The Naked Lunch


This was originally published as a review in the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald. But I had to persuade the women sub editors to let it through. Only by arguing that it was not in favour of such places, but was merely reporting their existence and the kind of food they served did I prevail. Sadly such places – Twin Peeks one – still operate today. 

Where did your husband have lunch today? Was he served by young ladies in lingerie? Did he pay one of them to remove her brassiere, sit on his lap, and feed him flummery?

There are now at least six of these what are now known as “lingerie restaurants” in Sydney. One woman even spoke to me of the “lingerie restaurant industry”. This is not exactly a new development. Blokes have sat around tables being served by scantily clad women and perving on dancing girls after lunch for quite some time now. Salome is probably the best known of the early lingerie waitresses, Tête de Jean Baptiste her most famous dish.

A feminist friend dismissed such places as “just another manifestation of male power” and “symbolic of male ‘ownership’ of women.” I’d say she was right. But the blokes at the lunches that I went to didn’t look capable of or desirous of such analysis. They just wanted to eat, drink, and look at women with few, if any, clothes on.

I also spoke to Lindal Lee Arnold (who, incidentally, has a BA in Economics and Behavioural Science from Macquarie University), managing director of LA girls, who supplies lingerie models for places like The Pitts in Pitt Street, and Maurizio’s at Wetherill Park. Here, the waitresses are dressed, but after lunch there is a parade of young girls wearing lingerie. Ms Arnold has a different perspective on this phenomenon – in her view “it’s total exploitation of the men – we charge them $50 each to see a parade. If the girls are getting well paid, surely it’s the customer being exploited.”

For my first experience of such male exploitation, I went to Twiggy’s, which is in a terrace in Woolloomooloo. The door is locked, you ring the bell, a little door behind a grille is pulled back, and if you pass muster, you’re ushered into a dingy room which looks like a 60s bistro. White tablecloths, solid wooden chairs, and drapes closed tight to keep out the light and prying eyes.

Surrealistically, all the tables are occupied by fully clothed men being served by young women in brassieres, G strings, garter belts, and high heels. The men look like husbands: fathers, grandfathers and uncles. At Twiggy’s it was mostly lower middle management, with a couple of Ralph Lauren striped shirt and bracers types from the money market.

At first, the atmosphere was subdued and nervous. Fascinating was that, although these men were quite patently here for the young women, they didn’t look at them. While orders were being taken, their eyes never left the waitress’s face. Later, one told me “they won’t look at us when we’re looking at them.”

The food is served with indecent haste to make way for the “entertainment”: three strippers. At Twiggy’s the first was one of the waitresses, and then two outsiders – there is now a lingerie lunch circuit for strippers. The food was more than perfunctory – which I’d been expecting – less than polished, but certainly professional. The menu is limited – four entrees and four mains, but again, no one was seen to complain.

Smoked salmon with a good house made horseradish – acceptably gritty and pungent; a chicken salad of juicy little chunks of grilled chicken on a bed of mizuna and mignonette studded with slivers of grilled red and green capsicum; a lamb loin of good quality, but overcooked and accompanied by a flowerlet of broccoli: neither restaurant was big on veggies. The short wine list yielded a Yarra Ridge Chardonnay and a ’91 Kalimna.

Cinders is a different story. Opulent, men’s clubby, with balloon back chairs, delft blue and rust red rooms, glass-fronted bookcases, and young ladies in collars and cuffs with transparent black mini skirts and white waistcoats which were discarded progressively through lunch. Here it’s senior management doing the ogling, MDs, CEOs and the like. That’s the way manager Alison Brooks likes it. At Twiggy’s it’s “Hi guys”, at Cinders it’s “good afternoon gentlemen.”

The real surprise at Cinders was the seriously good food. A superb mushroom soup with Thai flavours; delicious duck livers on corn cakes served with reduced pan juices; I was warned by a chef friend against saying that the tenderloin steak was the best I’d had in Sydney for yonks, so I won’t. The wine list was more intriguing than Twiggy’s, and even the desserts weren’t bad, although we did serve ourselves.

