“How was your meal?”. It’s the standard question when the waiter is clearing your plates at a cafe or a restaurant. Like that other standard question “How are you?” it puts a real spanner in the works if you don’t respond with a “great” or “good”. I had this conundrum after popping in for brunch to the newly opened cafe CH James in Fairfield.
Station street in Fairfield has a bit of an identity crisis with three butchers (unheard of!) but a shortage of decent coffee places. CH James aims to solve that dilemma and the cafe certainly looks the goods with its whitewashed walls and artfully arranged farm industrial tools used as decoration in a nod to the history of the area. The best part of the cafe is the beautiful sun trap of a courtyard that opens up along one side. There are plenty of tables set amongst vegie and herb filled wooden planter boxes which serve as an edible garden for the cafe.
The coffee is made by Small Batch and it’s great: my latte ($3.50) was super smooth. But unfortunately when my waiter asked “how was your meal” I had to reply honestly and say actually not great. The fried chicken wings ($16) that I ordered were juicy and tender but came coated in a pale, soggy batter. For one of CH James signature dishes it was quite disappointing. So I put on a brave face and told the waiter exactly that and I’m glad I didn’t lie and just say “fine” because later that day I got an email asking more about the ill fated chicken wings and inviting me to go back.
I was tempted not to go because I felt the whole situation might be a little, shall we say, awkward but thought it was only fair to give CH James a second chance. This time around I asked the waitress for her recommendations and so went for simpler breakfast dishes: the crumpets and chilli eggs. CH James serves the excellent Dr Marty’s crumpets topped simply with whipped ricotta, honey and berries ($10). It’s a combination I’m going to try and recreate at home as whipping the ricotta made it so light and fluffy although the crumpets could have probably done with a few more berries.
CH James’ scrambled eggs with chilli and fetta ($14) are creamy and fluffy with just enough chilli folded through to add some serious kick without bringing on the sweats! I enjoyed CH James much more on my return. Perhaps it was because I had been invited and so they made a special effort to make sure things were perfect, but perhaps I just had bad luck with my order on my first visit. Either way it goes to show it’s worth being honest when your waiter asks “How was it?”.
Gourmet Chick visited CH James twice. Once independently and anonymously and once as a guest of CH James.
Details: CH James, 86 Station street, Fairfield (Ph 9486 3484)
Kids: On both visits CH James were very child friendly, the courtyard area is good with lots of plants and herbs for little ones to look at and there are high chairs and babychinos on offer.