Late one Saturday morning, my boyfriend and I set out for afternoon brunch. I had been craving Penny University’s French toast croissant for nearly a fortnight, so we headed for Kingston. Although Penny is normally busy on the weekend, we can usually sneak a table pretty quick. Not this afternoon though. Standing outside their door was a queue of a dozen hungry Canberrans all itching for a bite. Quite hungry ourselves and unlikely to get a table within the hour, we sought out an alternative lunch spot down the block.
As we meandered by Me & Mrs Jones’ covered outdoor area, we noticed that they had a few tables open inside. I’d heard the place was good from a couple friends but hadn’t had the chance to try their fare, so we quickly nicked one of the tables. From the outside, the restaurant doesn’t seem half as spacious as it is inside. The building is quite high-ceilinged, well ventilated, and features gorgeously treated brick. From our table, we were able to peer into the kitchen area, which appeared to be as spacious as the dining area. The restaurant exudes a rustic vibe, like you would experience in a dimly lit, English pub in the early 1900s. The only flaw I could find in the building plan was the level of noise. Dozens of voices and the loud music were accentuated to preposterous levels due to the high ceiling and concrete floor. The commotion made it difficult to hear our waitress when she flitted over.
Our server was pleasant, but she also appeared to be in a tizzy. As we ordered, she interrupted us multiple times, spoke very quickly, and sped off in a fluster. Additionally, she was very unaccommodating to my food allergies, stating that they would “try their best [but] … could make no promises” that dangerous food wouldn’t touch my plate. I was less than impressed. As I hadn’t ordered anything that I was allergic to and was just giving a contamination warning, I expected them to adhere willingly. Her response was a bit of a cop out, I found.
Shortly after the server put in our order, we received our coffees. I, of course, accepted my cappuccino gratefully, while my boyfriend tucked into his flat white. I’m not sure which coffee Me & Mrs Jones brews, but it isn’t good. Perhaps the barista was having an off day, but the coffees were exceptionally weak. All I could taste was warmed milk with a dash of cocoa powder. The espresso was anywhere but in my coffee cup. I give their coffee a 3/10.
After the coffee and tiff over the allergy warning, I prepared myself for the worst when our food arrived. When my Brioche French Toast ($15) was placed in front of me, I grew less wary; it certainly looked good. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have judged the cooks based on their servers and baristas. The dish was very good – certainly not the best French toast I’ve had (that honour belongs to Twisted Fork in Vancouver, BC), but also not the worst. The toast was crispy around the edges and gooey in the centre, exactly the way I like it, and the caramelized maple bacon was almost candied. An obvious plus. The cinnamon mascarpone was a bit dissatisfying. I expected a powerful explosion of creamy cinnamon goodness when I tasted it, and all I got was a minor blip of spice.
My boyfriend’s Spanish Eggs ($18) were quite nice. He claimed they had a spicy kick and a good amalgamation of flavours. However, he said the sauce would have been better suited combined in the scrambled eggs than puddled on the plate. We also ordered a bowl of their hot chips, which were nice yet very standard. However, you do get a lot of chips with one order, so make sure you have a hearty appetite before ordering them alongside a full meal.
As we left, very full and satisfied with our meal choices, I wondered if I would return. Although I had little to complain about in regard to the food, I also remembered the weak cappuccino and the unaccommodating manner of our waitress. I do worry about returning to a restaurant that cannot assure me with complete conviction that I won’t have an allergic reaction on their premises after forewarning them.
Despite their tendency to be eternally busy, I think I’ll stick with Penny.