Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Anniversary Baby … Got You On My Mi-Hind!

One year ago today I started writing a few wee thoughts based on countless conversations with friends. We would sit and slurp our wine and grumble over the sad state of affairs in Hobart. Divine dining, we grizzled, what a joke. And it has become a joke of sorts. We are still charged Sydney prices for food that barely makes the grade, on the whole. To rub salt into the wound, Launceston shits on us, still.

This site started as a pissed experiment, mere musings that I thought would never see the light of day. Boy was I wrong. I think being chastised by Daniel Leesong from Tourism Tas was one highlight. Being courted by Tim Cox of ABC Radio was another. What a year it’s been!

Initially there were shouts of wonder from those amazed that someone else was speaking their thoughts aloud. Every now and then some tanties have been thrown (and you know I don’t respond to tanties). More recently some delicious banter has sprung up between regular visitors (nay, contributors) to the site.

But after 12 months we’ve seen few changes. Mostly the same restaurants with the same variations on a theme (the theme is “Windmills of my Mind”, I’m sure). Between us we’ve grumbled and moaned, to no avail. All we manage to stir up is the occasional snipey comments from a few kitchen hands furiously proud of their establishments. Well good on you.

We still bang on, punters united far and wide. We have hungry mouths and sad lonely wallets. But tourist dollars still hold the power. Lucky for those who love a crumbed scallop.

I won’t kid you, I’ve considered shutting down the site many times. And one day I will. But one year is only one baby step. I wonder what the “terrible twos” will be like!

Happy dining, and long live freedom of speech!
GW … with all my love


Zelda said...

Ah Gerogie - HAPPY Anniversary!

May you bitch long and loud for an eternity until someone listens. I am with ya!

What we need is an unbiased/unpaid resturant reviewer for the muckery and others. Any ideas how we go about it? Naming and shaming girl, name and shame.

Like A Tiger said...

Well called, Zelda.

Congratulations to HRB and what do we have to do to oust Graeme Phillips? Why don't restaurateurs get themselves organised and boycott the Mock until they remove him? Everyone would benefit.

And which establishment has come down with salmonella? I noticed one much-discussed NH establishment closed on Sunday, "due to unforseen circumstances". Could be worth Checking...

Zelda said...

Well judging by the fact they dont have the director of public health giving statements it cant be that bad.... Am peeved as I was hanging out for Terraces Lobster Salad tonight (Expense accounts ahve their advantages) however bloody resturant is closed due to the fact they had a Melbourne Cup lunch.... :-(

Anonymous said...

Checked yesterday - no signs of movement at the RCL, nor sign on the door to nidicate why...

like a tiger said...

Salmonella... It WAS Raincheck Lounge. And now it's GONE. For GOOD.

Anonymous said...

The salmonella? Hope so because aforementioned place was open for business this morning!

dante said...

It did have a sign up advertising their "Exciting new menu."

I've never found hanging my head in the toilet all that exciting.

Anonymous said...

"For she's a jolly good fellow, for she's a jolly good fellow, for she's a jolly good fellllloooooowwwww, and so say all of us!"

Don't stop the critiquing please Ms Bitch. I only found your site a few months ago and now I find myself dropping in a couple times a week.

Moving out of NH for a moment, I can recommend the little patisserie in Carlton St, Newtown (at the old location of the Wursthouse).

Their little petit four glacis are wonderful custard filled dainties. scoffed 13 at a sitting a couple of sundays ago... I'm not a pig, honest, because, um, um, because there's only two bites to each one, so really its only 26 bites all up and that's barely anything.

Unfortunately they only make them on weekends. $1 each. Can't go wrong working your way through the half dozen or so varieties on a rainy sunday afternoon, accompanied by a hot choc or capaccino.

They also do a delicious looking baby eclaire filled with choc mousse.

Go earlier rather than later because the popular nibbles are sold out by around 2:30pm (particularly if I got there first!).

Ms Creosote said...

Joyeux anniversaire!

Perhaps we should petition the Mockery to put you on the payrole as a show-no-mercy reviewer?

By the by.. recommended reading for amateur crits - 'Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise' by Ruth Reichl.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to join the chorus of congratulatory voices and pleadings to continue this fine service to the diners of Hobart. As another newbie to the site, I suddenly feel that my life would be incomplete without it. Viva la Bitch!

Stephen (anon patisserie addict) said...

By the way, I went to the Saffron Indian at the waterfront last evening (only for takeaway, so no review except to say that I scoffed the lot).

While waiting for the take away, I got talking to the owner who said that on Sunday, 13th November he's having an event for the India/Pakistan earthquake appeal. Of course I boasted that I was on intimate terms with a very influential restaurant critic who might be willing to put the word around and thereby make it the gala event of the Hobart season.

It got me thinking that it might be fun (oh, as well as being a good deed) if some of the Bitch's fans might also decide to attend. I'm thinking those who attend could report back here with their individual critiques. I think it'd be interesting to see how much our respective perceptions might vary.