Later, I spoke to a senior executive who freely admitted to taking his clients regularly to Cinders. His explanation was that it was “a sort of a male thing, a bit like going to the football”, that he took the same clients to the opera – “horses for courses” – and when asked whether or not he felt that he was displaying primitive male sexist attitudes, replied, indignantly, “no, I don’t buy into this feminist argument. If there were a restaurant where men stripped off, women would go there.” There is. They do.

And finally, what of the waitresses themselves? Penelope (not her real name) began working nights as a topless waitress to supplement her income from a cosmetics company, and finally gave up her day job to work as a lingerie waitress. She doesn’t mind the job, but there are downsides. Firstly, there’s the disruption to her social life “I’m with men all day, I have to be nice to them and some of them are so awful, the last thing you feel like is men after work.”

Since Penelope has been working as a lingerie waitress, “none of the girls have ever been out with a guy from the restaurant – they can’t even touch us – if someone does grab you they’re thrown out.” It does bother her that they “have the audacity to give me their business card and ask me out when I’m being paid to sit on their knee.”

On the whole, as far as Penelope is concerned, it’s not a bad job. “We’re really well paid (about $16/20 an hour plus “megatips”), you don’t have to take your panties off – it’s just like what you’d wear at the beach.”

Amanda (her real name), the self styled “foreperson” at Twiggy’s, who described herself as never having been a “clothes kind of person”, told me that she “would love to do exactly what these men are doing, not because of equality, but because I’d love to see guys walk around in next to nothing and eat nice food.”

What does it all mean? Let me offer the bullfight analogy. I went to my first bullfight expecting to hate it and loved it. This worried me enormously, and made me feel very guilty. I thought about it at length and came to the conclusion that, although I should have evolved beyond the primitive blood lust that the bullfight had unleashed in me, I hadn’t.

Well, the men who frequent lingerie restaurants (regulars go fortnightly) should have evolved beyond enjoying being served lunch by scantily clad women – but they haven’t. And as long as they haven’t, there’ll be people out there, men and women, exploiters or exploited, to take their money. At least they’re eating well.


(Both places offer food at a fixed price of $55.00 plus drinks, the average spend is around $120 a head.)





Ciao Carlo. Leichhardt won’t be the same



Last week the foodlovers of Sydney learnt that Carlo Colaiacomo, half of AC Butchery in Leichhardt had died. Just eight weeks after his beloved wife Angela, the A in the name.

Carlo was a much loved figure, and his shop one of the very first in Sydney to offer the kind of carnivorous products we omnivores hungered for. Especially smallgoods and sausages, great sausages.

One of those customers, Kim Terakes, had a few memories of Carlo to share. He recalled” Carlo pulling me aside one day in the shop and pointing to the ‘restaurant trimmed’ lamb cutlets. ‘The French did this, fuck them. Cut all the fat off the meat. No flavor any more. Fucking French’.”

But like many of us, Kim remembers walking into the shop, and Carlo saying, casually, one eyebrow raised ‘coffee mate?’ This was more than a butcher’s shop, this was visit to old friends. It speaks volumes that there were at least half a dozen of his Sydney customers at the funeral in Mudgee.

Who could forget the queues snaking all the way down (almost) to Norton Street at Christmas? Angela’s wonderful vinocotto (I’ve still got a bottle in the fridge). And big Carlo, presiding over the whole thing.

Below I’m pasting in a story of a visit I made to the family farm at Rylstone, original published in what was the Good Living section in The Sydney Morning Herald.

It’s a long way from Leichhardt to Rylstone, south east of Mudgee, where Carlo and Angela Colaiacomo (that’s Colee-arc-omo) of Sydney’s AC Butchery own a 73 hectare farm, with the totally inappropriate and unpronounceable Gaelic name of Aughnloo.

When this farm was brought to GL’s attention, we thought they were only raising organic beef and chickens. But wait, there’s more. Add geese, Muscovy ducks, New Zealand White rabbits, pheasant, partridge, quail, pigeons and pigs. There’s also one milking goat, a vineyard comprising some 6000 Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir vines, and fifteen olive trees with more to come of the last two items. Indeed, as the Colaiocomos have only owned Aughnloo for two years, it’s early days yet.

