Vegetarian Restaurant/Venue 1975-1981
5 1/4 Brown Street, Chatswood, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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Vivienne's story

   
   

To cast my mind back over half a lifetime ago, to find Jay’s ANFSCD website, to find a couple of forgotten old photo albums in the garage (which were both thankfully and thoughtfully placed in a plastic box by someone at some point) – it’s quite a journey.

I’ll say straight up that to know the place was to love the place, and I loved the place like my best friend. After the restaurant closed in early ’81 I paid a last visit to take some photos because I wanted to make a visual record of the site, especially the stairwell graffiti, as I had heard on the grapevine that the whole block was to be demolished to make way for high-rise. How true was that!

I first went to ANFSCD on my 18th birthday in February 1980. There had been talk about this unusual restaurant in Chatswood for sometime so my sister and I decided to check it out along with family and friends. I can’t remember what I ate or who was playing that night but I do remember that we sat at the SA (stage area) table right in front of the stage. The place felt really comfortable and I had a knowing inside that I would be back. After a couple more Friday evenings as a customer I half-jokingly suggested to Simon that he hire me as a waitress. Simon said: Well, you can start tonight – I am one short and it’s busy. I thought that it would be a one-off event but at the end of the evening he said I could come back to work the next night if I wanted to. It was my first ever job. From that first evening of work, there would not have been a single Friday/Saturday night shift I missed during the year to follow. We were paid $20 for a night’s work, starting around 5.30 pm and ending very late. I usually caught a cab home to Turramurra, which cost $5, but I still felt rich with the remaining $15.

Toby was the chef during my first months there. I remember him as a fairly short, blond man, truly droll by nature. Toby explained that he got his inspiration to cook “off the streets of India” where he had just returned from. He drove a funny little milk-truck-like van, cream coloured, with a sunroof. He liked to encourage people to stand up through the sunroof while he drove down the highway late at night. Toby practiced Tai Chi when the hectic pace of food preparation slacked off enough. I am not sure when or why Toby left, or even where he went, but one day I walked in to work and he was simply not there anymore.

Bob was the dishwasher man. He was a sweet guy, quiet and very wise. I knew Bob beyond my time at ANFSCD. A few months after the restaurant closed, when I got my P plates, he took me aside like the father-I-never-had and said: Vivienne, now remember, P is for Privilege and not for Perfect - drive carefully. God love you Bob!

As a mother of a teenage daughter today, I would have to say that ANFSCD as I remember it would be every teenage daughter’s mother’s worst nightmare so it was probably my mother’s as well. Already mentioned on Jay’s website was the blurred line between customer, employee and performer, with various substances thrown in the mix – so it led to quite a time and many memories for all.

There was one waitress named Sally who worked there for the last few months. She had gorgeous long strawberry blond hair. We bonded instantly. Sally and I would buy a bottle of port wine at the Charles Hotel just before a shift and by close it was all gone, between the two of us. Drinking on the job was never a problem at ANFSCD. My liver quivers with the memory. Unfortunately I lost contact with Sally a couple of months after the closure.

I totally disagree with the comments in the SMH review (ANFSCD Reviews page) about the food. It was all very tasty. My favourite food memories are of the Celestial Banana Delight, the Spinach and Feta Pie, and the Middle Eastern Platter. Homus and taboulie were not very well known then – throw in dolmades and Lebanese bread and this was a new experience for many. It certainly was for me. I have to say that I wasn’t supportive of the introduction of chicken to the menu (sorry Simon) because I thought that it took the special shine off the place. I was really sad to see you leave over it Jay and even tried to talk Simon into striking chicken off the shopping list, to no avail. But I did admire the way you stuck to your values, even if it meant resignation.

No trip down ANFSCD memory lane is complete without reminiscing over the performers. Suffice to say, the line up of gigs Simon was getting and the crowds we attracted are testimony to his entrepreneurial skills and demonstrates the great pull the place had.

