A. Baker Redux

20 Mar

The last time I went to A. Baker, I was disappointed. It was a few days after they opened, and while I’m willing to forgive teething issues, it’s hard to feel confident about a venue that misses the basics. I didn’t think I’d be back for a long time.

It’s now more than six months later. I went back.

In the end, it seems that only a very hungry Boyfriend + a full Mocan & Green Grout + slow service and what seems to be an uninspiring menu at the new Twenty-One is enough to have me suggest – yes, suggest – that we go to A. Baker.

We’re greeted warmly (good start) and we’re offered inside or outside, including deck chairs in front of one of the Art, Not Apart stages. We agree, but there’s little shade for deck chairs that aren’t for groups, so we head back to our friendly waiter. We can’t find him. Another waiter serves us and we take a seat in the shade on the Nishi side of cafe.

Boyfriend’s terrified we’re not going to get served at all, away from so much of the action (remember, he’s really hungry). Given, just like last time, we’ve been seated without menus, I feel like he might be onto something.

But, the menus come. There’s a decent wait before our waiter comes back, but it gives me time to google what type of food ‘frisee’, ‘ras el hanout’ and ‘pistou’ are and make an informed decision about what I’m eating. Our orders are taken.

And we wait. It’s not excessively long, but long enough to notice. It gives me time to consider just how big A. Baker really is – there’s a lot of room for a lot of people, and so, a lot of orders.

Confit of duck ($19)

Confit of duck ($19)

Pie of the day (salmon)

Pie of the day (salmon) (I think about $15)

Eventually, our food arrives. But, we’re still without drinks. We gently remind them, and they seem genuinely surprised, but no apology is offered.

Helm dry riesling ($12)

Helm dry riesling ($12)

My drink (wine) arrives. It’s another five minutes before Boyfriend’s flat white turns up, but they apologise, saying they’re making it right now. So, they forgot?

Well, let’s talk about the food. The pie’s fine – it’s nothing special, but it’s tasty and filling.



There’s a lot of salad on both of our plates. The egg’s cooked beautifully. The duck’s a little dry, but the flavours are a great match. It’s a small dish, so I’ve ordered a side of crushed avocado to bring it all together (and fill me up). It doesn’t come.

Flat white (I think about $4)

Flat white (I think about $4)

Boyfriend’s flat white arrives while we’re halfway through our meals. I ask about my side… it comes just as I take my final bites of my main.

The moment the crushed avo arrives

The moment the crushed avo arrives

It’s a generous serving but, really, it’s hardly any fun to spoon forkfuls of avo into my mouth after I’m done with the main. My avo’s more a dessert than a side.

A. Baker is a great concept; I really like what they’re trying to do, and I’m trying really hard to like my experiences there. I can solve my issues with the small serving sizes – if my side arrives at the same time. I do wonder if it’s too big – too much going on; a lot to keep track of, and the systems don’t seem to support the size. What still gets to me the most, though, is the service. Service is never intentionally poor, but the effort misses the mark – could it be because too much is going on? I’m not asking for perfection, nor professional service; mistakes surely increase when things are busy. But everything can be forgiven with humble, genuine service and quick response.

A. Baker could learn a lot from Malaysian Chapter.

Date: Saturday, 15 March 2014

Where: 15 Edinburgh Avenue, New Acton

Cost: $53 for two, including a side of avocado, flat white, glass of wine, pie of the day and duck confit

Worthwhile factor: Elements are worthwhile. I’ll go back with moderated expectations.

Want more? A. Baker’s website is a great place to start (and includes their menu).

A. Baker on Urbanspoon


9 Responses to “A. Baker Redux”

  1. Karin March 20, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    A Baker really do need to lift their game. When the service is good it is a great experience. I’ve been about a dozen times and had a 50% success rate. Most recent failure was Monday just gone. Cheese plate and salad served without any serving cutlery or plates for us to eat off. The place was empty and the staff just hanging around. No excuse except for a zero care factor. A couple of the staff a great – but the unprofessional staff who just make you feel like an intrusion for being a customer – they are going to ruin the place. I won’t be back for a while.

    • inthetaratory March 24, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

      That’s what gets me – I can easily forgive when there’s a meaningful apology or the host shows a genuine interest. It’s much harder when the lack of care is obvious – and especially so if you’re a semi-regular customer, like you.

  2. whisperinggums March 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

    I haven’t been there yet … no-one has written anything much to really enthuse me. Some say the food is good but why, after all this time, are there still issues about service? It’s a real shame as the area is special.

    • inthetaratory March 24, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

      I really don’t get it, either – particularly when comments across blogs and especially rating sites like Urbanspoon are emphatic. Few people genuinely like complaining, and bloggers – especially, I’ve found – prefer to write positive reviews. I love promoting my city and writing about great experiences, and while I won’t shy away from writing about poor ones, I certainly don’t want to. I’ve a lot of respect for establishments which take reviews – esp from ordinary patrons (not even bloggers! – very seriously.

  3. Gary Lum March 21, 2014 at 6:40 am #

    I like the food but I’d prefer it if Flint came back. I loved their degustation menu.

    • inthetaratory March 24, 2014 at 11:46 pm #

      Have you been to their winery, Gaz?

      • Gary Lum March 25, 2014 at 5:07 am #

        Yes. It’s not quite the same.

  4. Robert August 14, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    I think that your comment about people not wanting to write bad reviews is not entirely accurate.

    Urban spoon has become another social media outlet where people feel free to say what ever they like and remain mostly anonymous. The majority of people who like a restaurant will just press the “I like” button and leave no feedback. In modern society everyone likes to voice a negative opinion or problem they had behind the safety of a laptop or smart phone. People are becoming more afraid of confrontation so will say everything was nice while at an establishment then go home and bitch about online.

    I’m not saying that some places don’t deserve bad reviews and I can honestly say (being an owner of hospitality businesses) that sometimes service can be disgusting in the ACT.

    The problem lies in the fact that people will read bad reviews and already make up their mind on the venue before going and experiencing it. So the smallest of issues occurs during their visit and they write the business off too. Then is straight to urban spoon to complain in a public forum.

    It’s hard for us as business owners in the service industry now due to all the channels on line in which to critique our venues, people who work in offices and other business don’t have this problem. If they make a mistake or have a bad day at work there is no website for people to make a scene about it. I’m not saying that I do t like urban spoon, I think it’s a great way to find cool venues when traveling to another city etc but just ask that people perhaps think about the negative effect of the comments on a business and the people who work so try and bring you a cool and new place to dine in.

    • whisperinggums August 17, 2014 at 1:27 am #

      You reckon Robert? I see on these sites a real mix of positive and negative reviews. I always write reviews – more in Trip Advisor than UrbanSpoon, mainly out of habit – and my reviews are more positive than negative. In fact in TA parlance all my reviews have been from 3 to 5 out of 5. I would think myself pretty hopeless at identifying places if I scored any less than that – my antennae would really have been dysfunctional if I ended at a place I felt deserved a 1 or a 2. Of course, I could have an out-of-the-blue really bad experience but generally a place that has the odd negative will usually have positives as well …

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