What Carlo and Angela have done is to create a mixed farm in the Southern European style. And the reason it’s possible to make a profit on such a quixotic enterprise is that they also own a butcher’s shop, so that almost everything that comes off the farm, ends up in Leichhardt. And that means their customers know they can always buy meat that has been raised, cared for and butchered by the man and woman behind the counter.

“There was one cow” said Carlo, “a real personality, we called her ‘mucca pazza’ (crazy cow – certainly not mad cow) “and when she finally came into the shop, her meat was beautiful, with very yellow fat. I’d say to customers, try this meat, it’s terrific, I knew the cow.” Not many butchers can offer that kind of personal hoof to hotplate service.

What’s even more remarkable about this enterprise is that, while Angela’s late father was, many years earlier, a farmer in Sicily, Carlo, far from being a ‘contadino’ (country man) was what his friend Carmello Torretta called a ‘concrete boy’: Carlo came here 32 years ago from Rome, where he last lived in an apartment overlooking the Piazza Navona.

We visited Aughnloo on a cold autumn morning, with a thick fog all but obscuring the view below the north facing farmhouse set high on the side of a steep hill. After a breakfast of bacon and eggs and a corretto (espresso with a nip) against the cold, Carlo and Carmello (Angela was in town that weekend) conducted a tour of the property, along with farm manager Steve Fuller.

But before that, Carlo showed off the kitchen garden, which is a dead give away that there are Italians about: broccoli di rape, rocket, thyme, various lettuces, all thriving just in front of a small chicken run raided daily for fresh eggs.

There have been good rains in the district recently – too good for some of the Mudgee vineyards – and the countryside is rich and green. Twenty seven cows in the mixed herd of around forty five are in calf and they’re all looking glossy and healthy, with plenty of rich mixed pasture to go around. Manager Steve Fuller reckons the property could carry 150 head, and that’s what he and Carlo are aiming for

We drive past the olive grove which, this year, didn’t give much of a crop. “Last year we got 25 kilos. This year, just enough for the table” said Carlo. On the other side of the property, beneath a shady pepper tree, a large run houses geese and Muscovy ducks. Carlo spots a hawk eying off the ducklings, Carmello chases it away.

We visit the rabbits, two of them  giving a vigorous demonstration of the expression ‘to breed like a rabbit’, and stop for a while in the pigeon hutch, listening to the calming ‘plomplomplom’ of its residents.

Within the space of an hour we see more meat on the hoof, claw and paw than many city people see in a lifetime. And the satisfying thing is, we know that most of it, eventually, will make its way to Leichhardt.

(AC Butchery is  still at 174 Marion Street Leichhardt, 9569 8687.)


aaad5e857d60a7b04faba1f410d929f0Carlo and Angela’s daughter Licia is on the left, and Angela is second right, on Carlo’s left.

Australia Day Squabbles. And a Solomonic solution

I buy The Weekend Australian firstly to read Review for great literary and film criticism and the occasional Indigenous story from Nicholas Rothwell, the best whitefella writing on the subject.

Then there’s Inquirer, the home of the rabid right and the loonies – with occasional humorous pieces from Maurice Newman, the comb-over king and doyen of the Old Men Shouting at Clouds division of commentary. There’s Golum Henderson and the anti-environment reporter Graham ‘Don Quixote Lloyd’ and others, leavened only by the token voice of reason, Peter Van Onselen.

But this week, a bundle of disparate views on the Australia Day debate. Paul Kelly, Geoffrey Robertson and Noel Pearson. I’m not going to touch Luke Slattery’s valiant but ultimately risible defence of Lachlan Macquarie (sample: ‘It’s true that he did order that any aborigines killed in the action be strung up on trees – but he does not order his men to kill for this purpose’ a truly humanitarian action). I’ll start with the Oz’s Elder Statesman, Paul Kelly.

