Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pizza, Beer and a Movie at the Abbotsford Convent

My sister and I grew up to the soundtrack from The Big Chill, so when I saw it was playing at the Shadow Electric while she was visiting, I booked tickets immediately. I'd heard really nice things about the Abbotsford Convent, now an art and community space where the outdoor cinema is held, so I was pretty psyched by the time our evening rolled around. We headed up to the area early to grab food from the trucks that convene inside the convent walls–the movie was set to start at sundown. Little did we know that those savvy to the scene stake out their cinema seats early by planting blankets and sweaters before going back out for dinner. Cheeky.

On any sunny Friday night during the summer months, you can expect the convent to be abuzz with people relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. Live bands set the scene in the courtyard where food trucks and other vendors line up, and picnicking families abound. There's a hippie-not-hipster vibe going on there, which is kind of refreshing. Oh, and the well-known Lentil as Anything is in here, and there was a HUGE line. 

We thought we'd get food from some of the trucks but then upon surveying the scene we decided to go for pizza and beer from the Convent Bakery. I had a refreshing Pimms and Lemonade with all the fixings while we waited for our pizzas to arrive. In the meantime, we couldn't resist getting some little nibbles from the Ghost Kitchen Taiwanese street food truck.
I didn't go up to order these and the truck doesn't have a website or a menu online so I can only guess exactly what was going on here. The sweet potato fries were delicious. They had that perfect soft sweet potato fry texture with little crunchy corners, and they were coated in what seemed like some kind of sweet and sour powder. Decent portion size there but again I can only guess that it was like $3 for the serving. The sausage was kind of disappointing portion wise, though. It was tiny so we each got like 1.5 bites, but the tender and well seasoned meat was tasty anyway. My only thing was that it was SUPER garlicky and I have this garlic problem so that's more of my issue than theirs. Although it was like just a huge mouthful of garlic. Sooooo...

Our pizza took about 30 minutes to arrive. Bummer summer. We ordered two 11 inch pies–one capricciosa with ham, mushrooms and olives, and one with sliced potato, mushrooms, caramelized onions, bleu cheese and mozzarella. The capricciosa came first, and we had finished it off by the time the potato one showed up. Spotty service.
On the whole, these pizzas were quite nice. I enjoyed the toppings on each one–especially the capricciosa. The ham was thinly sliced, olives seemed to be of good quality and the mushrooms sweated but still plump. It was cheesy and saucy enough but the crust itself was harder to embrace. It had a few much sought after bubbles around the diameter, but overall was a bit flat and dry. Em and I mostly ordered the potato pizza for its bleu cheese, which was sadly omitted. The caramelized onions on this one were really nicely done, though and the few sprigs of rosemary that were present went a long way.

I'm kind of surprised, therefore, to read that Convent Bakery has abysmal reviews online. I can understand complaints about service and clearly all I've tried there was the pizza so I can't speak for breakfast, but to me the Convent Bakery seemed to serve its purpose. I mean, we're talking decent pizza and pricey beer instead of amazing pizza and cheap beer, but for a night enjoying the setting sun and the sounds of bands that think they're Fleetwood Mac, Convent Bakery pizzas are perfect. 

We headed over to the Shadow Electric to find the situation I explained earlier. If you don't zip straight in to claim your seats when the doors open at 6pm, you'll likely be stuck on the sides or in the back. That's not to say that any of seats in this tiny theater would be super bad, though. But you wouldn't want to have to split from your group. They have alternating foods within the bounds of the theater itself, including our old friends Pierogi Pierogi, there's a hipster nation DJ who we saw the next day doing his DJ thing in Topshop, and there's a bar with its own pricey drinks. They have their own license, so don't try to bring alcohol from the outside.
It's when the sun sets and the screen starts to descend that the magic happens. Hundreds of fruit bats appear with the coming of dusk and glide overhead in a seemingly never-ending train. They go on for minutes until you suspect that there's not one bat left in the skys that you haven't seen. Then another colony of even more bats emerges. It's a tranquil moment.

It does get cold and sometimes windy sitting outside at night in Melbs, so definitely bring a blanket or two to the Shadow Electric. We each had long sleeves (I had a jacket–muahahahah) but we were all cold by the end. Just a heads up.

The Abbotsford Convent: 1 St. Heliers St. Abbotsford, VIC 3067. 03 9415 3600
Abbotsford Convent Bakery on Urbanspoon


Jade Graham said...

it's a bit of a bummer that their truck is not going to be a full time thing (sit down restaurant opening next year or whatever Food Truck Wedding

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