Waiting brings a dent to Ego

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The garden Bowl… includes cinnamon pumpkin, cauliflower rice, red radish, carrots, red cabbage, beetroot hummus, quinoa, cucumber, dukkah and house-made turmeric aioli. Photo: Wendy Johnson

I WAS thrilled to see the massive space in Civic at the corner of Bunda and Genge streets – former home to Cream Bar and Cafe – re-open. It’s such a fabulous location and so off we went to visit Alter Ego.

Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson.

This relatively new establishment opens early for coffee and breakfast, at 7.30am, seven days a week. It’s open pretty late, too – up to 2.30am depending on the day. That means you can do coffees (by ONA), breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails and everything in between, with something for every personality.

Major effort has gone into reconfiguring the inside, with the bar now running down the right side – not in the centre – and the décor has been transformed. The place looks amazing.

We settled in outside, enjoying a day of not-so-hot weather. That was when the waiting game began.

Heaps of staff were swanning about, but not many paying a lot of attention to customers sitting outside so I waltzed in to get a menu from the bar (followed by another customer sitting behind us). I was told someone would bring a menu outside. Okey-dokey.

Alter Ego’s menu has great variety and we had no trouble choosing refreshingly different dishes. I think the kitchen team is on to something.

The garden bowl was divine. It was loaded with goodness and I loved the combination of mega ingredients and flavours. It’s the kind of dish that makes you feel healthier and healthier with every bite.

This “super bowl” includes cinnamon pumpkin, cauliflower rice, red radish, carrots, red cabbage, beetroot hummus (so good it inspired me to make my own), quinoa, cucumber, dukkah and house-made turmeric aioli ($18). It’s totally loaded with goodness, looked amazing and was a delight to eat.

My friend started with the blue fin tuna tartare with seaweed dressing and crispy capers ($19) which came out close to 15 minutes after my meal arrived and my meal was far from prompt. Indeed, we had virtually finished our glass of wine by the time any food arrived and that was after I had waltzed inside a second time to see if there had been a mistake with our order. I was told, in these words: “Sorry guys, just give us one second”.

The waiting game continued until the pan-fried pork dumplings with soy vinegar and shallot ($12) finally arrived. It’s just as well they were yummy, but we agreed that front-of-house isn’t doing justice to the creativity in the kitchen.

The sad thing is that the staff didn’t even ask if we enjoyed our meal. They took our dishes away without saying a word. How hard is it? Apparently, very hard.

Perhaps this operation needs to focus less on its alter ego and more on its true, original personality.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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