Dining out in Australia is sometimes quite different to dining out in Canada. For instance, in Australia, servers are more likely to leave you be throughout the entire meal unless specifically hailed. Canadian servers are the opposite; you’re constantly being asked, “How is your meal?” “Can I get you anything?” “Would you like more coffee?” etc. I’m not sure which I prefer more. On the one hand, I do enjoy having a full uninterrupted conversation with my dining partner while out, but I also like the laziness of having a server at my beck and call with minimal effort. Who wants to be constantly craning their neck looking for someone to request more water?
Either way, some table service is better than none at all. I’m not a fan of restaurants who claim to have table service but then make you grab your own menus, seat yourselves, and order at the counter. This is the way in which my experience at Braddon’s Chez Frederic began.
The café intrigued me for months. Was it a French bistro or a quaint coffee shop? Were they a coveted hipster brunch spot or a tiny, elegant bar? I decided to put these questions to rest one evening before hitting up a movie at Dendy.
Chez Frederic’s décor is a fusion of contemporary French bistro and your high school cafeteria. A mishmash of tables of varying heights and dimensions sprawls across the outside area of the venue. Although the marble and wood grained structures are nice, they lack a certain aestheticism gained by using the same tables and chairs throughout. As I walked into the restaurant, I felt as if I had stepped inside a trendy school cafeteria. In one room I was to order my meal and then seat myself in the side room which was filled with long marble tables, stools, and a marble bar against the front window.
I was greeted warmly as I entered, and I was led to one end of the share tables where a small sign marked my reservation. That was where Chez Frederic’s service ended. I wasn’t given a menu or asked if I’d like water. I wasn’t told the specials, only that there was a board displaying them around the corner hidden from view. When I made the booking, I had asked if they had table service and was answered in the affirmative. Clearly, this was not the case.
I walked over to the counter and requested a menu, stopping to check out the specials board on the way back to my table. According to my referrals, one thing Chez Frederic was meant to do well was pasta. They are said to make fresh pasta in house and serve it with rich, tasty sauces. Thus I felt it was my duty to try their homemade pasta. I placed my order at the counter and wandered back to my seat, a glass of wine in my hand.
As other patrons trickled in for their own supper, I wasn’t surprised at how many of them seemed confused regarding the venue’s set up. A couple sat down at one of the marble tables and was promptly told that table was reserved and had to move. A family meandered in and had to seek out their booked table alone. When a group of three took their reservation at our share table and glanced around for menu service, I handed my menu over to them. They then handed it to the couple across from them.
Luckily, I didn’t have to go collect my food. It was brought to me by a very cheerful server. I had ordered one of the special pastas, the Thyme and Honey Chicken Meatballs with Pappardelle ($23). Before I get into taste, I need to address the presentation of this dish. Although I was quite hungry at the time, it did not look appetizing. The sauce was creamy grey and there was a massive amount of pasta and two giant meatballs on the plate. But the thing I was least impressed with was the fact they serve meals on paper plates. For a place claiming they have table service and giving off airs of restaurant quality, this was unacceptable. I eventually tore through my plate because the sauce had seeped through and made it soggy.
The flavour of the dish didn’t fare much better. Although the pasta was good – fresh, handmade, buttery, al dente – the creamy sauce was far from rich and tasty. It had barely a hint of honey and was way under seasoned. The meatballs were okay, but nothing to write home about; they were slightly overcooked and thus dry.
I no longer wonder about Chez Frederic. In fact, after my experience there I barely give them any thought at all. For what little interaction I had with them, the servers were polite and kind, but that seems secondary to slicing through my plate. Thankfully, the movie I saw after my meal made the evening seem worth it.