The Provincial, Geraldton

September 8, 2010 · 46 comments

Bella Vista has been a popular Geraldton eatery for a number of years, thought by many to serve the best coffee in town, and there was much excitement when word started to spread that they were moving to bigger and better premises down the road.

Luckily Geraldtonians are a patient lot, because preparation of the new premises took quite a long time. Just as people were starting to roll their eyes and shrug whenever someone asked them if they knew when Bella Vista were moving (and long after I started rolling my eyes), it finally happened and the new and improved venture The Provincial opened in July.

My sister K and her husband D visited not long after the grand reopening, and gave extremely favourable reviews. In fact, D loved it so much that he apparently dealt with K’s absence when she and I were off in Bali by consoling himself with their dinners on more than one occasion.

With such glowing reports, expectations were high when I visited the new premises with D, my parents and my friend L who I was passing through town with on our way up to Coral Bay.

The waitresses are less blurry in real life

Everything looks new and clean and fresh when you first enter The Provincial, and you can tell that some thought and effort has gone into the kit out. I like how they’ve carried through the stencil theme from Bella Vista, and I hope that the walls continue to grow in character(s) over time.

Stence & stencilbility

The drink options are numerous, with 11 red and 13 white wines available by the glass ranging from $5 for the “house range” up to $15 for the most expensive of the others, and a larger range available by the bottle. There is also a range of beers, ciders and spirits, and limited cocktails, liqueur coffees and dessert wines.

The boys were easy to please with the beer and spirit options, but Mum took her time going through the white wines before finally settling on one that I can no longer remember. When the drinks came out I had to send mine back as it had lime cordial in it when I just wanted some fresh lime (I’ve had this happen a few times, despite always specifying “just fresh lime” – do I really need to also say “and no cordial”?) and Mum was quite disappointed to be told that they only had half a glass left of the wine she had thought long and hard about ordering.

To their credit they gave her this half glass for free, and she enjoyed it while looking some more at the drink options and settling on the Vistamar Sauvignon Blanc ($8.50/gl) which I think she actually ended up enjoying more than the original selection anyway. We then tried to concoct a plan to always order wines that were only left in piddly proportions in the bar, thus getting an extra free thinking glass to to sip while perusing the menu for your real order, but we couldn’t come up with a foolproof method so we turned our attention to the food menu instead.

I have visions of D forlornly trying to play foosball on his own while K and I were in Bali

Brother-in-law D and friend L made up their food minds pretty easily, choosing to go with the “angel hair pasta with WA crabmeat, chili, garlic, fresh tomato and white wine” ($24) that I have had before at Bella Vista and absolutely loved. Dad went with a similar dish of “linguine di mare with WA scallops, prawn, calamari & local fish” ($28) and also ordered the “buttered steamed kipfler potatoes” ($6) on the side (yes, a side of potatoes to go with a big pasta dish.. my Dad laughs in the face of carbs).

Mum and I took much longer to decide though, with both of us very indecisive and then thinking perhaps to share a few things between us but then our combined indecision was greater than the sum of its parts. After much deliberation we finally settled on sharing the “eggplant stuffed with tomato, garlic, parsley, lemon then wood fire roasted” ($16.50), pizza of “WA scallops, red wine glazed onions, fresh pesto, topped with fresh rocket” ($24) and “wok tossed wilted Asian greens” ($8.50).

When we went to give our orders however, we were told they had no scallops. Great. This piece of information would have been useful before we spent 15 minutes trying to make up our minds. I wondered if perhaps they had a couple of leftover scallops I could nibble on while Mum drank her bonus wine while we tried to reach another new decision, but then I just asked if we could substitute the missing scallops on the pizza with prawns and this was fine.

Eggplant stuffed with tomato, garlic, parsley, lemon then wood fire roasted $16.50

The stuffed eggplant was as deliciously rich as it looks. A generous size, it actually turned out to be so rich in flavour that we decided it would not be possible to eat on your own. We were even struggling to get through our respective halves before finding the flavours overwhelming. Before reaching our limits though, we did enjoy the depth of flavour in the stuffing and the smokiness of the aubergine.