The premise of his piece is summed up in its headline ‘The nation needs to embrace its two truths’, a worthy ideal. But from there it is all downhill. A combination of whitepslaining and Greensbashing

‘We should exist neither in perpetual grievance nursed by the indigenous peoples and those, like the Greens, who recklessly exploit their grievances, nor in the complacency of those Europeans (with a capital E unlike ‘indigenous’ without as against current usage) who still pretend there was no dark side to the civilisation we enjoy.

An almost reasonable statement, if stripped of the mandatory – for a Murdoch hack – swipe at the Greens Party. Which doesn’t stop there. Later, he blusters:

‘The self-interested cynicism of Greens leader Richard Di  Natale is gob-smacking. With his eye on stealing future votes in inner-city Melbourne, Di Natale announces        changing Australia Day will be a priority…during the rest of the year since the day is about theft and genocide.’

Of course it is only Di Natale using the day for political gain, not  Turnbull wedging  Shorten by demanding that he speak ‘proudly and passionately’ in favour Australia Day. Which he didn’t. It is here we see Kelly nervously looking over his shoulder for the approval of His Lordship Rupert who once invoked all of his journalists not to ‘…let the bloody Greens ruin’ Australia. They haven’t had a chance yet.  And besides the two majors are doing a wonderful job without them.

But here is the killer. Kelly reminds us that Phillip said that ‘The convict colony that the began would, one day be “the most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever made.’ Acquisition? Yeah sure, in the same way that a bank robber acquires the contents of a bank’s safe. It wasn’t an acquisition. It was stolen.

And just one more thing. Without the Greens standing up for social justice (which is one of their four principles) by campaigning to change the date, the weighty yarns adorning the pages of the Inquirer would not be there, and they would be, as usual, full of the usual climate change denying anti-progressive political clap-trap.

Actually Di Natale should be applauded for spearheading the campaign that gave us a week free of Gollum Henderson’s whining. Alas we still have to suffer our eyes to glaze over another tortuous and semi comprehensible piece by Albrechtsen on the ‘Moral vanity of a virtue-signaller’ whatever the Rupert that is.

But now to Geoffrey Robertson’s spirited and well-written defence of Arthur Philip which founders on two important points, although many others are well made. Phillip did care for his ‘human cargo’, did insist that the ships of the first Fleet were well-provisioned and did write the admirable injunction ‘There can be no slavery in a free land.’ Sadly, there was, but it was long after Phillip had gone. But what cannot be forgotten is how quickly Phillip’s attempts to ‘bond with the Aborigines’ gave over to Georgian arrogance and brutality.

Governor Arthur Phillip had orders from George III to ‘endeavour, by every possible means, to open an intercourse with the natives, and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all subjects to live in amity and kindness with them’. Unfortunately, the locals wanted nothing to do with these newcomers, and stayed away from them after February 1788. This so frustrated Phillip that he kidnapped a local called Arabanoo by subterfuge. Arabanoo was then dragged, bound hand and foot, to the Governor’s table, and in that way was the first Indigenous inhabitant to dine with Europeans. But worse was to come.

In December of 1790, when Phillip’s gamekeeper, McEntire, by all accounts a nasty piece of work who had been accused by local Aborigines of shooting and injuring them (corroborated by Watkin Tench) was speared and killed. Phillip sent a squad of subalterns and others to find, capture and cut off the heads of six ‘natives’ or, if they cannot be caught then they should be shot, or if they can capture the six, two were to be hung and the four remaining to be sent to Norfolk Island. Thus George’s command to compassion did not last the year.

And finally to the only blackfella in the section. The wise but often flawed Noel Pearson. This time, wisdom is displayed, and a solution of elegant simplicity offered.


Under the heading ‘Let us honour the before and after’ Pearson suggests that’ The observance of Australia day could commence on January 25 – the eve of the proclamation of British sovereignty and continue into January 26.

This would, he writes, ‘straddle two sovereignties’, that of the First Nations and that of the British. His argument is long and carefully reasoned, but can be summarised thus: ‘Linking January 25 and 26 would be a noble compromise between the old and the new. It would bring together honour, empathy, remembrance and celebration’

And so should say all of us. For all his faults, Noel Pearson is a jolly good fellow. And outthinks and outfoxes all the whitefellas surrounding him.