The Good Living supplement first appeared in Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday June 15, 1982. Leo Schofield wrote the cover story about dining options in public institutions. The founding editor was Jenny Tabakoff. Good Living originally extended beyond food with fashion and lifestyle articles.
Perhaps aiming for the non-epicure, Leo Scholfield’s cover story for the first edition of Good Living reviewed eating places that were anything but fine dining. He ate at Sydney Airport, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Australian Museum, the Zoo and the Harbourside Restaurant at the Opera House. Most were little more than sandwich bars.
Predictably, Leo was fairly scathing. Of the cafeteria at the airport, he wrote “If this cafeteria was located at the Acme Nut and Bolt Factory they’d have a strike on their hands.” The Australian Museum fared little better. Leo sampled a range of what he called “Glad Wrapped sandwiches with sensible suburban fillings”. The sandwiches appeared to fall into two categories: “dryish” or “dampish”.
At the Taronga Park zoo, the sandwiches consisted of “putty-coloured bread, micro slices of pressed ham, waxy strips of processed cheese” and produced the verdict that “Outside the spider monkeys tucking into fresh carrots and celery seemed to be doing rather better than the paying guests”.
Eating al fresco at the Opera House, it seemed that dive-bombing gulls were the main problem, with Leo consuming his tepid onion soup as quickly as possible lest said gulls deposit an “unwanted crouton”. Of the fried fish (bream) he remarked that “the crumbing was a bit like Pebblecrete”.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales came off best – perhaps because it was a proper restaurant with an international menu that included gazpacho, tortellini and that old favourite, Chicken Kiev. Leo’s Steak Australiana came topped with a fried egg and accompanied by chips, bacon, green beans and, as a decorative touch, a vandyked half tomato.
Other articles in the first Good Living included Elise Pascoe on making hamburgers, Pierre Faney with a recipe for Paglia e Fieno a Truit, two pages devoted to wine (with a focus on Chablis) and David Dale’s restaurant reviews.
The restaurants he wrote about were quirky to say the least. At Russets, the chief attraction was a clock-tower opposite where, on the hour, figures popped out and conducted a mini-bullfight. At Rockerfellas, where the menu was all-American, giant fibreglass sculptures of footballers protruded from the walls. And at Edna’s Table, the food was “interesting” (hearts stuffed with mango?) while the atmosphere was “extraordinary” (statues of cupids, paintings of kookaburras and a giant pink panther by the bar). Well, it was the eighties after all.
Edna’s table ran until 2005 at three different Sydney locations. As for Russets and Rockerfellas…their fate remains unknown.