Get in line, baby!

Wait free brunch - corn fritters at Garage Espresso in Balaclava

Wait free brunch – corn fritters at Garage Espresso in Balaclava

I have now, finally, emerged from my Easter sugar fuelled coma and am ready to get back to blogging. And as I emerged, eyes blinking from my choco-daze, I ran straight into a 300 people strong queue outside the newly opened H&M store at Melbourne GPO. This was well over a week after the opening and still the line was wrapped around the building and up Elizabeth street. On its opening day the store apparently had 15,000 people through the door. Barriers were erected to manage the lines, bouncers dotted the GPO’s steps and several news channels covered the opening.

I think I’m getting too old to queue. Personally I have no interest in queuing for H&M clothes that look just like Zara and Top Shop and everyone else. But I’m also losing interest in queuing at restaurants. A ten minute wait for a table to get my hashbrowns at Di Bella? Ok fine. Fifteen minutes for the staff to clear a spot at the bar at Gazi? Yeah, ok. But the two hour, stand in a long line at Mamasita or wait for a text from Chin Chin is wearing thin. Sometimes I feel like I’m waiting for the latest iPhone or Beiber concert tickets only the crowd looks a little less nerdy or fourteen respectively and all you get at the end is overpriced cabbage salad or deconstructed apple pie. I know restaurants want to be able to turn over tables quickly, I get that they want you to drink at their bar first. I understand why restaurants have a no-bookings policy, but I don’t have to like it.

(Relatively) wait free brunch at Bowery to Williamsburg

(Relatively) wait free brunch at Bowery to Williamsburg

Maybe it’s because we’re spoilt for choice in Melbourne that I feel resentful waiting for a table when so many other good seats are available elsewhere. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and grumpy and don’t like standing in heels for too long. Perhaps it’s because, on my less student-like budget, I eat at nicer places and am therefore not willing to put up with the various looks of patronising sympathy or scathing dismissal you get from waitresses when you ask ‘how long for a table for two?’ on a Friday or Saturday night. I mean, seriously, they are a restaurant, seating and serving people is what they do! Sometimes I feel like Oliver Twist when he stands up and asks for more gruel. I mean, some staff look genuinely offended that you’d even ask, as if suggesting they might have a table free on a busy night is tantamount to crimes against humanity or, worse, a bad urbanspoon rating.

There’s actually queuing psychology and a lot of studies out there on how we react to queues. Humans still tend to follow the herd and, when faced with a choice of two places, one with little to no wait and one with a long queue they will often go with the long queue – choosing safety in numbers essentially. Plus there’s a sort of weird Melbourne pride in queuing for a ridiculous amount of time at a really popular place. Like some endurance athlete, you held out the two hours seventeen minutes that your friends didn’t. You’ve eaten somewhere they haven’t yet. You’re now one of the chosen, or something like that. Plus you can instagram the crap out of the long awaited meal, if you’re not too weak from hunger pains by the time it arrives, that is. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of this. I’ve done my time on Mamasita’s steps, I’ve stood outside the club-like Gelato Messina, shivered in a line outside Mamak and have, on occasion, waited an hour for brunch.

Bar seat and yummy Greek dips at Gazi

Bar seat and yummy Greek dips at Gazi

I guess the point is that I think queuing at restaurants is on the demise. At least, I’m hoping so. Touché Hombre has started taking bookings this year. Philippa Sibley has opened a restaurant, Prix Fixe, that you have to buy tickets to ahead of time. The availability and increase in online restaurant review sites and foodie blogs mean you no longer need a queue outside a place to know it’s good or to get a sense of hype. So, personally, I’ll be repenting my queuing sins and only going if I can secure a seat ahead of time…at least until Heston’s restaurant opens in Melbourne next year.

Eatster…I mean Easter.

Koko Black's bunny range

Koko Black’s bunny range

So this month is chocolate month, also known by some as ‘Easter’. Those who read my blog regularly will know that if I could physically manage to eat my own weight in chocolate each day, I probably would. My occasional swearing off chocolate following a depressing bathroom scales reading tends to last hours rather than days, I just can’t go past the stuff. Food wise, therefore, Easter is a much beloved holiday for me, despite my lack of religion.

I actually get a bit spiritual/religious about chocolate, coveting it in shop windows, setting up miniature chocolate ‘shrines’ in my pantry at home or desk drawers at work, referring to it as ‘my precious’ and, well, you get the picture, I’m very into chocolate. This year I thought I’d use my blog as an excuse to do an early scouting trip of all the best chocolate shops in Melbourne, checking out what their Easter offerings are like. So with less than two weeks to go until Easter, for your gift-giving ease and eating pleasure, below is a summary of what is and is not going to make my Easter wish list this year.

Koko Black
I think Koko Black now counts as a Melbourne institution. It’s still my favourite place to go to get boxes of chocolate as gifts (including gifts for myself…) I visited the Royal Arcade store, whose display/offering is almost entirely dedicated to Easter at the moment. To be honest I’m not loving the very bright art deco inspired gift boxes they have gone with this year, but I did get excited about the gorgeous mini ‘quail’ eggs (sugar coated chocolate eggs replete with authentic speckles) and the Surprise Golden Easter egg made from milk and dark chocolate with a salted caramel ‘surprise’ inside. No idea what that surprise is, but I want to find out. It’s like a giant fancy Kinder Surprise! But for $65 I’d want a damn good surprise – it’s definitely not the most post-GFC friendly option for the Easter Bunny’s basket this year.

