Some people hate Dempsey Village, complaining that it’s too pretentious, expensive and full of expats. True, true and true. But for many it provides a much-needed escape from the overdose of mall culture that many of us suffer from. It’s also about time Dempsey veterans such as Jones the Grocer and PS Café had a new café to give them a run for their money, as they can often be unbearably packed and overpriced.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Café Hacienda is going to be stealing their customers any time soon. An extension of the popular Hacienda garden bar, Café Hacienda is an odd place. The decor aims for intimate and homely, but instead it feels drab and mismatched. Paper doilies and dried flowers adorn the timber-laminate tables, surrounded by dreary pink walls, heavy brown carpet and uncomfortable chairs: I feel like I’ve accidentally stumbled into a hospital cafeteria from 1987.
Fortunately the menu is well priced and there are decent wines by the glass for just $10 – although they are served a touch too warm. I always find that the ever-popular Caesar salad is a good test dish for any new café. This one’s not too bad, but not great either. Although the menu lists anchovies, I couldn’t find a single one. According to the waiter, ‘it’s in the dressing’. Grrr. Would a carrot cake be a carrot cake without carrots? Didn’t think so. The same goes for Caesar salads.
Fish and chips
Thankfully the linguine with organic mushrooms and Parma ham in a white wine sauce is delicious. The serving is generous and the mushrooms super-fresh. The NY burger with a Wagyu patty comes piled high with caramelised onions and gorgonzola, and is fantastically rich. The accompanying chips are crunchy and light. A cod burger consisting of a generous chunk of Chilean sea bass slathered in miso is a good size, although I find it an acquired taste; it’s not a bad burger, it’s just not for me. A beef-shin pot pie, though, is a disaster – the pie contains only two tiny pieces of edible meat, while the rest of the ‘meat’ is gelatinous fat that no amount of slow cooking can help save. Thankfully our waiter immediately removes it from the bill with the chef’s sincere apologies.
It’s still early days for Café Hacienda, though, so let’s not write it off just yet. With a bit of a nip and tuck of the decor and further refinement of the menu, it could be a worthy challenger to its louder, flashier Dempsey neighbours.