Linguine di mare - WA scallops, prawn, calamari & local fish $28.00

I didn’t get much by way of adjectives from Dad about his linguine, but he polished it off very happily so it must have been good. It was also a generous size, and seemed to have a decent amount of seafood through it. I note that he has a number of scallops in there, so I guess the kitchen did have scallops but just didn’t want to use them on the pizzas? I don’t know..

Angel hair pasta with WA crabmeat, chili, garlic, fresh tomato and white wine $24.00

The angel hair pasta is a joy to eat. As mentioned, I’ve had it before at Bella Vista and loved the delicate flavours, al dente pasta and generous chunks of crab running through. This night was no exception, and both D and L really enjoyed their mains. Crabtastic and/or crabalicious may have been uttered. It may be a little lacking in presentation finesse, but this is definitely a must-try dish. I wish I had some now.

Our DIY pizza - WA prawns, red wine glazed onions, fresh pesto but sans the promised fresh rocket $27.00

The pizza prawns were bursty and fresh, the glazed onions just sweet enough and the pesto also tasted fresh, but the overall package of the pizza was disappointing. The toppings were spread too haphazardly, and they needed to either extend the toppings out further to the edge, or oil the remaining large bare areas because we were presented with a lot of dry crust that we left on the plate. The pizza was also missing the promised fresh rocket which would possibly have helped to alleviate this dryness.

Family members have been back to try their other pizzas and enjoyed them, so perhaps they are worth a second chance.

Wok tossed wilted Asian greens $8.50 and buttered steamed kipfler potatoes $6.00

Dad enjoyed his buttered spuds, eating every last one (I think maybe D may have given him a hand) and Mum and I both enjoyed the greens although I was a little surprised at the small serving.

After some time to digest and a little deliberation time, L chose to sit out dessert while the rest of us piggy members of my family eagerly ordered away. There are a few dessert options on the menu and also a number of choices in the cake fridge to choose from. Dad and I chose the lime and lemon tart, D went with the chocolate ganache, and Mum liked the sound of the little matchstick (and I tried to not think of the Little Matchstick Girl – oh how that story made me cry when I was little! If only she had some cream filled pastry to see her through the night!)

Lime and lemon tart with ice cream $8.50

The lime and lemon tart was a winner. A nice thin layer of short pastry and a tart, super lemony filling – exactly how I like my lemon tarts. Mum graciously helped me eat this, which was just as well given that I’d eaten more than my fair share of our other shared dishes.

Chocolate ganache with ice cream (price unknown, sorry)

D shared his chocolate ganache around for all to taste, and we found it deliciously chocolatey but quite rich. Definitely one for the chocolate lover to order, with it’s dense mud cake texture and viscous ganache coating. I was a little confused by the name of the dish though – when she said they had a chocolate ganache on the dessert menu my brain conjured up an image of a big bowl of ganache served with a spoon (perfect for the little match girl who was still hanging around up there). When I peeked inside the cake fridge though I realised it was a chocolate cake, presumably covered in ganache and macadamia nuts. Whatever you call it, it tasted good and the thick dense cake went very well with the soft, creamy ice cream.

Post-squishing matchstick (around $2 I think)

The look of horror on Mum’s face when she realised she had squished her pastry into a gloopy mess before I had a chance to photograph it was priceless. The little squishable dessert was just the right size to have a little sweet naughtiness to finish off your meal. It also allowed her a little extra stomach room to assist me in finishing off my dessert.

While there were a few disappointing features to the overall experience – running out of the Mum’s wine Mum and scallops (well, pizza scallops anyway) and failing to communicate this to us prior to ordering, the possibly over-reduced sauce of the eggplant becoming overwhelming and the disappointing pizza – the remainder of the dishes and the night in general were all positive. Prices are certainly not cheap, but this is Geraldton after all and food is even pricier here than it is in Perth, so this is unsurprising.

Although I wouldn’t order the same dishes again I will certainly be heading back to The Provincial, if only to eat the crabby angel hair pasta and try my luck at scoring a free half glass of wine.