Koko Black quail eggs - check out the egg cartons!

Koko Black quail eggs – check out the egg cartons!

Koko Black's packaging

Koko Black’s packaging

Haigh’s
I visited Haigh’s in yet another arcade – the Block Arcade. Haigh’s gets the prize for best theming and colour scheme. The entire store was buzzing with shoppers and absolutely jammed with a huge range of Easter stock. The colour palette this year has gone a little retro/hipster – lots of calico, dark brown and blue with polka dots. Gift options include everything from single hollow eggs for under $10 to pre-made Easter hampers for well over $100. Extra points to Haigh’s for promoting the Aussie ‘Bilby’ over the bunny. Apparently a percentage of sales from bilby shaped chocolates goes to the bilby breeding program at Adelaide Zoo too! If you prefer dark chocolate there were a lot of good options, with all their top selling items available in a choice of milk or dark. I also liked the look of their chocolates in the shape of hot cross buns, but my ultimate pick would be the milk chocolate half egg filled with old fashioned freckles for $15.95. Super colourful and what I would want the Big Bunny to bring me at age six or twenty six.

Haigh's display

Haigh’s display

Spot the bilby!

Spot the bilby!

Haigh's freckle eggs

Haigh’s freckle eggs

Lindt
I love Lindt’s store windows year round and Easter is no exception. Their window on Collins Street features a giant gold bunny and big baskets of chocolate perched on top of bright red wooden crates (see – even Lindt has gone a little hipster this year…). To be honest, inside the store most of the Lindt range is a little boring. It’s predominately just gold foil wrapped bunnies of various sizes. There was a large ‘Heavenly Hazelnut’ egg that looked pretty damn good, though I wasn’t so keen on the crazy-bright yellow packaging. Kids get the best deal at Lindt – there’s a fun looking ‘Easter Hunt’ gift pack for $16.50 filled with chocolates in the shape of chickens, bunnies, bugs and bees plus your own basket and set of bunny ears to wear!

Lindt has also introduced a new coconut flavour small filled egg which is awesome. It’s like a posh Bounty Bar, but entirely creamy rather than having any rough coconut texture. I thought the flavour was going to be either sickly sweet or taste really fake, like those biscuits you get filled with coconut essence, but it was neither, it was delicious. I wouldn’t buy a whole box of them as the flavour could get a bit much, but the addition of this flavour to their small egg repertoire is a good one I think.

Lindt's coconut eggs

Lindt’s coconut eggs

Ganache
I popped into Ganache, which is almost next to Lindt on Collins Street. To be honest their large moulded bunnies looked kind of weird and I didn’t like their packaging much. Having said that, they do absolutely beautiful chocolate half eggs filled with their mixed chocolate truffles and filled chocolates. They have a range of sizes from a small egg with just 4 chocolates in it up to eggs the size of your head with 20+ chocolates in them. I know both egg and chocolates are superb because my partner got me one for Easter 2012 and it was a-maz-ing. I think I only shared like one chocolate out of it with him, and it was a coffee flavoured one (’cause I don’t like coffee flavoured anything). Prices are similar to Koko Black, with a half egg filled with six chocolates costing $19.

Ganache half egg with filled chocolates

Ganache half egg with filled chocolates

Big W
Ok, sometimes I have tacky chocolate tastes, let’s be honest here. Yes, when it is Easter I normally go for quality chocolate gifts over quantity, but sometimes it’s fun to get a novelty life sized chocolate chicken nestled in 70 bright pink chocolate eggs, even if you don’t eat it. Who doesn’t want the official One Direction Easter egg and novelty mug set? Or the official Barbie Easter egg with bonus lip gloss? Both only $8! Seriously though, Big W does have a big selection of fun Easter stuff, plus, classic gold wrapped 100g Lindt bunnies are on sale for $4, which is cheaper than at Lindt itself.

Max Brenner
Max Brenner’s Easter offering was predominately 40g wrapped Easter eggs of several varieties – milk and dark, plus one with praline pieces, one with nuts and one with ‘marbles’ inside, whatever that means. At between $2.50 and $3 each they were very reasonably priced and I did like the kinda-girly bright patterned foil wrapping. However, the rest of their gift options were just pairings of these eggs with their normal stock, like chocolate drinking powder and hug mugs. I am so over hug mugs. And, by the looks of the store that I visited (Melbourne Central), the rest of Melbourne is possibly over hug mugs too? It’s hard to make a call on Max Brenner, good value and still very yummy chocolate, but I felt a definite lack of imagination and energy here.

So that’s my wrap up for Easter. If you haven’t started shopping, you better hop to it! Sorry, I know it’s a terrible pun but I could not resist, much as I can’t resist a good Easter egg…

Eggs at Max Brenner

Eggs at Max Brenner

So many bunnies at Lindt! I think they were breeding...

So many bunnies at Lindt! I think they were breeding…