I woke up all nostalgic today. Perhaps I needed to distract myself from the days chores & idly reminisce in the swaying hammock. The sounds of the farm are busy this morning with spring activity. Closing my eyes, birdlife noises rise & fall, the drone of a heavy bumble bee past my ear, the dog scratching on the door mats & the cows chatting to each other across the paddocks.
My thoughts turn for some inexplicable reason to the restaurants I have worked in. I think yesterday I was explaining to someone where we had come from before we moved to Tassie & some remnant of that conversation remained un exercised & it decided to pronounce itself in my thoughts. I was an apprentice once, a long time ago now & for two years of it I worked in, what I have come to regard as a truly great restaurant, a restaurant of the old school & one I suspect would look quite archaic these days were it to suddenly reappear back in Burke Street Melbourne. I am talking about Tsindos Bistrot & yes it is spelled correctly. At risk of being even more self indulgent than I usually am I will re-post a poem I wrote a few years back about this restaurant that shaped my formative years in kitchens
Tsindos, a love story.
Carrying the restaurant key as an excited apprentice, always there first
The early morning gaggle of Italian cab drivers, boisterous & sipping espresso at the bar,
Closing my eyes, I am not in Melbourne & I imagine Naples
The hiss of the Gaggia, the aroma of the grinder
Maria always laughing, squeezing the orange juice,
A metallic ‘ting’ as the salami is sliced, the pannini filled, the ricotta cheesecake iced
The gentle bubble of sugo & herbs, the roasting of bones & the sizzle of sofrito
Eggs & hard flour morphing into pasta, snaking into drying trays,
The maddening wafts from the char grill & Tex with the tongs.
A long day prepping, the banter, the deadlines, the arguments & the laughter.
The jazz of the waiters, white coats, black ties, Brylcreem & Old Spice
Paul, Silvano, Trevor, Renaldo, Adriano, Tony, Mario #1, Mario #2 & Ray.
A rushed bowl of ragu with some bread for mopping, a swig of red wine & lemonade.
Hand written dockets, shouting, the waving of arms, the spatter of oil & the burns.
Antipasti, spaghetti Puttanesca, Fegato Veneziana, Cotolette Milanese, Cassata.
A gang of boys on the line, sweating, still friends, now men,
Chef, our chief, always at the stoves, always doing the mains, always there.
A blur of service, adrenalin & dinner rush, the after theatre crowds,
Turning the tables, dark suits & the shimmer of gowns, glamour peeped from the kitchen window,
Deals done in the dining room, faces from the TV, faces from the stage,
Smoky mirrors, the dull shine of brass, rich dark leather & the patina of the timber,
The huddle of couples, whispering in nooks, sharing.
The yellow glow of the lamp on the cashiers face, squaring the bill,
The relief of last orders, the cleandown, lights off, the restaurant gently exhaling all into the street.
The abrupt coolness of the city lanes & the lonely tram ride home.