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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pigeon Hole Cafe

Barely more than 12 months old, tiny Pigeon Hole in West Hobart has carved a tidy niche for itself. It's café, gourmet edged, with a little retro style thrown in for good measure. With only 16 seats it’s a tiny venue – but it's big on promises and it well delivers. On the corner of Goulburn and Molle Streets, it's just far enough away from home, and close enough to everything, to encourage a move to West Hobart purely to have Pigeon Hole as your local.

After a favourable mention in Gourmet Traveller magazine and a smattering of awards – most recently an "I love FOOD" award for 2009 – Pigeon Hole is no longer a well-kept secret. Word spreads fast in this town, and the hole in the wall space fills fast with locals and travellers alike clambering for great coffee, a spot of lunch or a chat with the very professional and very unpretentious owner/occupiers who put on a constantly stellar performance.

Chef Jay Patey (of restaurant 373 fame) runs an impressive one man show in his tiny kitchen, turning out a daily selection of tasty treats influenced by seasonal and locally available products. Perhaps you may have a white bean, garlic and lemon soup with house-made bread, or you might choose from a selection of the famous paninni, with inspired filings like salami, cornichons and provolone, or fennel, chilli and mozzarella.

Breakfast options are limited, but the house-made baked beans on toast with a generous helping of Parmesan are belly warming. Simple options like Miellerie honey on toast prove a popular choice, and the butter is churned and pressed on premises. There is no fuss here – these guys make the restaurant game look easy. Oh, and the coffee is good too.

It's obvious that the focus here is on quality, not quantity, and the pricing is generously fair. And the presence of the owners of a rival Hobart café enjoying themselves over their Saturday breakfast on a corner table has got to be a good sign. In fact, the only fault I can find is that they aren't open on Sundays, but Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest after all.

Pigeon Hole 93 Goulburn Street West Hobart (03) 62369306 Open Tue-Sat, 8:30am until 4:30pm

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Introducing: BioCup

Over coffee at the Smith Street Store in North Hobart this morning I noticed their use of BioCups, a compostable and biodegradable take-away cup. Upon consulting the handy flyer available on the counter I have discovered that these BioCups "provide and environmental, healthy and earth conscious alternative to traditional plastic and foam packaging". Well that's all well and good, but I want to know more about these environmentally friendly cups.

This particular brand of cup is supplied in Australia by a company called BioPak. It's not just cups either - you can order a whole range of environmentally products, from biodegradable cling wrap to water soluble laundry bags. But while BioPak "provides Australian companies environmentally friendly solutions by supplying ecologically compatibility raw materials that do not negatively affect a products economic, social or practical usefulness", I'd be interested to take away some of the spin and find out where these cups are made. And by whom.

BioPak products (like many other biodegradable restaurant products) are made from palm oil residue. Now, I hear the words palm oil, and I think of decimated forests and burnt monkeys - palm oil is a huge problem for the environment, mainly due to the large volume of waste generated by its production and the amount of perfectly good trees felled to plant palm oil crops. Essentially, BioPak products are made from something called agricultural fibrous biomass, or to put it simply: cotton residue, rice straw, and palm oil production residue. Because the materials used are a by-product of existing production they make good use of a biomass that would otherwise sit around and damage the environment.

Biodegradable packaging is slowly replacing many oil-based products currently on the market, especially in relation to food packaging. It makes sense - why would you buy organic vegetables wrapped in chemicals? Supermarket mega-chain Coles are in on the action, currently using biodegradable trays to package their organic fresh produce.

I'm trying to find a loop hole with this product, and like most of everything that is designed to be used only once, there probably is. But at the end of the day, if we simply must have single use products then environmentally friendly ones are the way to go. Just don't wrap them in a plastic bag before you toss them in the bin.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sick pay

Okay, I know I said I was taking a break from this blogging caper to do some home work, but I'm sick. Far too sick to work or study, but nowhere near sick enough to prevent me from outpouring my near hallucinogenic ravings onto the world wide web.

In truth, I would rather be at work than at home alone - feeling the immense guilt I do by having a sick day. Even though I am allowed to be at home, my office will not fall down around me if I am gone, and I am better off here than slumped over my desk I still feel bad about taking the day off. Hell, I am even getting PAID to be at home curled up in a ball with a box of kleenex and some Vegiemite toast.

