A new offering of savoury dishes spanning breakfast through dinner is the latest chapter in the evolution of South Australian dessert specialists Bracegirdle’s House of Fine Chocolate.
Now that COVID-19 dining restrictions have eased, Sue and Garry Bracegirdle have launched the new menus, which have been in the works for several months and boast hearty modern dishes and generous portions.
The Bracegirdle’s story began 15 years ago, when Sue and Garry, a high school teacher, established their chocolate-focussed cafe in a cosy two-storey building at Glenelg.
The sense of familiarity and homeliness of the Glenelg store inspired the name, Bracegirdle’s House of Fine Chocolate.
“The Glenelg store is like a little house. It could be reminiscent of your grandma’s house. We wanted people to feel like they were being welcomed into our home,” Sue says.
It doesn’t seem so long ago, Sue says, but consumer habits were very different 15 years ago. Dessert was not “a thing” like it is today, and neither was dining out for breakfast.
At the launch of their business, the Bracegirdles expected patronage throughout the day, but quickly learnt customers mostly wanted desserts after dinner.
“We realised that people didn’t eat desserts for breakfast – they do now – but didn’t then,” Sue says.
“We opened at night when we realised that we could feed off the restaurants in Glenelg, and do desserts for their main courses. And so that worked.”
Over the years, the family business expanded beyond Glenelg, opening cafés at Westfield Marion and Cross Road, while also offering an extensive dining experience at licensed restaurants in McLaren Vale and Blackwood. They also ran a store on Greenhill Road, which they closed in 2018 due to a lack of parking for customers.
“We found that breakfast has become the biggest thing; it’s overtaken lunch and even dinner. People get together for brunch or breakfast, so our breakfast offerings are probably almost as popular now,” Sue says.
However, it has been difficult to get customers to associate the Bracegirdle’s brand with savoury food.
“Because our name is associated with chocolate, people didn’t get that you could go and have a proper meal, like a steak or fish and chips at McLaren Vale or Blackwood,” she says.
“We’ve tinkered with savoury dishes on the menu over the last nine years and never quite got the balance right, but our chefs have come up with some delicious new additions that are a bit more contemporary.”
Their renewed push into the savoury world brings hearty, generous meals, like the Texan platter of slow-cooked, sticky, smoked pork ribs with buffalo wings, onion rings, and coleslaw.
There’s also a take on karaage – marinated and fried chicken pieces served with Asian slaw, rice and spiced mayo dipping sauce.
The menu contains gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options.
“The chocolates have always been a major part of our business, and especially for gifts and corporate functions, so this is just trying to add another dimension to everything,” Sue says.
Bracegirdle’s still has plenty of options for the sweet tooth, such as French toast, or Belgian sugar waffle with fresh strawberries, banana, yoghurt, maple syrup and bacon.
Sue says the key to the business’s growth and continued success through a variety of challenges, even those as disruptive as the coronavirus, has been simple: hard work.
“We wouldn’t ask anybody else to do anything that we don’t do. We still clear tables, clean toilets, all that sort of stuff, which is why we are where we are today.”
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