Until recently, the words “hipster” and “indie” seemed pretty synonymous to me.
Both words conjure up hairstyles that are shaved on one side, and long and swept over on the other. Music that no-one else has heard of. Ray bans, top buttons of flannel shirts done-up, boys wearing skinny jeans, girls wearing bright red lipstick. Boat shoes and Doc Martens.
My knowledge of hipster sub-culture generally is limited since all of my friends fall in the categories of “nerds”, “geeks” and “Christians”. But I do have more experience with hipster dining.
Hipster dining is generally typified by the following:
1. Unusual vessels used for regular beverages – eg. liquor bottles for water and jam jars for coffee.
2. Fit-outs consisting of mismatched recycled furniture and white-washed timber.
3. Recycled Kraft paper menus – sometimes on clipboards.
4. Chopping boards as plates
5. Antique and op-shop knick knacks as decor – the most common being the singer sewing machine.
This type of cafe/restaurant is so prevalent these days. Definitely hipster, but the indie-ness of these eateries is quickly getting diluted by every “cute cafe” that opens up.
My recent visit to the new Merivale venture Palings Kitchen & Bar last week confirmed this. Hipster dining is OFFICIALLY MAINSTREAM.
What started off as a cool, quirky and unique cafe concept became way too popular for its own good, attracting the attention of megabrands and empires like Merivale. In the same way that you know macarons aren’t special anymore once McCafe starts selling them, that Marco Pierre White isn’t as legit gangsta as you thought he was when he starts endorsing supermarket stock pots, you know hipster cafes are no longer indie when Merivale opens one.
But is this necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so.
They’ve completely wiped out the Ivy Bar (sleazy meat market), Mad Cow (average, overpriced steaks) and Sailor’s Thai (average, overpriced Thai food for white folks) for this entirely new restaurant/cafe/bar/dining hall/beer garden/up-market food court/patisserie named Palings (rhymes with “darlings”).
The space is massive and quite beautiful with a large area in the middle that opens up to natural sunlight and an undercover area lit with the funkiest chandeliers I’ve seen. It looks like a mix of organic grocery store /
/ nautical seafood shack /
/ tropical beachside bar.
It doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, but I actually like that – looks great and has a lot of character. And it creates a very non-CBD illusion – which is a welcome change from the generic cafes and expensive “business lunch” restaurants that you usually find in the north-end of the city. It actually isn’t easy at all to suggest a nice lunch-date spot within 10 minutes of my office that doesn’t break the budget and isn’t a food court. So well done Merivale for identifying that gap and creatively filling it with a place as interesting as Palings!
We rocked up at the peak of lunch time without a booking, which wasn’t a problem at all. The place is huge and I don’t think that many people know about it yet. Our table came supplied with a pail of cutlery and a range of condiments.
The menu ranges from $10-$15 (sandwiches, salads and snacks) to around $25-$40 for mains from the grill and the “Daily Roast”. There’s also a separate Thai food corner “Sunee’s Thai Canteen” with prices a lot less ridiculous than Sailor’s Thai, but still around +$5 compared to standard Thai.
Unsurprisingly… I went for one of the cheapest things on the menu (this is the girl who eats a $3.30 sandwich for lunch on most working days – I’m not used to spending more than loose change for a weekday lunch!)
The Deli: salami piccante, capocollo, salami finochietto, serrano jamon, radicchio, olive and provolone ($12)
Yup, that’s FOUR types of salty salty cured meat. With the olive and cheese, it tasted like all of the contents of a charcuterie platter in one sandwich. Tasty, but a bit full-on.
Schnitty: pork fillet schnitzel, mayo and worcestershire ($12)
Food envy! My friend ordered the Schnitty – four crustless soldiers of pork schnitzel sandwich with saucy slaw. Full disclosure: I actually ended up eating half this sandwich (on top of my own….) and wow, there is something magical about carb on carb action that I can’t explain. It’s why potato chip sandwiches are a revelation, why tempura prawn is my favourite sushi roll and why crispy deep-fried pork schnitty on soft white bread is one of the best sandwich combos I’ve ever tasted.
There are so many things on the menu I want to try – the desserts from Lorraine’s Patisserie look especially good! And currently, with March into Merivale, they’re running a particularly great value deal that offers a choice of salads, a main (including the roast of the day) with a glass of wine or beer! It runs until the 28th of March and I’ll definitely be back for it, so watch this space of a follow-up review!