Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Burlington Bar and Grill

An unfortunate tale for me to tell, is this review of The Burlington Bar and Grill. Unfortunate because it has so much potential and because our dinner was let down by some very small things that made a very big difference.

I really had been looking forward to my (ever so slightly belated) birthday dinner at the aforementioned establishment. I had perused the menu, read reviews and whipped myself into a frenzy of excitement. Well, perhaps "frenzy" is a bit of a strong reaction, but I was excited.

As Sydney had it's wettest February day ever on record, Mr Kitty and I made our way through the deluge to Crows Nest. Due to the weather being so poor, we struggled to find a parking space so Mr Kitty let me out in front of the restaurant and he drove the streets looking for somewhere to leave the Kitty-mobile.

Upon arrival at the restaurant I was greeted by one of the waitstaff who, once she confirmed I did indeed have a booking at their fine establishment, pointed at a table in the middle of the restaurant. It seemed to be under a bit of a spotlight (in other words, it was operating theatre bright for what was supposed to be a romantic dinner). I asked politely if there were any other tables free, noting that the restaurant was perhaps half full, and she pointed to an equally bright table in the corner, saying "you can sit there, but there is a leak above it."

Slightly stunned by her fantastic grasp of customer relations, I opted for the spotlit table in the middle of the restaurant. Naturellement. No-one wants rain on their dinner.

Mr Kitty finally arrives and notes our position in the restaurant. I shrug, explaining it was this or Niagara Falls, and he is lost for words. A common theme of our evening.

We order some water and start looking at the menu. Because it's so cold in the restaurant I put my cardigan on and one of the waitstaff notices. Immediately she comes over and asks if we would like to be moved. She installs us in a much more comfortable position at the back of the restaurant on a banquette which is not only more comfortable but also slightly more romantic. Still fairly cold though, because it's under the air-conditioner which seems to be set to Siberia, but it's better than where we were.

The evening is looking up, it seems.

The food is good. I lie - some of the food is good. Some is average. Some is disappointing for a restaurant of this pedigree.

Mr Kitty starts with the gnocchi with cavalo nero, peas, corn, mushrooms and almonds. The gnocchi is tender inside with a crisp pan-seared outer crust. The mix of vegetables in the "sauce" is unusual but it works. This dish is a winner. Interesting and tasty.

My entree of Lyonnaise onion tart with truffled asparagus is a disappointment. It's merely a square of puff pastry (I strongly suspect bought, which is not a crime, just a comment) with not-very-caramelised onions plonked on top. There are some weedy pieces of chargrilled asparagus placed delicately on top of the "tart" and a handful of watercress as well. The truffle element of the dish comes from a few flakes of truffle salt on the salad. Although it was okay, I certainly expected something demonstrating a little more skill than this. It's something you can whip up at home - probably a lot better, in less than 20 minutes from scratch. I should have gone for the chicken liver parfait instead.

Our entree plates are taken away and the wait for our mains begins. And continues. And continues. We wait for an hour. And then some. We arrived at the restaurant a little after 8pm and it's 10 before we get our mains. I am hungry. Mr Kitty starving. We ponder asking for more bread to tide us over. Service it seems is not a strong point - disappointing because some of the serving staff are stellar, some are apathetic. So variable.

When our mains finally do arrive, they are great. Mr Kitty opted for the pan seared tuna loin with roasted red peppers, jamon & saffron which was stunning. A little on the small side for a main though, with the tuna being about half what I would have expected. It looks bigger in the picture. It wasn't that big in real life. About half the size of a pack of cigarettes, for comparison. Certainly not enough for a growing man like Mr Kitty, perfectly cooked and pink though it was.

I had the 120 day grain fed sirloin served with Bearnaise sauce, red wine jus and hand cut chips. No picture because by this stage it was too dark to take anything decent. Perhaps I should have opted for the first table instead?

Back to the food -The steak was stellar. Perfectly cooked, charred to perfection. The Bearnaise was fabulous - just the right level of piquancy. The chips were awesome. The right level of crunch to soft pillowy filling. Stunning. I could have eaten them all night. The red wine jus was meh. Meh. It added nothing to the dish at all. My idea of it was as a sticky unctuous reduction, glazing the steak with a dark garnet slick, but unfortunately it was thin, liquidy, pale and tasted of... nothing. Meh.

We also ordered a side of beans with beurre noisette (browned butter) and almonds. Fabulous. Crunchy beans beautifully offset but the nutty butter and the dark brown nuts. Sublime.

