Baz, take note
The Deli (New Farm)
In almost all areas that are not taxi queues or the Normanby, Brisbane is a peaceful place. Conflict is a rare thing. And yet, it is from conflict that the best (if not all) stories must grow. And in this regard, The Deli is surely the Mogadishu of New Farm, generating dozens of worthwhile stories and insights with each breakfast visit. The true nature of inner-urban Australia plays out here in a range of pitched battles between tribes, age groups and even species. Given the lack of gunfire, this is an excellent viewing experience.
Tribal battle is largely between New Farm locals and visitors from other suburbs. In these cases it’s all about turf: conflicts flare initially as outer-suburban types discover that the ratio of parking spaces to luxury SUVs in New Farm is approximately 1:2 on a Saturday morning. Having finally found a park two blocks over and waddled far enough to get a sweat up, things get truly heated when The Deli’s complex seating arrangements inevitably spring conflict on these visitors. First-timers innocently assume that like most cafes, one simply finds a free table then sits at it. OH HELL NO. These tables often have already been assigned to people in the indoor self-service queue. This not only enrages those in the queue (who suffer an amusing double rage because they don’t want to leave their queue spot in order to fight off the usurper) but also the head waiter, who just cannot believe how rude and inconsiderate the world is. He just holds in his apoplectic, lip-biting fury and looks forward to his pedicure later, where he will give the world a hypothetical piece of his mind. Those contesting the table have a passive-aggressive showdown with much waggling of jowls to assert dominance.
Age groups vie for supremacy at The Deli as well. There is a special kind of aspirational life stage in which it seems that one absolutely must have genuine imported salami, cheese and olives, whatever the cost. I suspect this is to sate one’s hunger after a lenghty ride with the lycra brigade on one’s new Cadel Evans signature roadbike. This great pursuit of authenticity tends to coincide with two other excellent ‘life stage’ archetypes: making too many babies and entering upper middle management. Thus, The Deli is a great place to witness an adult man try to maintain control over three shrill toddlers using only his ‘boardroom voice’ and two kilograms of salsiccia.
Perhaps richest of the conflicts are those between the small, scrappy dogs favoured by locals. Generally these dogs occupy two ends of the cleanliness spectrum: the irritatingly preened labraspoodles and the general mongrels with matted fur and wily eyes. Inevitably the worldly mutts take issue with the designer dogs (which cost upwards of $500 and often have a special mincing walk that makes me consider gun ownership) and do the right thing: try to bite them, usually without success. The best bit here is the indignant rage experienced by the owner of the labraspoodle, who scuttles off clutching their expensive pet at chest height. Three cheers for mongrels.
So, we’ve established that The Deli is a great place for anthropology and general people-watching. It also is a pretty okay place for breakfasts. Their coffee is quite good, and the breakfasts themselves are generous and tasty. Even a true rock-and-roll hangover cannot stand up to the greasy joy of a Deli panini, generously endowed as it is with their distinctive italian meats. They also do posh quite well, and now hold the high honour of making what I consider the best potato rosti in Brisbane. I’ve had a few now but this one is exceptionally crunchy, rich and flavourful.
Alas, in spite of the excellent ingredient quality and fairly inspired menu, I’ve always been left a bit wanting when it comes to the Deli’s meals as a whole. Each element is great, but they don’t work in harmony, and there has always been that critical missing ingredient that stopped my meal from being truly exciting. Interestingly, it’s consitently the same problem: a lack of acidity. Each meal has abundant flavours in the ‘salty, smokey, starchy’ categories but never anything tart to offset it.
In the case of my panini, a few olives, some balsamic drizzle or even a slightly sharper cheese would’ve been the difference between OK and great. Similarly, the salmon, avo and rosti breakfast was criminally lacking in lemon. Even a couple of sad capers would’ve brightened the fish, but there was nothing acidic in evidence. Fortunately the orange juice is pretty damn good (almost as nice as that of The Larder) and lifted my meal a bit.
The deli is what Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Australia‘ should really have been about. This is tragic. However, for the price of a coffee, you can now enjoy this epic live, at your leisure. You may even want to give the food a go. Either way, it’s a good morning experience if you can snag a seat.