If someone had informed me that The Bell Jar has a mural in it’s courtyard OF A WALRUS, I totally would have beat down the pavement to visit it ages ago. The lure of Walrus-ness would totally have outweighed my fear of the cafe’s name (look, I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar at MUCH far too young an age, and let’s just say in no uncertain terms that it completely scarred me for life x 1000). The fact that it is also a completely adorable, unpretentious place that dishes out some damn fine food is also a feather in it’s favour.
After our less than perfect brunch staff-wise at Lawson Grove Shop, it was truly delightful to walk into Bell Jar and be given a hearty greeting by both of the staff members on duty. They were amazingly friendly and up for a chat – Jen, who is a furniture fiend, had an investigatory convo with our gentleman waiter as to the provenance of their chairs, and the lady waiter was so apologetic and seemingly genuinely devastated that she couldn’t offer us the fritters we were originally keen on as they had run out of corn that I wanted to give her a hug while saying “It’s okay! We’ll have something else!”
We got very overexcited about the menu and ended up ordering a lot considering we’d already eaten quite a bit that day already. But I regret nothing! My main plate to sample was the ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter. If you like your sweets sweet, this is the sweet apocalypse. The hotcakes, with noticable seams of ricotta, were thick and gorgeous, and the banana and honeycomb butter… dear lord, it’s giving me a sugar rush just thinking about it. It was thick and the colour of caramel, with big soft toffee-ish chunks laced through it. It was huge and sweet and glorious, and probably a good way to go out if you were told you could never have sugar again. One last voyage into that syrupy world, leaving behind a divine, sustaining memory of bliss.
Jen had the jerusalem artichoke soup, which I managed to steal quite a few full spoonfuls of. So creamy, so filling, so amazing, people should just be having jerusalem artichokes in everything. GO, PUT THEM IN EVERYTHING.
Jen also got a roast veggie sandwich with pesto to take home with her. Didn’t get to sample any of it, but it looked hearty, with a fat middle of vegies in between seedy bread slices, and it did smell ever so good.
We als0 had lots of tea, obscene amounts of tea. So much better than what we had earlier in the day at Lawson Grove Shop (I don’t think I mentioned their tea in my original review, but yeah, it was this vanilla-infused stuff that didn’t really taste vanillary at all). Though it did mean that later during our watching of Broadcast News in Jen’s apartment we were constantly running off to the bathroom. The hazards of good tea!
Can’t finish without making a mention of the design aspects of the cafe, which ride the line between arty and whimsical in a very refreshing way. Dried flowers pop up out of jars, autumn leaves litter the big communal table out back, and there are arty little framed photographs everywhere (though that one in the toilet of the boy staring at a wall made me enormously sad). And of course THE WALRUS! HE IS GLORIOUS! And Bell Jar is also glorious, and well worth you visiting. I anticipate your future sugar coma.
The Bell Jar
656 Smith Street, Clifton Hill