In any event, depending on my partner's availability, I'll be going and I volunteer to report back.

Stephen said...

Oh, another thing, there looks to be some early decorating activity in the vacant space next to Saffron - there's a sign up saying, "Golden Harbour Chinese Restaurant".

Maybe Hobart is getting its first classy Chinese?

Anonymous said...

"A North Hobart establishment" was today confirmed by Director of Public Health Roscoe Taylor as the source of the recent Salmonella outbreak in Hobart. Exact details of the outlet were not given because, unlike the Launceston bakeries, food was never taken away from the North Hobart "establishment," which was later confirmed as a "restaurant".

So I think we ALL know who done what and when ... and where.
Thanks Georgie, you utter utter bitch!

Anyway, went past the DCL on Saturday night and there was a very good crowd in - don't think their business is suffering too hard from their little bout of bacterial contamination. All I'm wondering now is, was it the salad dressing?

Cheers all, esp you Georgie,

Stephen said...

...recalls sick-tasting salad I had at Raincheck a while back...

...but struggling to put that image out of my mind, I can report that I strolled by Raincheck on Monday evening around 7:30 - not a soul to be seen apart from a lonely waiter. Contrast that to every other joint in NH that was around 1/3 full. Strolled back around 9:30 and things had improved - all of two gals chatting on a couch. Looks like the 'new menu' ruse isn't fooling anyone.

Stephen said...

Went to the Elbow Room on Tuesday evening (Despard Street - near Customs House, or, less importantly, Parliament House). We were one of only three occupied tables, so we essentially had the place to ourselves.

The surroundings had a subtly intimate 'date' feel that was no doubt helped by a liberal sprinkling of candle light and the old stone walls. Some jarring modern art on the walls (albeit mitigated by their swirling autumn tones), but probably just enough to provide a tasteful contrast with the stone.

The room is dominated by a plain 1980s style wood heater which hid a meter long strip of modern cementing work on the narrow stone shelf that runs at waist height along the wall - the least they could have done was used a coloured cement to blend it in with the stone walls, but instead they tried to break up its line by placing half a dozen mini-champagne bottles in a row. This just jarred - like who'd store champagne next to their wood heater?? The chairs formed the highlight of the furnishings - plain mid-blue (if I recall) fabric covering the nicely padded seat and chair backs, which were high and straight. Comfortable and good for the posture at the same time! Overall, plush but not ostentatious but let down by the wood heater and poor cementing job behind it.

Those of you who clicked on the Elbow Room link will no doubt have clicked through to the really nice and extensive menu. I did and my eye went to such potential delights as oysters & black truffles, and the aged venison in bitter sweet red currant jus. But if you haven't yet clicked on the menu, my advice would be not to bother - its a work of fiction that has absolutely no resemblance to reality. In real life the menu was quite limited - only three mains (one each of fish, beef and chicken), with similarly limited entrée and dessert choices.

Starting with the Entrée (~$16.50 each), I had the gnocchi in a blue cheese sauce and my partner had a dozen 'shucked' oysters with cracked pepper.

First the gnocchi. The serving was large (just enough for a growing boy like me, but, at risk of being sexist, I suspect a woman would have felt obliged to leave a couple) with just the right amount of blue cheese sauce. The gnocchi avoided being mushy while still being just a touch less than firm - just right. The blue cheese sauce was an excellent compliment - tasty but carefully tuned so as not to overwhelm the delicate gnocchi. All in all my entrée was just right. Oh, beware the burning hot plate (yes, the waitress did warn me, yes, I had to touch it to see if she was exaggerating, and no, she wasn't.)

My partner chose the oysters for her entrée. Upon bringing the dish to the table, the waitress explained that the house had provided more than the promised dozen because they were on the small side. What can I say - a squirt of lemon juice and away you go, and think yourself lucky if you don't get food poisoning. My partner scoffed them quick smart and doesn't seem any worse for it. Okay, I admit that the only seafood I really like is sushi and therefore it wouldn't be fair for me to comment. So instead I leave you with the observation that my partner scoffed the seashell shucked seafood in seconds - see if you can say that 3-times fast.

On to the mains at $29 each. I ordered the beef in a red berry jus and my partner ordered yet more seafood - this time it was the Atlantic salmon, the fish of the day. In fact, I'm beginning to suspect that she orders seafood solely so I won't pick morsels from her plate while she remains free to pick at mine. Indeed, my mind casts back to the relationship-straining incident where she speared the last piece of gnocchi I was about to use to wipe up the remaining blue cheese sauce. To add insult to injury she had the gall to tut-tut me when I resorted to mopping up the sauce with my last bit of bread roll. Relationships are difficult.

My partner's main was interesting - the easiest way to describe it might be to set out how it might be made. Take a cake tin and fill it with Atlantic salmon steaks wrapped in a thin layer of mushroom slithers, spinach leaf (I think) and surrounded by brioche pastry. Stick it in the oven until bubbling. Take a slice of the pie about 15mm wide and stand it up on the plate, add a drizzle of béchamel to the plate with a dozen or so bits of orange caviar spooned in. There you have it - Atlantic salmon with french peasant pie influences (at least for that subset of peasants who dined on Atlantic salmon and caviar). The salmon was lightly cooked through, just right. By all accounts it was very good.