The Provincial Cafe & Wine Bar

Address:                  167 Marine Terrace, GERALDTON 6530
Phone:                      08 9964 1887
Website:                  The Provincial Facebook Page
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 7am – 11:30pm; Sundays & Public Hols: 8am – 10:30pm
Breakfast menu until 11:30am
Bar menu 11:30am – 9:30pm
Wood fired pizza menu 11:30am – 10pm
Lunch and dinner menu 12 – 9:30pm
We Paid:                   ~$45/head including drinks, mains and dessert

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

penny aka jeroxie September 8, 2010 at 6:26 pm

like the stencil on the wall. And the chocolate ganache does look really rich! Like MUD cake!

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Conor September 8, 2010 at 8:17 pm

It makes you want to grab a Sharpie and get creative! Yep, that ganache cake thing was certainly muddy!

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Amy @ cookbookmaniac September 8, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Aww this looks like my kinda restaurant. except for the strange scallop situation and dry pizza crust. however, no one is perfect and everyone deserves second chances. Love the look of the pastas. I am a skinnybitch carb whore. pasta, rice, noodles. potatoes. YEAH!
Amy @ cookbookmaniac´s last blog post ..Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

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Conor September 8, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Yeah, I’m definitely going to be trying my chances again Amy! Probably with some tasty, tasty carbs :D

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Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella September 8, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Haha at your mum’s expression when she realised that she has squished her pastry. My mum gets mad at my dad for just starting to eat without the requisite photo taking! :P

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 12:22 am

Pastries will come and go, but I’m filled with regret at not capturing her expression on film! Oh my poor friends and family, what I put them through… just as well I tend to make up for it with baked goods.
I can imagine your Mum shaking her finger at your Dad :D

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Pam September 8, 2010 at 11:38 pm

It looks like an overall great place to eat. The pizza definitely needed help (way to much crust) and the eggplant looks tasty, although very rich. I have to say the crab and angel hair pasta would be the dish I would order.
Pam´s last blog post ..Peanut Butter Swirl Mini Brownies

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 12:24 am

Too right, Pam. I might have that pasta next time to boost my spirits before getting more adventurous with the menu again.

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Jess September 9, 2010 at 3:24 am

oh wow that Chocolate ganache looks delicious. I always hate it when resturants charge a lot for Asian greens I personally think $8.50 seems a little pricey. However the rest of the dishes look reasonably priced.
Jess´s last blog post ..Hump Day

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

It was, Jess! Luckily my brother-in-law was generous with sharing it with the rest of us :)
Yes, me too. You can’t help but think that you could buy 6 whole bunches of greens for that price.

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Harriet September 9, 2010 at 4:39 am

I love the look of that chocolate cake. You’d definatley reccomend the restaraunt then? ;)
Harriet´s last blog post ..Used TAG Heuer Aquaracer

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Well, that depends on whether you’re planning to head to Geraldton any time soon ;)

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Steph September 9, 2010 at 6:36 am

Aww that’s so cute of your Mum! My Mum was notorious for digging into her food before I had taken a photo, she never got used to it! That eggplant looks soo good, pity about the other disappointments though!

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm

It’s always pretty hard when you have multiple people waiting to eat their food while you photograph. Poor Mum was left to last with the dessert and I guess she was pretty keen to dig into it!

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5 Star Foodie September 9, 2010 at 8:18 am

Sounds like a terrific meal! I would love a taste of the angel hair pasta and the desserts look fabulous!
5 Star Foodie´s last blog post ..Summer Trip 2010- Crete – Sights- Wine Tastings- Cretan Diet- and Dakos

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Yes, I think a serve of the angel hair pasta, followed up by the lemon tart, would be just perfect!

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April @ My Food Trail September 9, 2010 at 8:25 am

LOL at the story of getting half a glass of wine for free then trying to see which other half glass you could get! :)

That pizza looks like a total fail for $27. I don’t know how the chef could send it out of the kitchen looking like that! And weird too about the scallops when the pasta obviously had scallops! At least the pasta was good!
April @ My Food Trail´s last blog post ..Cadbury’s new Bar of Plenty &amp a giveaway

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Just imagine me going to strike up a casual conversation with the barmaid, trying to ogle any bottles that just had dregs ;)
Yeah, pretty lame-o pizza but it seems that was just an off dish. Back to the crabby pasta next time!

