Wednesday, 4 February 2009

L is for Lyneham

I'm fond of Lyneham. When I was a student, my first group house was near the Lyneham shops. None of us had a car, so I did all the shopping on foot. I still visit regularly - it's close to a friend's house, quite handy to stop off to pick up some bread or meat for the BBQ. And I've often been to Tilleys, and more recently, The Front.

We have, for your foodie pleasure, an IGA with a nice range of European deli and bakery items. Their fruit & veg is OK but not brilliant - handy for top ups if you miss the markets. There's a Brumby's bakery, a pizza & takeaway joint, the Lyneham Pide Hut and the Mee Sing Chinese. The Pide Hut is, meh, not so great but OK. They do good zucchini balls. But given the option, I'd always prefer Dickson TurkOz. I've never tried Mee Sing, but I hear it's not bad at all.

Much more notable is the Lyneham Meat Centre, the home of Country Pride sausages (also available in many IGAs). This excellent local butcher sells a good range of award-winning sausages, all low in fat and most gluten-free (I asked). They actually bought the Country Pride recipes from the original owner, who has long since retired. There used to be a rumour going around that it wasn't legal to call these products sausages, because they contained too much meat, not enough fat and filler. My favourite is the hot chilli beef - they have a serious kick to them. Today I bought some of those, and some lamb and rosemary, and spicy Italian pork - all for the freezer, since I'm heading off to the coast tomorrow. They're all good, except I think the lemon chicken one is a bit weird. Most of them are $11 per kg.

Also notable is the Front, a cafe-gallery with not much in the way of food, but quite decent coffee. It's host to all sorts of music, performance art, exhibitions, and other artistic happenings. This is absolutely the hippest cafe in Canberra.

And then there's Tilleys. Oh, Tilleys, how you have fallen! Perhaps my rose-tinted nostalgia glasses are on, but I remember when it was new. It was just a single shop-front, and controversial because of their "no unaccompanied men" policy and their lesbian Friday nights. It was the hippest cafe in Canberra, no question. I heard my first live blues music there - Madam and the Ragtag Jazz Band. I danced the night away to DJs playing Do-Re-Mi and the Eurythmics.

I used to sit there in the afternoon, nursing a coffee with a cheap second hand paperback, while my laundry ran in the laundromat two shops down. And they had a fabulous cheese and fruit plate which fed all three of us housemates lunch for $6. (Yes, yes, but then again, the rent was only $60 a week for the whole house and our weekly food kitty was $20.)

Anyway, Tilleys grew and grew, and absorbed the neighbouring shops and restaurants in a slow but relentless crawl. Much like All Bar Nun, in O'Connor. The Thai restaurant, the sausage shop, the post office - all gone. The laundromat now houses a post office agency, and the sausages can be bought from the butcher, and the excellent little second hand bookshop is still there, so it's not a total loss.

When we came back to Canberra in 2002, Tilley's had grown huge and rather staid. The size of the place made it good for large group brunches, or random evening post-choir meals. There's lots of outdoor seating, and brunch until 3pm. Also, the music acts drew us in, so I've been there quite a few times.

They had some really good music acts, on a regular schedule. Eric Burdon was perhaps the best I went to. It's an excellent cabaret venue, all dark wood and red interiors, with a nice little stage. And all the edges are lined with booths of varying sizes, fitted with comfortable cushions. But a couple of years back, unfortunately for us, they cut back a lot on the music.

In recent experience, the food has been up and down. I've had good, bad and mediocre meals there in the last five years. Today was bad. I stopped in for lunch, and had a macchiato that was mostly just bitter. And a Cajun chicken salad ($17), which was disturbing. The fridge-cold slices of chicken breast seemed a little dry and overcooked, but the mild spice was quite pleasant and the lime-yoghurt dressing rather good. So far, OK. But the salad was highly dodgy. The cherry tomatoes were a little too squishy for me, and the mesclun included not just lettuce that was slightly brown around the edges; not just yellowing baby spinach leaves; but even some that were actually slimy. Oh dear. I ate the chicken and some cucumber and onion, because I was hungry, but I left most of the salad behind.

There is currently an ad on the door for a new cook, so perhaps it will turn around again.

No comments: