Monday, September 04, 2006

Focus On: Paddington

One of the problems with living in the city of your birth is that you get lazy with it. You fall into habits of always going to the same places, doing the same things, seeing the same sights. It’s remarkable how little we really do see of our own city. Occasionally, because of one thing or another, you may find yourself in an unfamiliar part of town. The city feels new and fresh again; you almost feel like your on holiday in a different city. You see shops and cafes that you’d love to visit again but you never seem to get around to it.

Well, the ladies in my family finally got sick of this state of affairs. We’re now on a campaign, spearheaded by my mother, to visit and experience all those corners of Brisbane that we never get around to doing. Once a month, every month, we will all get together and experience a place. Browse around, soak in the atmosphere, investigate the shops, delight in the cafes.

Last Saturday was the first of these monthly sojourns and, using the time-honoured tradition of pulling a name out of a hat (or in our case, a dusty glass vase that happened to be handy), we decided on Paddington.

So, where is Paddington? Not the stupid question that some will take it to be. I’m a Western Suburbs girl through and through so places like Indooroopilly, Toowong and, yes, Paddington are no mystery to me (although I’ve never been to Paddington before Saturday). But give me a suburb on the Northside like, oh I don’t know, Wooloowin and I couldn’t find it with a GPS system and tourguide in tow.

So for those readers not familiar with the area, Paddington is an inner-city suburb on the western side of the city, nestled behind Milton and next to Red Hill.

Why visit Paddington? Well, why not? But Paddington is well-known as a trendy area with a myriad of cafes and boutiques. It’s also famed as being one the location of a small number of infamous stores that charge people for browsing the store (one store I heard of charges you $5 if you’re just “having a look”. This may or may not come off any items you may buy).

When you arrive in Paddington you’ll find that parking is a laughable dream that stopped being a reality about a decade ago (at least on Saturdays). The streets are narrow and hilly (note for manual drivers, this is a painful place and brake-starts will have to be your friend) and parking will never be improved because, from what I’ve heard, the locals are resistant to anything that will destroy their little part of suburban paradise. This is an example of the kind of elitism that my sister finds so offensive about Paddington. She has a point but elitism is only uncool if you’re not in the elite.

The area has an interesting and diverse mix of stores that range from modest thrift stores to the self-consciously trendy stores of the glamazon variety. No chain stores here so look elsewhere for Just Jeans.

Some stores of note that I visited and would recommend are Endos, a thrift store that has a gorgeous range of dirt-cheap jewellery (and take a look at the fabulous Mardi Gras costume they have on display); Adornments a store that specialises in second-hand/antique homewares, accessories and ladies clothing and Hula Homewares which will be getting a return visit from me to get their jasmine-scented coconut oil handcream (imported from Tonga – DIVINE).

There were many stores I didn’t go into though. Some (like the creepy faerie store that looked like a cave of doom festooned in saccharinely pink glitter wear) I had no interest in. Others I didn’t feel comfortable entering for fear of having a re-enactment from the Pretty Woman shopping scene. That’s the trouble with trendy places: they’re discerning (or snobby, depends on your perspective). Although, having said that, the place does seem to attract a large number of hippies. I could almost have thought I was in Nimbin, if not for the lack of ganga haze and the Age of Aquarius sign.

TANGENT: Why do all hippies look alike? Why does being a free spirit necessarily equate to tiedye and a bath a year? In this case, hippies are no better (or worse) than emo kids – protesting mainstream conformist culture by strictly adhering to the norms of their sub-culture of choice. Don’t kid yourself, hippies. You’re just as much sheep as the rest of us only you smell more.

Ok, getting back on track. After all the retail therapy, lunch was in order so, on the recommendation of the lady from Adornments we decided to eat at Paddington Café and Flowers on Latrobe Tce. Let me preface this by saying that I am an accommodating customer. I used to waitress in the bad old days so I can sympathise with being overworked, underpaid and not nearly qualified enough to deal with the mentally instable who seem to comprise 90% of your customers.

I do NOT recommend eating at Paddington Café and Flowers. Let me elaborate. The place is a converted Queenslander with a flower shop in the front and the café tucked at the back. It has a lovely verandah with a fantastic view at the back but it’s a tight fit and, if you have a pram and baby in tow (as our party did) you’ll have to sit inside. The inside of the café is quite warm with a tendency towards stuffiness and, when we visited, they didn’t have any fans running (the problem was not the temperature per se as a lack of airflow). Flies were also a problem.

Their entrees were delicious. Their parmesan and pesto ciabatta was gorgeous, as was their garlic bread. Their Mediterranean lasagne was fantastic and I would highly recommend it. Their garlic chicken with potato is bland. Fry up some chicken, boil some potato and slap on a plate and you’ll pretty much have it. They have sauce but barely a trace of garlic is detectable (this may suit some, though, so I’ll keep an open mind about it’s tastiness to the rest of the population).

In fact, the issue with Café Flowers is not their food. It’s their service, which is lacking. We were a party of three plus one small child. We had to do a little rearranging to accommodate the pram which was undoubtedly an inconvenience but it wasn’t insurmountable. It wasn’t until about halfway through our lunch that we noticed that they had a highchair. It would have been highly appreciated if our waitress had mentioned this as it would have saved the 10-minute rearranging to organise the pram (which could have been folded away if we knew about the highchair).

The main meals came out relatively promptly but they were not cleared away. In fact, 10-15 minutes after we had quite obviously finished, we had to literally grab a waitress to order dessert and, 5 minutes after that, she decided to clear them away when she brought over some drinks. 20 minutes after ordering dessert, it still hadn’t arrived. We ordered slices of cake so all they had to do was cut slices from the cakes in the cabinet and bring them out. Why that would take up to 20 minutes, I don’t know (we were sitting right by the counter so they couldn’t have forgotten us since they had to pass us to get to the kitchen). After 20 minutes, we got sick of waiting and decided to leave. Our waitress was consciously polite in that unpleasant “I’m only being polite because I have to, you’re causing me so much trouble and I’m going to spit in your food” kind of way. One thing I will say, though: the Café had made an effort to be child-friendly by providing toys (a really good initiative). It’s a shame their attitude was so poor. And that’s what it really was: lazy service with a poor attitude that made the difference between a great experience and a really ordinary one and changed me into the bitching customer writing this review.

Despite all this, the day was great and Paddington is a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Just don’t eat at Café Flowers ;)


Blogger T. S. Tennant said...

Mmm, Paddington is worthwhile for the old records/books and knick-knax (spelling?), and the string of tiny guitar shops - although they do tend to feel a bit boutique-y. And I always feel like I'm under-dressed when I shop at Woolworths Paddington. Nice place.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Five bucks to browse, nowhere I have been into. And strangely like t.s I shop at Woolies in whatever is on at the time. Tossers care about what the people who dress up to go shopping think!

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a paddo resident and luv it here. I havent really noticed the hippies or the elitists. Two months ago my waters broke at woolies and no one noticed.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Brisbane Shopfitters said...

A shop fitting firm typically incorporates professional expertise in interior design, manufacturing of bespoke furniture, signage and fittings (with own or outsourced facilities) and purchasing of retail equipment.

6:33 PM  

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