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Patty Price September 9, 2010 at 8:32 am

Wow, everything looks great, especially those desserts:) When you’re served a pizza with a large hunk of dry crust it does require one to engage in a few extra maneuvers for maximum pizza pie enjoyment, basically pulling off the toppings and redistributing them to empty (dry) areas of the pizza, makes a mess but is worth the trouble to avoid pizza crust wastage:)

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Patty, I’m totally with you on that but given that I was sharing the pizza I didn’t feel quite at liberty to get manhandling so much. Plus there wasn’t that much topping to spread out anyway! I tried to use the Asian greens as anti-dry crust tools which helped a little.

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Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz September 9, 2010 at 9:34 am

I ALWAYS order what is no longer available ‘supposedly’ as well. Score on the free half wine though! Cake……love the chocolate cake.
Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz´s last blog post ..Bordeaux Exchange- Round 2

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Glad it’s not just me, Evelyne. It always seems to happen when you’ve taken an age to reach a decision, as well!

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Velva September 9, 2010 at 11:07 am

Your restaurant does not appear to be a disappointment-it’s a keeper! Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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Conor September 9, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Thanks Velva. I will definitely be heading back here – good to have another place to visit when I’m in town to see the family :)

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Hannah September 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm

The Little Matchstick girl story is AWFUL! She burns all her matches and then DIES. If that’s not a cautionary tale against arson, I don’t know what is.

I want that lemon and lime tart. Super tangy citrus (non orange, though) desserts are my love.
Hannah´s last blog post ..Recent Gifts Which Have Made Me Feel All Squiggly and Emotional Inside

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Conor September 11, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Oh I know Hannah! It’s terrible! Not at all what little Conor was expecting as she read some stories before going to sleep, then found she couldn’t sleep.

A lemon/lime dessert without the tang is like a lamb without its tail.

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Iron Chef Shellie September 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm

that angel hair pasta serve is MASSIVE!! … i would like some now though :(
Iron Chef Shellie´s last blog post ..Quesadillas with Guacamole

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Conor September 11, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Shellie, it is kinda massive, but you can’t help but finish it. Thank goodness for dessert stomachs.

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Celeste @ Berrytravels September 9, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I really like how the walls are decorated!

Also that chocolate ganache cake is to die for. *claws at screen*
Celeste @ Berrytravels´s last blog post ..June Cookoff- Opera Cake

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Conor September 11, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Me too! Always good to see something a bit different to the standard decorating.

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Cakelaw September 10, 2010 at 6:14 am

Love the decor – it’s very cool (says I who usually dine in plastic tables’n'chairs joints). I love the look of you Dad’s linguine – but it’s pretty silly to tell you there are no scallops when your Dad ordered a dish that contains them. Mmmm, lemon tart …
Cakelaw´s last blog post ..Co Do Vietnamese Restaurant- Richmond

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Conor September 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Well, plastic tables’n'chairs joints have their place, that’s for sure. Not so great when it’s stinking hot and you’re wearing something short though :|
Mmmmmm lemon tart indeed.

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denise @ quickies on the dinner table September 10, 2010 at 7:27 pm

I would’ve gone ga-ga for the angel hair pasta too I think! I do love me carbs!! The prices do seem steep, but then, I am cheap. I’m glad the waitresses were less blurry in the flesh – makes ordering a lot easier ;)

So sorry about the scallops fiasco. Really!!! *tsk tsk tsk* (tell them I said that)
denise @ quickies on the dinner table´s last blog post ..Just Pointing in the General Direction

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Conor September 11, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I will be very sure to pass on your thoughts to them next time I’m there, Denise. That’ll show ‘em!

Yeah I’m pretty cheap too, but you just have to put that aside a lot of the time when eating out here/there. It’s not so bad when going out with my parents though, as they are lovely and sneak off to pay the bill. Looking forward to getting back into the ‘real’ workforce in the next year and being able to do the sneaking off to pay!