As we were finishing up our mains the evening took a turn for the worse. One of the people sitting next to us on the banquette lept up to her feet. Not knowing what was happening, I naturally (being the nosy person I am) asked her what the matter was. "Cockroach," she said.

You heard me. Cockroach.

So did the waitstaff.

One brave waitress attempted to catch the little bugger as it skidded across the carpet. She did not succeed. When I say little, it was about three inches long. So not little, actually. In fact, I wouldn't want to meet it in a dark alleyway. I thought she must have caught it because she walked away and thing calmed down slightly, until the cockroach decided it wanted to crawl the wall and sit above my head. Now, I'm not scared of them particularly, but we didn't invite it to dinner so I wasn't impressed with it crashing our party. As one of the waitresses collected out plates for our mains, Mr Kitty looked up at the cockroach, she followed his gaze, clocked the little bugger, shrugged her shoulders and walked off.

Now that's what I call service. Not. We thought she might have gone off to get someone bigger or more manly to deal with it, but she didn't. She just didn't care.

Massive fail.

Eventually someone came and asked us if we wanted dessert. We said yes, particularly given Mr Kitty's main wasn't huge. We weren't ordering for the cockroach though, and eventually he took the hint, flying onto another dining table terrorizing some of the other diners (they moved to another table - quite loudly and with much fuss).

But back to the food, if you can think about it after all that excitement.

Mr Kitty opted for the fig and sticky date pudding with vanilla ice-cream and toffee sauce. It was great. Well parts of it were great. The pudding was dense and sticky, studded with fruit, the ice-cream sufficiently vanilla-esque without being too rich. The toffee sauce was grainy and disappointing. So simple to get right and yet again, fall at the last hurdle.

I had the Lindt chocolate tart with ice-cream, one of the dessert specials. Twas average and that's a big call from a chocoholic like moi. The pastry was a tad flabby and anaemic and the filling of the tart was a straight up ganache that was too bitter for my liking. The ice-cream was banana. An odd combination and it didn't work.

We finished up our meal and called for the bill. It was 11pm, and it had taken them 3 hours to serve up what was essentially a variable bistro meal. I have had faster meals in two star Michelin restaurants that have run to many more courses. And for a one hatted restaurant I don't think it was fantastic. I wish I could rave about it but I just cant.

The piece de resitance was the bill. When it was finally presented, it was the wrong one. Another table's invoice. Yet again, ambivalent waitress strikes. When we finally did get the correct bill, we paid it, but alas, Mr Kitty was loathed to leave a tip. Just not enough care and consideration to warrant it for him. And this is someone who tips for everything. It says something no?

The damage came to $175 for 3 courses each, 4 glasses of wine and a large bottle of sparkling San Pellegrino. Cockroaches come free, it seems. Reasonable value for money but just not quite up to scratch. As I said, it has such ridiculous potential but is let down by simple things that they should be getting right. That any restaurant of this calibre should get right. In it's sleep. So disappointing because I wanted to like it so very much.

Mr Kitty and I leave, dashing out into the rainy evening, leaving the staff and the cockroach to it.

The Burlington Bar and Grill
6 Burlington St,
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Tel: 02 9439 7888


amy said...

Oh no Kitty! There's nothing like a cockroach to turn you off a dining experience, and staff indifferent to the little blighter's appearance in the restaurant would surely not save the night! I'm sorry this was not the majestic birthday dinner you deserve :(

Ms Curious said...

I was keen to give it a try but your experience changed my mind. What a disappointment! Mr Curious and I enjoyed reading the post immensely though, so something good came out of it.

Fleur said...

oh noooo!that sounds terrible!

I live literally 2 mins away from the burlington and was so excited at first but have heard similar horror stories from other people!such a letdown :(

Miss Kitty-Cat said...

The disappointing thing is that some of the parts of dinner were really good. And some were average, not bad, just average. And with a restaurant with such potential it left me a little cold (and literally cold). The service is another discussion altogether - they weren't rude, in fact some of the staff were downright fabulous. Just some were apathetic. It was the variability of the evening that got me... For a quick dinner it mightn't be a bad option but for somehting special I'd have to say give it a miss. There are too many other fabulous places to eat.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, that's terrible! When we went there we enjoyed the food (we had the steak too and some entrees as I wasn't feeling very hungry). We also had a cold, indifferent staff member whilst the rest were lovely. I wonder if it was the same person? :o

Miss Kitty-Cat said...

The food was (mostly) good - the thing that really stood out for me was the service. You can kinda forgive one or the other but not both. And it wasn't bad for the most part, just indifferent. Which really let down the other staff who were really good. Meh. Nevermind!!