It's a hospitality thing. Ask any bartender, porter, waitress or whatever how they feel about taking a sick day. "Huh," will be about as far as it gets. In the hospitality industry, sick days are reserved for the most heinous of hangovers. No-one takes a sick they when they are actually sick!

And hospitality staff are sick a lot. The huge number of illnesses aflicting hospitality staff is a no-brainer - it's all the sex. That's right, sex. It's hard not to catch the flu/virus/gastro bug going about when everyone is shagging bloody everybody. I didn't wait tables for 10 years because I love to carry plates (if you know what I mean). Your local cafe is a sesspool of germs because every-one has shagged every-one and we all drink far too much, smoke like chimneys and take lots and lots of drugs. It's a great lifestyle (I'm very serious.)

We are loathe to take a sick day because of money. Most of us shit-kicking, low-level, minimum wage groupies do not get any semblance of sick pay. And you can forget about annual leave. Hands up if you have even been served by a waiter who is obviously green around the gills. That would be about all of us. Most of us live so close to the poverty line just one sick day could mean the difference between paying rent or getting evicted. It's a horrible generalisation, but in my experience it's mostly true.

I recall working 14 days straight while being a stones through from pneumonia once, all because I never took a break. You just don't. Sick days mean your manage hates you. Your colleagues definitely hate you - they're the ones who have to pick up all your slack. It's just too difficult to negotiate a sick day. Better to show up at work, pass out, and be put in a taxi home - because that's the only way you'll get the day off.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Life is a bit crazy at the moment. On October 1 I will hand in what is potentially the last piece of academic writing I will ever write - and I have 6 weeks to polish it off. So, I have been a bit busy of late.

Lately I haven't eaten anything, or gone anywhere remotely interesting. But summer is coming, and I will get back on the food blogging wagon just as soon as I finish school. So I leave you for a few weeks with this lovely picture, taken outside Pigeon Hole Cafe in West Hobart, of which there will be a review of when the latest Apple magazine hits the streets of Hobart (by yours truly of course).

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Disclaimer: I have shamelessly stolen the image on the left from the internet. I apologise for my unethical web theft.

I feel like I've never met a waiter who didn't smoke, or they at least wished they did. When the last of civilised society have finally come to their senses and given up smoking, hospitality staff will be dragged kicking and screaming into the fresh air.

When you work in the service industry, being a smoker means one thing - more breaks - and in the service industry, breaks are pretty hard to come by. Sure it's expensive, it stinks, it gives you all kinds of cancer, but we almost all did it at one time or another.

Although I rarely smoke now, over the last 10 years I've waited a lot of tables, and smoked a lot of cigarettes. A cigarette break, or a "fiver" as they are affectionately known, is sometimes the only five minutes in an eight hour day to be alone. And if not alone, in the company of another smoking waiter for a bitch session about your section.

Hospitality staff can usually be broken up into two groups - smokers and non-smokers. While a part of me always envied those puritans who had never smoked a cigarette in their lives with their snow white skin and twinkling eyes, deep down I know they never had quite as much fun as us smokers. Now, while I am not trying to rationalise or advocate smoking, darn it, we were cooler, we were naughtier, we stayed out later and we partied harder. Sure, the groups sometimes mingled, we played nice, but deep down, we were never truly on the same page.

There would always be someone trying to quit, but it would never last. I think we all knew that none of us would successfully quit smoking until we had left the hospitality industry, myself included. You know you're addicted when it's practically snowing and you are still going outside to smoke. Winter was usually the time when most of us tried to quit. In summer no one tried to quit.

Half the problem was tips. It was easy to afford to smoke when you had pocket full of cash at the end of every shift. The other half of the problem was alcohol consumption. In almost every venue I have ever worked there was no such thing as going straight home after work without at least one drink. It was partially about the company, partially about taking the edge of a hard lifestyle, and mostly about having a laugh.

Man, I used to drag myself to my waitressing jobs hungover at least two days a week (and I was one of the well behaved ones) swearing I'd never smoke or drink again. It'd never last more than 24 hours. These days it does though, I actually behave like a grown up 90 per cent of the time, something I never though would happen. But still, on sunny Sunday afternoons in a beer garden I still smoke like a waitress. Okay, and sometimes on Friday nights too.