Avocado smash: The simple Australian dish the world can’t get right
It’s one of the most iconic of Australian foods. OK, maybe pies are more iconic. But after the humble meat pie what is more quintessentially Australian than avocado smash? The deliciously healthy weekend breakfast that both sets you up for the day and ensures you’ll never get on the property ladder.
The rest of the world has now caught on to this Aussie favourite, with avo smash popping up in cafes and supermarkets from New York to London.
Yet, something has gone horribly wrong in translation. The rest of the world has taken something so simple and yet they’ve ballsed it up. In most cases, it’s less avo smash and more avo slap dash.
In exhaustive international tests, news.com.au battled its way through slimy avocado with the consistency of baby food and, in another instance, cold chewy chunks of the classic green fruit. One outlet seemed to think smashed avo was a dip. And in almost every case, a key ingredient was missing. Even an Australian cafe in London seemed to be off the mark.
But how hard can it be to get the simple dish right? According to food website Taste, the classic smash recipe includes just four ingredients besides the fruit itself: lemon, mint, feta and some good quality bread.
You roughly mash the avo, so it’s still a bit chunky, squeeze in the lemon, add mint. Then spoon onto hot toast and crumble over the feta.
Some may quibble over these ingredients. Is mint a necessity? Why has chilli been left out? Do you really need feta? (Yes.) We would suggest a poached egg with a warm runny yolk is mandatory and a serving of garlicky mushrooms is a perfect accompaniment.
However, all in all, avo smash isn’t that hard, surely? Abroad, it seems, it really is.
British supermarket Waitrose, beloved of the middle classes, sells a tub of “avocado smash, twist of lemon” as part of its “World Deli” selection. On first impressions, it’s a bit confusing. There’s no bread, let alone toast, it’s just a splodge of avocado in a tub. Seemingly it’s morphed into a dip.
Crackers at hand, we dived in. And it was better than it looked. The consistency was getting there — a mix of creaminess with some chunks. But unlike any self-respecting smash, it had been chilled. This led some of the chunks to be tough and chewy like an unripe avo.
The lemon gave a tart tang but the lack of feta, or chilli, or mint for that matter made it one dimensional. And without some bread to put it on, was it really avo smash at all?
Perhaps a bona fide Australian cafe in London would do better? Sydneysiders have long raved about breakfast at Bills, the eponymous cafe owned by super — successful chef Bill Granger. So successful, you can now have a Bills’ brunch not just in Australia but the US, UK, Korea and Japan.
Due to the fact another cafe, somewhat inconveniently, nabbed the Bills name first in Britain, the Australian chain is called Granger & Co. It offers “toasted rye, avocado, lime and coriander” with a poached egg as a side.
The restaurant has that understated, laid back vibe of an Australian cafe. Images of Bondi Beach grace postcards in the venue.
But the avo wasn’t smashed. It just sat there sliced — at the most you might say lightly crushed — on the toast. To be fair, the menu never promised the avo would be “smashed” but frankly, if it’s sitting on a piece of toast it’s essentially treasonous not to mash it. And feta was nowhere to be seen.
Unmashed, the dish left the bread dry. It was a serviceable but not spectacular avo-based breakfast. I wouldn’t use the postcard to write home about it.
However, it was a veritable triumph of taste, a breakfast bonanza, compared to the horror story of an avo smash at Pret a Manger. A disaster of a dish; a takeaway travesty; an Aussie icon smashed to smithereens.
For those who don’t know, despite its French name (which means “ready to eat”) Pret a Manger is a British takeaway sandwich chain that has expanded to the US, France and China among others.
It’s generally a step above the usually takeaway fare and in the UK and the US it now sells avo smash. Hopes were high they’d do a good job. Those hopes were cruelly dashed.
— Julie Hamill (@JulieHamill) May 23, 2019
PRET IS SELLING AVOCADO ON A PIECE OF GLUTEN FREE BREAD FOR £4.50?! Insane pic.twitter.com/Ma8kkOH0BD
— Dinesh Kumar (@DHardayal) April 23, 2019
First up, it looked awful. Rather than being bright green, the avocado was streaked dirty brown.
The texture can be summed up in a word: slime. It wasn’t so much smashed avo as pulverised avo with no hint of a chunk anywhere. Baby food is more solid.
Maybe the taste could save it? It couldn’t. It tasted of little else but the lemon squeezed on it seconds ago. There were visible chilli flakes on the avo, but they did nothing to perk up this beige breakfast.
Pret prides itself on making food fresh every day; I have no reason to believe they don’t. But in just the few hours it had been on display, the smash had made the bread soggy and moist. And, for some unknown reason, it was gluten-free bread which is already doughy and cakey.
So instead of the crusty toast counteracting the smooth avo, it was just one unrelenting chewy, moist mush. And again, no feta.
Oddly, it was a record store cum coffee shop that put the big boys to shame. Brill, in Exmouth Market nestled between the city fringe suburbs of Clerkenwell and Farringdon, offered up avo smash on a bagel.
OK, so a bagel is not the classic bread base, but it was warm and had crunch and bite. And the avo atop it was glorious. It had the balance between smooth and chunky spot on. A generous crumble of feta gave the dish a salty tang. But it was the ingenious addition of pistachios and smoky dukkha that really made it sing.
Only a poached egg was missing, but aside from that it was pitch perfect.
It was the exception, however. While avo smash may have taken the world by storm, its journey overseas has seen it lose some of its lustre. Whether it’s the missing feta or bad bread or just not understanding the importance of a good slice of warm toast, overseas is an avo atrocity. Save your smash fix for when you get back to Australia.