Review: Go Go Music Cafe, Balmoral

By Peter Calder

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Herald on Sunday Rating: 3.5.5
Address: 559 Dominion Rd, Balmoral
Ph: (09) 638 8365

Despite the name, there are no girls in miniskirts - just sociable nibbling against a backdrop of Wild West scenery. Photo / Getty Images
Despite the name, there are no girls in miniskirts - just sociable nibbling against a backdrop of Wild West scenery. Photo / Getty Images

The chooks are dead. I did it. In the carport. With the secateurs.

I did not act alone. My mate Tejo came round to show me how, since I'd never killed anything except a possum. He learnt chook-killing from his father when he was a boy, and said the efficient - and humane - shears beat the axe and chopping block. But the whole thing left me pretty traumatised, because it turned out that the birds, of whom I had grown rather fond, didn't really deserve to die.

After three years of firing out about 20 eggs a week between them, they were barely producing half a dozen and I was spending a lot more on feed than I was getting back in eggs. Several people - Tejo among them - solemnly advised culling. But the evisceration process revealed that the poor dears were absolutely chocka with developing eggs and Tejo, shaking feathers and bits of lung from his fingers, concluded that they must have been having "a bit of a moult" instead.

I restrained myself from saying that I wished he'd mentioned the possibility before we turned the carport into an abattoir.

I just gave him one chook and butchered the other two for a coq au vin which I offered to my student daughter; having betrayed and slaughtered the poor birds, I couldn't really bring myself to eat them.

All that work gave me an appetite, though. It may seem insensitive to the late birds' memory to have immediately eaten out at a place whose speciality is every conceivable kind of meat on skewers, but I displayed appropriate respect by not ordering chicken. This was not difficult. The Go Go Music Cafe, which a friend's son had discovered in the block of cheap eats around the Capitol Cinema in Balmoral, has plenty on offer for anyone who has - temporarily or permanently - sworn off chicken: lamb, pork, and beef (or as the faintly greasy laminated menu would have it, "beff"), and fish.

Within these major food groups, the subdivisions are practically endless. You can have beef tongue (fantastic), beef aorta (the consistency of a garden hose, but not quite as tasty) and beef ball (which is not what you think it is). Had I been so crass as to order chicken, I could have chosen between feet, knee, heart, kidney, bone (?), skin and neck. There is also an option called "chicken".

But before turning our attention to ordering, we settled in over beers (big Chinese bottles of Tsingtao and White at $8) and admired the decor. Despite its name, Go Go Cafe does not have lots of girls in tight miniskirts shimmying and gyrating, although a stage suggests anything is possible late at night.

Instead, and incongruously, the walls are decorated with murals of Wild West scenes - big buttes and cactuses and silhouettes of cowboys at home on the range.

Of the music that was playing as we ate, I will say only that it was neither go-go nor good.

In ordering, I was guided in part by my experienced companions' recommendations and in part by adventurous instinct, otherwise known as foolhardiness. Hence the beef aorta, which was the sole conspicuous disaster of the evening - I am finishing chewing the last piece as I write, a week later.

The skewers, it must be said, are small - closer to hors d'oeuvres on large steel toothpicks than a big fat Greek souvlaki or Turkish shish kebab. But they range from 50c (lamb) to $3 (squid head) each (most cost $1.50 or $2) and there are a dozen or so options for vegetarians as well, though I wouldn't bet they were grilled separately from the meat.

It's sociable nibbling rather than fine dining, to be sure, but there are non-skewer options: the Chinese youngsters all seemed to be tucking into a pictured dish which was named only in Chinese characters but which, they told me, was "chicken and vegetables". As an exotic (and aesthetically interesting) culinary adventure in a fun part of town, I reckon it's great.

I just hope the chooks will forgive me.

Need to know

Value: $

$ = $20-$40; $$ = 40-60; $$$ = $60+.
(Price guide reflects three courses for one person without drinks.)

Also try

Balmoral is cheap-eats central and I've never had a bad meal in the area. New Flavour at 541 Dominion Rd is the hot table.

- Herald on Sunday

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