Jaffle Degustation at 54 Benjamin

12 Feb

In the last few years, the Belconnen Town Centre has grown and changed in more ways than many of us could have imagined. One of the best parts about that has been the number of new businesses that have opened. 54 Benjamin is one of these: a hole in the wall cocktail bar at the bottom of the Churches Centre which just recently celebrated its first birthday. Its wide-ranging menu, convenient location and late-night jaffle menu makes it a favourite among residents and workers alike – and I’m proud to call it my local!

I have to say it wasn’t until Two Before Ten started showing up with their van and breakfast jaffle menu at the Aranda Shops – as it was developed to make way for the new cafe and the Bolt Bar that I was reminded of just how good the humble jaffle is. It’s the warm sandwich that doesn’t fall apart, with no end of delicious fillings. The only risk is a burnt tongue depending on your fillings – tomato, I’m looking at you – but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

54B – as it’s known – has brought jaffles back in a big way, with butter chicken jaffles and alphabetti-cheese jaffles proving a hit: so much so that 54B decide to shake things up a bit by kickstarting their Thursday night ‘event’ series with a jaffle degustation.

You read that right. For $45 we’re treated to five jaffle courses with drinks from the bar. A jaffle is usually a whole sandwich (with the beauty of the jafflemaker almost splitting it), but 54B asks for couples to book so the jaffle is shared / we don’t all suffer a carb overdose from eating five sandwiches in 90 minutes.

I arrive just before the start time of 6.30pm and the bar is lined with the beginnings of a set of aperol spritzers to start us off. We’ve just had the storm pass through and the bright evening light is back. My and my friend’s place at the bar is secured with a post-it note and the usual Bhuja mix is available for pre-degustation nibbles.

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Our host Hannah promises us a bit of a flavour experience and she’s keen to know the memories the humble jaffle brings. For me – following an ‘incident’ earlier in the week where I tried to eat a poorly-made Big Mac one-handed in my car while driving – I’m just happy to be reacquainted with the jaffle’s structural integrity.

Our first course is a pesto, cherry tomato and mozzarella jaffle, a smatter of olives and 54B’s spritz. It’s packed with cheese and I’ve got a half-metre of cheese string between my mouth and jaffle-in-hand on more than one occasion. The pesto isn’t overpowering and the tomato – while risky for the tongue-burn – is sweet and tangy. I’m propelled from a feeling of curiosity to one of confidence in the rest of the night.

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Structurally sound jaffle

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Our next course is a Reuben jaffle. Reubens are so brilliant but in my experience can go so badly if the flavour balance is off. This one’s just right, with two layers of pastrami, a thick amount of swiss cheese, thousand island dressing and buttery sauerkraut. It’s served with one of 54B’s Boilermakers – a house beer and (in this case) a spirit half-nip. This is a whisky served with the classic Pabst (which I think is cheap and excellent). I’m actually not a great fan of swiss cheese but the flavour combinations in this pairing hit the mark.

Boilermaker No. 3

Boilermaker No. 3

Sneaky pastrami sticking out of the Reub

Sneaky pastrami sticking out of the Reub

Course 3 is what I think is 54B’s most popular jaffle: the butter chicken. Reminiscent of what was served at Two Before Ten, it’s a delicious butter chicken mix with a generous helping of a tart raita on the side.

This is my friend’s favourite and it’s pretty fun to mop up the raita with the crusty, non-filling-filled edges of the jaffle. For the other courses, there’s a big (big!) bowl of olive oil on the table to dip the crusty bread into. This is a winner for me: my own jaffle-eating strategy is to pull off the two corner edges to let the heat escape (especially from tomato-based jaffles) and it solves my issue of what to do with these otherwise just toasted-bread bits.

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It’s served with a Poor Tom’s gin and a Mediterranean tonic water which cuts through the silky butter chicken mix.

Our fourth course is dessert! And my skepticism has returned. This is a nectarine, walnut and maple jaffle – basically a hot fruit sandwich. The nectarine’s been met with some brown sugar and it’s broken it down into a consistency that’s like melted cheese. But it’s sweet and it’s easy to mop the house-made whipped cream without the big fruit pieces falling out. For someone who hates stone fruit as a rule (I know, I know), I think this is a great dish. The pairing is the converse of the previous dish: there’s a spikiness to the fruit flavours in the jaffle that’s met with the cream and a honey-like English Harbour Rum. Yum!

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By this stage we’re each two full sandwiches down. While we’ve been asked to book at least as a ‘pair’, all our dishes come out individually on cute small plates (meaning there’s no awkward pulling apart the jaffle/damaging its structural integrity or having to share delicious whipped cream…). The final course is a simple, childhood favourite met with The Paddington cocktail resulting in a course which transports us from stuffing our faces as kids with fairy bread to wandering the streets of Sydney with blossom perfume crushing the open space.

The Paddington

Fairy bread!

Fairy bread!

Logically, fairy bread has zero appeal, but on emotional and taste levels it hits every mark (and, importantly, our serve has been cut into four triangles, as it should be).

It’s easy to use nostalgia to evaluate the evening – and maybe on some level there’s a ‘How can a jaffle go wrong?‘ – but quite simply everything’s delicious. The jaffle fillings are packed, the dipping sauces or ‘sides’ are generous, and it’s filling. The drinks range from the easy to distribute (Pabst beer) to the time-consuming, pretty Aperol spritzer.

On a weekday evening it’s a fun concept. The whole point of 54 Benjamin is that you’ll feel welcome whether you’re with friends or just wanting to hang out/have some down time. The bartenders are trained in being able to have a good conversation with people who enter the door if that’s what you’re after and it seems you only have to turn up once for someone on staff to remember your name. For this ‘event’ series, Thursdays feel like just the right night: the drinks are half-serves and time passes quickly in two and a half hours. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

(And in the meantime, three jaffles remain on the menu every day it’s open, including the Reuben, the Butter Chicken and my favourite – the S’getti!)

Date: 11 February 2016

Cost: $45 per person for the degustation including jaffles and drinks; not including pre-drinks

Where: 54 Benjamin, on … 54 Benjamin Way, Belconnen Town Centre

Value for money: High

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

Want more? Follow the Facebook page for the most up-to-date information on events!

 

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4 Responses to “Jaffle Degustation at 54 Benjamin”

  1. Erin February 12, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

    You ate a Big Mac?

    • inthetaratory February 12, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

      I love Big Macs.

      • Erin February 12, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

        I honestly can’t remember the last time I had one. I’m a quarter pounder girl myself – but that’s been a while too.

  2. Mary M February 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

    This place sounds great!

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