AS an experiment in psychogeography, I decided to wander around Northbridge on Tuesday afternoon and see what eatery tickled my fancy.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited the notorious inner-city suburb, and to be honest things haven’t improved much.
I ambled up William Street, going away from the city, and saw a few cafes that looked okay, but they gradually thinned out and gave way to mouldering shops and “CLOSED” signs.
I double-backed and ventured up James St, but that was even worse – seedy and smelly – and by the time I reached the deserted Northbridge Piazza – a futuristic ode to nothingness – I felt like an extra in a low-budget apocalypse movie.
I passed some tacky pubs on Lake St, including some risible putting and cocktail place, before walking down Francis Street and eventually settling on U&I Cafe.
Situated on the corner of William Square, it had a lovely alfresco set back from the road, with leafy trees and a soaring metal pergola that resembled modern art.
It was perfect for eating on your own as you could watch life unfold on William Street from afar, like some aloof scientist peering into a bell jar.
The Vietnamese cafe had a menu with a huge array of noodle soups, mains, salads and entrees.
It was slightly overwhelming and each page was a wall of text that wasn’t clearly divided into sections.
I eventually went for an Asian staple – Mee Goreng ($18).
A bit boring I hear you cry, but it’s a good test of any Asian restaurant’s mettle and probably a dish a visiting tourist might get.
A large bottle of sparkling water ($4.50) quenched my thirst after my Northbridge incursion, and it was served in a quality tumbler with a slice of lemon and plenty of ice.
This was the quickest service I’ve ever experienced – my meal was nearly on my table before I had returned from ordering at the counter.
The hokkien noodles were piled high with chicken and thick chunks of spring and red onions.
The tender chook was good quality and had been nicely cooked in the wok, hitting that sweet spot between under and over.
The dish had that trademark Mee Goreng sweetness courtesy of the thinly sliced carrot and a genteel sauce, which wasn’t too sickly or intrusive.
The serve was big, but not rapacious, and it justified its $18 price tag with fresh, good-quality ingredients.
Looking around the cafe there was a mix of office workers (most had that tell-tale look of ennui with lunch being the highlight of their Groundhog Day), tourists and couples who had time off during the week.
The cafe is licensed and open 24/7 with a night menu from 10pm – 10am, so I imagine it’s a well-oiled machine.
To round off the meal I got a mug of cappuccino ($4.80) which was piping hot and kept its heat while I ate my Mee Goreng.
The coffee was nice and creamy, not too strong and very enjoyable.
In a nice artistic touch, it looked like the chocolate was sprinkled on top in the shape of a butterfly, or maybe I’ve been looking at too many Rorschach inkblots lately.
I enjoyed my lunch at U&I Cafe, and it’s perfect for a midweek pitstop in Northbridge, before the sun goes down and you take your chances…
By STEPHEN POLLOCK
45 Francis St, Northbridge