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Simply Life September 10, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Wow, this looks like a great meal!
Simply Life´s last blog post ..Italian Stuffed Artichokes!

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Conor September 11, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Hard not to be with the company!

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mademoiselle délicieuse September 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I had a distorted reading moment and thought you said the prawns were “busty”, haha! I also now feel justified in my (anal) even distribution of toppings when making pizza – something which cracks my non-Virgo friend up to no end =p
mademoiselle délicieuse´s last blog post ..Hello! Kyochon again- 27 April 2010

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Conor September 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Oh my, busty prawns? Ooh la la!

Well, I’m an Aquarian and I back you up in this 100%. I’ve also been laughed at when making pizza, but they weren’t laughing any more when they ate it (well, maybe laughing with joy at the evenness of the toppings). It’s doubly bad to have uneven distribution when sharing with someone, and triply so if the pieces are also cut unevenly!

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Magic of Spice September 12, 2010 at 6:07 am

Great review…wow everything looks and sounds delicious. Sorry that your Mom did not get more than half a glass after so much consideration…but it was nice they comped the 1/2 glass. Classy :)
Magic of Spice´s last blog post ..Whats on the Side – Zucchini Bowls with Cherry-Chocolate Gastrique

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Conor September 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Thank you! Luckily Mum was appeased with the next wine, and lucky that she wasn’t driving ;)

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Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite September 15, 2010 at 8:57 am

Oh my – matchsticks – haven’t heard of them for ages. I used to eat them a lot. Glad I can’t get them here, probably better for me! This post made me laugh as it really captured what a family dinner is all about. I especially liked your plan of ordering the wine that’s nearly run out so you get a free glass. Must try that soon :-) Oh and next time, definitely take your Textas (yay – I get to use that instead of saying “markers”) and get working on those stencils.
Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite´s last blog post ..Daring Cooks September- pear chutney and quick tomato jam

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Conor September 17, 2010 at 12:21 am

Matchsticks seemed to go out of vogue, you tend not to see them around much these days. Was a good cheap, smaller option for dessert though, just perfect for Mum. She was very helpful in helping me with my dessert after her little one.
We need to somehow orchestrate a mass family dining experience with our respective families. If we both try and somehow get rich, I’m sure it’s doable!
Haha, Textas! Yes!

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Melissa January 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Great start for gerro- good ambiance and style.. nice range of beers on tap.. could have less tables to support space for friday afternoon work drinks.. felt as if we were being a bit of a pain (we were a larger group all purchasing drinks and some snack pizzas- no one being inappropriate or rude) and that the staff wanted us out of there.. I felt the prov was supposed to be a wine bar atmosphere as well as a restaraunt but could be under the wrong impression. ? more staff on Friday afternoon/evenings would assist?

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Conor January 14, 2011 at 8:26 am

Thanks for the comment Melissa! I have been polarised in my opinion of the Provincial the past couple of times I’ve been there when I’ve been in town. When I went in November the food was actually very disappointing and the service not much better, but then when I went for lunch over Christmas it was quite good again. I certainly agree with you that it seems to be marketed as a wine bar atmosphere as well as restaurant, so it’s disappointing to hear that this isn’t the feeling when you’re actually there trying to enjoy this atmosphere! Let’s hope for improvements in this area. Oh and let’s also hope for better editing of their signage… always at least one spelling error, it’s almost like a game to try and find it.

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Warren October 7, 2012 at 3:30 am

My wife and I eat here all the time with our 4 year son. We have tried a few other places in town but just keep coming back, hard to beat the quality of the food, the service and the ambiance that this beautiful restaurant has to offer. Keep up the good work here…

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Conor October 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Hi Warren, and thanks very much for your comment. I have to agree with you, and tend to make at least one visit there whenever I’m back in town. I see that they’ve just stopped serving breakfast, which is pretty disappointing! I guess that the Salt Dish will be even more difficult to find a table at on a Saturday morning now. Just as well my sister makes a mean breakfast, and bonus points for being able to stay in your pyjamas while enjoying it.

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