Me & Mrs Jones – Dining in
by The Editor
Once upon a time there was a bookstore, a florist and a real estate agent. Then up went the barricades and inner-south foodies held their collective breaths waiting to see what would appear from beyond view.
What has been revealed is a café with a fit-out nothing short of extraordinary. In order to demonstrate the food befits the fit-out we dined at Me & Mrs Jones as guests of the owners.
Should we believe the hype?
On closer inspection the fit-out reveals details and complexities not visible from the exterior. No single corner, no element feels out of place. There are so many textures evident – pressed metal and tile, raw wood and brick, neon and leather. Somehow it all hangs together with an airy, though solid feel.
Does it sound as though we are gushing? Perhaps, but not without good reason. The feeling one gets from spending even a little time at Me & Mrs Jones is that it is as much inside as outside – which is perfect in Spring weather, although how that translates in the depths of a frigid Canberra winter remains to be seen.
Form undoubtedly meets function – there is room enough for customers to feel comfortable while clever design tricks hide away the functional areas where staff settle bills, retrieve cutlery or fill water bottles. It’s evident this place has been built by those who know what it is like to work in hospitality. There’s a place for everything, and everything is in its right place.
So, to lunch. We sampled the menu with four dishes (and a dessert) to give a good range of what’s on offer. The driving force behind Me & Mrs Jones’ menu is Chef Dan McConnell (Cream, Quay, Urban Pantry) and the options are as eclectic as the décor, ranging from small plates to hearty meals (Chicken Kiev, anyone?).
Course 1 – 1999 (Redux)
We started with a sample of the calamari ($19.00). It’s a café classic rejuvenated with a touch of curry powder. As a counterpoint the straight-from-the-fryer rings, sit on a fresh salad with cold rice noodles, making for a great mixture of texture and temperatures and moving the dish well beyond the standard. Light, breezy and always a favourite on a sunny afternoon.
Course 2 – He died with a felafel…
Next arrives the felafel ($18.00)- another dish that treads dangerously towards the naff with what looks like an accompaniment of (yawn) eggplant and beetroot dips. It’s a cunning ruse. Chef McConnell has sidestepped our assumptions with an aioli and pesto respectively. Place all that on a tabouli made with quinoa, and the whole dish lifts like a superhero thanks to the presence of the superfood. Again, very nicely played.
We rest briefly among the smattering of investigative and exploratory diners. Plates disappear on queue under the watch of Simon Spence, who has front of house well and truly under control. The table is reset and we wait for the next offering.
Course 3 – An Arab Spring
Try any of the current fleet of Mexican eateries in town and you’ll know ‘pulled’ is the new black. This course has slow baked lamb served with house-made labneh ($21.00). The shreds of meat are moist and tender. Add the labneh and the combination is so rich you feel in danger of an afternoon nap. The saviour comes in the form or pomegranate and fine slices of red onion that cut straight through, perking up the palate no end. Off to the side a light dusting of dukkah adds extra tang to this Middle Eastern adventure. Much like Tunisia, this dish is dangerous but ultimately successful.
Course 4 – Club Med
The goat parpadelle is well known at Belluci’s enough so to make a mention in this week’s Tipple. This time we’ve got another less-used meat on the menu: rabbit ($27.00). More common to Mediterranean cuisine and not often found in Australian restaurants, this is a trip worth taking. Set with capers and olives, the braised rabbit is tender and slightly sweet.
By the time we’ve ploughed through the broad ribbons of pasta we are left with a bowl of what is essentially rabbit stew. This is heaven – the flavours becoming powerfully intense. Conversation drops to a minimum as we savour the last mouthfuls of the dish. It’s delicious, but wow, are we full.
Course 5 – Sweet, savoury and sinful
The thought of more food is almost confronting but, in keeping with the theme of a tasting, we are served smaller versions of the menu items, all three of which feature at $15.00. The Bitter Chocolate Tart is downright evil, gooping a river of chocolate over the plate as we crack the biscuit case with a spoon. Quickly we move to the strawberry meringue with watermelon granita. It’s a light and refreshing contrast to the decadent chocolate, and would makes for a wonderful palate cleanser.
A good thing, too. We still have to make our way through the clever and playful popcorn brulee. Topped with a butter syrup and served with a salted butter gelati, this is a clever little dish that’s sure to raise a smile on the face of even the most cynical diners. Hell, it worked for us.
If nothing else, Me & Mrs Jones is a breath of fresh air for the Kingston dining scene. But it’s more than that – this is clearly a labour of love for all involved. Great care has been taken from the interior to the menu to the wine list to the design of the plates.
Returning that evening to take in the way the restaurant functioned under pressure, we were pleasantly surprised at how well organised and panic free everyone seemed. Something of a miracle for a second night of trade, and only equalled by the uber-efficiency we experienced at Smoque.
All in all, it’s early days, but things are looking very good for Me & Mrs Jones. Clearly, Simon and Dan have got a thing goin’ on.
Me & Mrs Jones
Cnr Kennedy and Giles Streets