 

Those photos of Moving Pictures are special (on FaceBook). That would be their debut night and, well, didn’t we rock to it. They were great. Typically, on a Friday or Saturday night quite a few of the staff would move down to the dance floor once the customers were full, satisfied and happy to drink for the rest of the evening. But we danced so hard the nights MP played. The girl in the blue skirt and white top (please see photo) is worth a special mention because I believe Alex met her that night, and eventually married her.

Glenn Cardier – definitely one of my favourites: Living Up To Those Great Expectations…. I can still hear him singing the song in my head. Glenn – you were (and still are, I bet) brilliant. I really enjoyed the nights you played and you were also such a wonderful person to chat with.

An African-American performer whose name I cannot remember did a gig one weekday evening. He was a large and very dark skinned man, a classic bluesy act from Chicago way I think. The poor guy hit his nose on the large pull-down freight elevator door on the way up so we gave him a band-aid. Well, his skin was very black and the band-aid, quite light pink. My eyes opened in surprise when I saw it. “The band-aid doesn’t match” I tactlessly exclaimed. In his thick accent he said something like: They ought to ('auda') make these things for black people too! In my mind I thought: you know, you’re absolutely right. There was no social justice in band-aids back then but I thought of him the first time I saw a translucent band-aid product on the market.

The week before the restaurant closed ‘Sherbs’ played. Daryl Braithwaite was a real down-to-earth, approachable person, despite his fame of the decade before. We chatted quite a bit and I was really looking forward to seeing them again. But they were scheduled to play on the weekend after the restaurant closed so they never got to come back a second time.

But no recollection of performers is complete without acknowledging Paul Dengate (and the Elements): "Life Is Just Like Hairspray – Kind of Sticky, Hardly There At All". (And I still sing that line to myself when I see a can of hairspray at the supermarket.) The band was excellent, lots of fun to dance to, and Paul – well, a very magnetic personality.

I think that Sardine V was playing the night we were closed (or were they scheduled to play the following night?). I am grateful to Simon that he hadn’t told us about the problems he was having over the license (see Simon’s story) because we did stay happy in the face of customers. I never knew Ken – to me it had always been Simon’s restaurant so I was not aware of any of the behind-the-scenes issues. But that night, around 10pm, I remember Simon walking over to say that health inspectors were here so I asked him: should I put my hair up with an elastic band? Simon answered: Vivienne, your hair is the least of my problems - the restaurant has been closed. At some point, perhaps that night or the next day, or in the following week, someone told me that Council had signed approval for a DA consisting of a large high-rise complex on the same site as us and “present tenants had to be evicted.” All in all, from several angles, the restaurant’s days were unfortunately numbered.

I've had so much fun over the years telling people about the crazy old rock 'n' roll vegetarian joint (built with milk crates, slabs of wood and old carpets) I worked at and sometimes, even now, I still come across someone who remembers dining there. Not long after I started waitressing at ANFSCD I remember a large group of people at one of my tables (the one under the menu board) doing a 'runner' on the bill. I was so upset with them. I chased the gang all the way down the stairs – all those flights, and out onto the street but I couldn’t catch them.

A couple of years later, while chatting about the place with some fellow Sunni students one girl piped up to tell about the night she came with a large bunch of friends and did a runner. She was the same culprit and I already knew most of her friends – the same ones who ran away from me that night! That girl became and still is a very good friend of mine. But I did ask Simon in a message the other night if he wanted to collect on the bill, with 30 years of interest, of course.

Thanks for the website Jay. Cheers and blessings to you all.

Vivienne.


Vivienne's wonderful photos can be found on the ANFSCD FaceBook page.



   
   

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Vegetarian Restaurant/Venue 1975-1981

5 1/4 Brown Street, Chatswood, Sydney, NSW, Australia

jay@AndNowForSomethingCompletelyDifferent.com.au