Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rockpool - Southbank, Melbourne

The term “fine dining” gets used a lot to possible remark about a great night’s meal at an upmarket restaurant. But when you experience real fine dining you are not just remarking about your experience with excellent  food and great service you are saying you had an almost life changing experience.  Of course life changing experiences come at a cost no matter what form they take. Even if you don’t pay with cash there is always some negative in a lot of positive. The fine dining I am referring to can only be paid in cash. Like most things in life you get what you pay for. If you are astute and pay the right amount at the right time and place you get good “bang for buck”.

My wife and I have dined at some fine restaurants but to move into the fine dining arena you have to take one huge step to that next level where the term “fine dining” is truly experienced.  While staying at the Crown Promenade we lined up at the door of the Rockpool waiting with empty stomachs and anticipation for our seat in the house of true fine dining. A Neil Perry restaurant of notary and the winner of many awards.  We had no idea this was going to be as good as it was.

How many restaurant staff do they require to serve well at a small table? We were seated by reception, brought the menu by the Maitre d, brought the wine list by the wine waiter, served some homemade bread by the bread waiter and served our meal by kitchen staff\chef. Through the night we had two or three of the above staff hover to ensure all was going well. Wine was very good and bread unusual and butter even more so. All very pleasant but what of the food?

This is where the term fine dining is stamped all over the total experience. The food was more like a religious experience than a sit down meal. I had trout only a few nights before at a top class restaurant near Apollo Bay. I decided to go the trout again for entree. What looked like trout, red onion and balsamic vinegar tasted like heaven. I knew it was raw trout but it didn’t taste like trout or it DID taste like trout, how it was always meant to taste. Heaven. The menu read red gum fired grill. I wanted proof. A short stroll to the kitchen area revealed large red gum logs poking up from an open flame grill area. I had the lamb once more superb. My wife’s food was sensational with multiple layers of deep flavor exploding on the taste buds. Each mouthful was savored, not chewed or eaten, savored.  With two courses and sides we were full but craved just one more fix of the most intoxicating food we have ever eaten. But, alas, we could eat no more.

To fine dine, and we all should do it before we die, you must go to renowned restaurants where high profile well know chefs are closely associated, work there or own it. It is a culinary experience you will take with you for the rest of your life. You will find yourself wondering how they (the chefs) can possibly get great ingredients to taste as good as they do. What magic has to be performed to take you some place you have never been, raise you to the heavens, lead by a desire for truly great food. Fine dining is! The Rockpool is.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Chris' Restaurant - Beacon Point, Victoria

While holidaying at Apollo Bay in Victoria we were booked in for an evening meal at Chris’. There was a table of seven of us for a birthday calibration. I would have been happy to pay for ourselves after enjoying an excellent meal but the birthday boy footed the whole bill. Did this make the meal even better or could the whole dining experiences at Chris’ be improved? Hard to improve upon perfection because that is exactly what we got, the whole seven of us, a perfect two course meal.

The drive from Apollo Bay to Beacon Point, where Chris’s is located, is a short and easy one. There is a climb to car park (via car) where you can also find accommodation. The view from the restaurant is excellent down through a heavily treed area and out to the ocean. The interior decor is has a woody natural feel and all the furnishings are new and modern. The dining area has a few different levels and is big and open with a high ceiling, you feel you are outside, amongst the trees. I liked it!

Service is friendly and Chris, being Greek himself, has employed a number of Greek waiters. I’m a big fan of table staff being from the country in which the cuisine is based. The accents just added to the evening’s enjoyment. The food is heavily Greek influence with good variety. Can’t comment on the wine and beer list because the host took control from sit down but I can say the red wine and champagne we had was very nice. What I can comment on is food quality, presentation and taste. I can sum that up in a word – “perfect”. People I have spoken to who have dined here have nothing but good words to say about this excellent restaurant.  If you go you will also be very impressed.

Monday, January 13, 2014

DoppioZero - Cool Stores, Mornington Peninsula

We went back to Doppiozero for another try of their food and service. See my remarks below for our first visit after the restaurant had only been open for a short time. I was hoping for better service and definitely better food. Service was fine and everyone appeared to know what was on the menu and what could be served. The restaurant was quiet therefore no excuse for a bad experience.

On our first visit we were told me must come back and try their pizzas. Every cafe, restaurant and take-away can cook a good pizza. So how would Doppio better a pizza? They didn't. To date the best pizza I have had has is from the local shopping centre and unfortunately Doppio’s was a very poor contender. I picked my favourite type of pizza and was sadly let down. My dining partner ordered the gnocchi with beetroot. For one it looked awful being a pinky-red colour and I was informed it had no taste at all. Two meals both unimpressive. Nice ambiance though the music was too loud but until they can fix the food quality, they have lost me.

Revisit: DoppioZero at The Cool Stores on the Mornington Peninsula is a very new restaurant as of this writing. When we visited it had only been open the day before. Teething problems, you bet. So let’s not be too hard on this fledgling enterprise.

Let’s take a look at all the good points:

  • ·         Lots of easy parking
  • ·         Not too far down the Peninsula and a pleasant drive at that
  • ·         Rural surroundings
  • ·         The fresh smell of clean air with the bay not too far off
  • ·         A brand new restaurant, clean, pristine, modern with a European feel
  • ·         Pleasant ambience
  • ·         Friendly staff

Now some not too exciting observations:

  • ·         A difficult to read and understand drinks menu
  • ·         A more confusing cocktail menu on a bottle?
  • ·         Staff not sure what kitchen can do and can’t do
  • ·         Kitchen not too sure what they can do
  • ·         Food menu a little confusing
  • ·         Maitre d’ and staff differing over what the kitchen can provide
  • ·         Limited selection of wines
  • ·         No garlic bread according to staff but not according to Maitre d’
  • ·         Pushing pizza  - so who doesn’t do pizza (point of difference?)
  • ·         Meals not very good
  • ·         Some menu items not available

Give this new restaurant a few weeks to get sorted. We really need this establishment to survive and flourish to provide further dining choices on the Peninsula. Go for a drink and take a look around. It is very nice inside and hopefully will be known as the place to dine, away from Frankston and Mornington. Be patient.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ginseng - Frankston, Mornington Peninsula

There are many Chinese restaurants in Frankston. I believe that Chinese restaurant maybe the most common type of restaurant in most states of Australia, therefore lots of choice. Good for us. Some are rough and tumble take-away food shops others aspire to fine dining. Once more,  good for us.

Ginseng Frankton is a basic Chinese restaurant on Nepean Highway in Frankston. It also runs a take-away. On the night I visited Ginseng I was with ten others for a birthday party. Fortunately this is a BYO restaurant which helps ease the pressure on the wallet. Generally Chinese are inexpensive restaurants to eat at but when you can bring your own wine, it gets cheaper. Parking is easy on Nepean Highway or nearby but you may have to drive around to find a spot. Staff were efficient and friendly though a few meals were brought to our table which no one had ordered.

Food quality, taste and presentation suffered though. The food was not good and most at the table were not impressed with food quality. To add further insult the decor is mixed and confused and the whole “joint” needs a freshen-up.   The eating area is big and expansive and they have no problems accommodating big parties but don’t go expecting exquisite Chinese Cuisine. Try else where.