A few Sunday mornings ago I was lying on the couch in Jen’s apartment, clicking through Urbanspoon attempting to find us a new place in South Yarra to brunch at*. For we had started to run out of new brunches, you see, and neither of us were particularly in the mood for any of our standard haunts. The shock of the new, that is what we required!
I hadn’t heard anything about Thirty Eight Chairs before idly clicking on the Urbanspoon link to their website. As soon as I realised that these were the same folks as those behind Caffe e Cucina, my curiosity was piqued – I’ve sadly never been there myself, but Bennett has always raved about it as one of his faves.
Set in a back street way from the hustling bustle of Chapel Street (always a plus), Thirty Eight Chairs is a warm little cavern paneled in dark wood and a distinctly modern Italian feel (hugely compounded by the gently flirtatious Italian waiters, oh MY). We actually ended up on one of the wee outside tables, which is set apart enough from the pavement that you don’t have to worry about any early morning joggers whisking off with your breakfast.
The menu here is very simple. Each item’s description contains only about four ingredients, making clear that Thirty Eight Chairs is about highlighting their produce without overwhelming it with a lot of bells and whistles. Although I was intially a little concerned that our chosen dishes could run the risk of being a bit plain.
I should’t have worried. My sweet bruscetta with pear slices, ricotta and honey was very much the good kind of simple. The pears had been lightly poached in a sweet honeyed syrup, which was very agreeable against the light clouds of ricotta. The bread was thick and pillowy, and with a chewy crust – I recommend dispensing with cutlery and just cramming it in your mouth with your hands. Not terribly elegant, to be sure, but much less fuss!
To accompany brunch, I needed some of the elixir of life that is tea (mmmm, tea). On asking whether they had earl grey, the waiter cocked his head and said that they had a lavender grey blend. I love lavender ANYTHING so was immediately sold. It wasn’t overwhelmingly floral, but still might put off those for whom floral tastes tend to be too overpowering, but if you’re bored with plain ol’ earl grey, this might be your ticket.
Jen went with the omelette with pancetta in a soft roll with crispy crust. A thin, slightly herbed omelette alongside ample curls of crispy pancetta squished into more of the soft, chewy bread, this would definitely be a perfect hangover reviver!
I also decided to finish up with a mocha, because why the heck not. I’m glad I did, because Thirty Eight chairs treats the oft-maligned mocha with far more dignity than most places in this town, using very good quality dark chocolate powder that once transformed to liquid managed to be both creamy and possess a slight under-tang of bitterness. Delicious.
Thirty Eight Chairs was so nicely, quietly impressive that I’m honestly surprised that it took an Urbanspoon scrawl for me to hear about it. It’s perfect for those who want a nice hideaway from the Chapel Street hustle, and it’s pleasing to see a place so focused on letting ingredients shine with simple touches rather than a whole heap of culinary chicanery.
Thirty Eight Chairs
4A Bond Street, South Yarra
Ph: 9827 5553
*Complete and utter tangent, but does anyone else get irrationally outraged at terrible Urbanspoon reviews? Not simply bad reviews, but reviews where it’s obvious that the commenter hasn’t the first idea about food or how the hospitality industry actually works? You’ll know I’ve completely given up on human beings as a species if I ever launch a “The Terrible Reviews of Urbanspoon” Tumblr.