were hoping they would be put together in a way that works. They don’t. The menu items appear to be trying to do too much without genuine thought while ignoring the easy things that make a difference, like good bread.

And yes, it’s only day four, but my complaints aren’t about the service or any other early teething issues (except the toast choice): simply, the concept doesn’t seem right, and that doesn’t bode well in the short or long term.

Date: Sunday, 15 December 2013

Where: 79 Emu Bank, Belconnen, ACT

Cost: $39.30 (one coffee, two breakfasts)

Worthwhile factor: Not worthwhile

Want more? Altitude Cafe has no online presence yet – White Pages tells me the number is (02) 6251 2867.

Altitude Cafe on Urbanspoon

11 Responses to “Altitude Cafe”

  1. Gary Lum December 15, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    Yay, another breakfast place close to home 😃
    Thanks for the ping back Tara.

  2. whisperinggums December 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Oh what a shame … I love congee and haven’t really seen it on breakfast menus here. As a wheat intolerant person breakfast can be a challenge though more and more are now serving gluten-free toast, but I do love to see rice on breakfast menus and this one has not one but two! But, my mother is mushroom intolerant so finding mushrooms where they weren’t expected would have made her very cranky. Shame. The menu as you say looks interesting. Good on you for ordering the unusual dishes I say.

    • inthetaratory December 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

      I suspect they may do a better job with the more Asian-inspired dishes!

      • whisperinggums December 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

        Well, if I can drag myself over to Belconnen one day I’ll give it a go!

  3. Prick With a Fork December 16, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    A menu that “takes its inspiration from around the globe” is a big warning sign. Far better to do one thing and do it well.

  4. Liz December 16, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    yeesh…your dish looks totally unappetising. perhaps if it was more like baked eggs it would be better 🙂

  5. Rosemarie May 10, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    I only ordered the bacon and egg sandwich and asked for a lot of chilli so it wasn’t bad. Maybe it was too simple a dish to go wrong. The coffee was quite nice according to Joseph. I shall try something more complicated to see how it goes next time! But will definitely give chatterbox a try!

    • inthetaratory May 10, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      We often say we should give Altitude another go… I’m sure there are some things they do really well, and it’s good to hear you had a good experience!

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