My main was less interesting - boring in fact. One medium rare eye fillet with a bare drizzle of an overly mild tasting jus. Of course it may not really be 'overly mild', it might just be that I didn't have enough to get a taste of it. I'm not advocating the drowning of beef in sauce, but I don't want it to suffer dehydration either. Talking about dehydration, the beef itself was a touch on the tough side. While it was cooked medium rare, it was nevertheless a bit hard rather than melt in the mouth. The beef was accompanied on the plate by some slithers of mushroom (plain and tasteless) and mashed potato with a teaspoon-sized pool of herb sauce siting at its top. Nothing to write home about and verging on pub food.

We shared a side dish of mixed roast vegetables (an extra ~$6.00). They were presented in a layered fashion - thin slice (a slither really) of pumpkin forming the base (v.nice) followed by a layer of boiled spinach and (I think) tomato and then repeated once. Also sitting on the side dish was a couple of roast potatoes (large strawberry sized) and some slithered mushrooms. Note the presence of mushrooms again - each dish except the gnocchi had sliced mushrooms prepared in an essentially similar (ie plain and tasteless) manner. The thing is that the mushrooms didn't really add anything to the courses, so the only reason I can think for them to use them so liberally is that they have shares in a mushroom farm or maybe they won a pile in a raffle and are trying to use them up before they go off. That said, the vegetable sidedish was a very nice accompaniment, but by rights they should have been included on the plate because the mains would have been sparse without them. In fact, the waitress went out of her way to suggest we have them, so it seems silly to exclude them in the first place.

On to the desserts. I had intended to try the crème brulee, but the waitress advised that the house had run out, which left me wondering if they buy-in their desserts. Being starved for choice we opted to share the 3-flavours of house churned icecream - one scoop each of coffee, chocolate and vanilla bean ($12). Yes, that's right $4 a scoop, and small scoops at that. Daylight robbery.

I have to include a pet peeve - the grinder ritual where the waitress puts the plate on the table and then immediately produces the grinder expecting the diner to have psychically decided whether the dish needs any seasoning. I really loath the presumption inherent in this stupid little ritual. First, I've not even tasted the meal so how do I know if it needs seasoning? Second, how much will the grinder produce per twist? Third, I'm not an invalid, I can do it myself. Four, what's with the huge and unwieldy grinders?? The waitress wasn't quite sure what to do when I asked her to leave the grinder for me to use if I decide I needed it - but she did leave it. Unfortunately, she had to return a few minutes later and ask to borrow it so she could replay this stupid ritual at another table. Looks like they can't afford to have more than one grinder in the house!

Finally, the drinks. I had beer to start and a serviceable house merlot with the main and a hot chocolate to wash down the dessert. My partner stuck with lemon lime and bitters throughout the night finishing with hot chocolate. Noteably, the lemon lime and bitters was actually made with bitter lemon rather than lemonade - every restaurant should do this as it makes a world of difference.

Over all, nice surroundings, a too-small menu (particularly only three mains), creative salmon, uninspired beef and plain dessert. All of which was 25% (the main) to 40% (dessert) over priced - especially when you factor in the additional $6 for the veggy side-dish without which the main would have been too sparse. In summary, not a bad dining experience, but nothing particularly memorable. Doubt whether I'd go there again or if it'd spring to mind if I was asked to recommend a venue.

Stephen said...

um, that's a trifle long. Sorry 'bout that.

Anonymous said...

I know some restaurants that have really good brickwork. But I wonldn't want to bore you ...

Zelda said...

I dont order the seafood jsut so you dont eat mine! HONEST!! And besides shared food tastes better.....

Anonymous said...

Having read this site for ages a few things really worry me.. Enough to make me launch into a tirade on a couple of issues: (And YES i am an industry person)..

Raincheck Lounge -
Wow you guys really slammed this place. To this point of slander in fact when it comes to the whole salmonella issue. Before you sit down and happily type in your (sometimes uneducated) opinions have you ever considered the serious damage you could be doing to peoples businesses and lives. The salmonella at RCL is rumour not fact so lets not completely destroy this guy..
As for some of you blabbing on about the food and coffee being so awful have you ever wondered why it is still so PACKED on weekends with people sampling food and coffee??? In fact the last couple of times I have been up in North Hobart it has been far busier than Zum, Aroma, Amulet etc.

Marque IV -
Have to agree this is the tastiest and spunkiest place to eat in Hobart. Helped immensely by the ex T42/Brew boy being so pleasing on the eye (and ear).

Brew -
now this is an interesting one. I note that one of the criticisms of the place was the food. Funnily enough all the food at that time was coming from a place you all seem to unanimously agree does fantastic food - Jean-Pascal! Go figure. Perhaps you are letting other factors jade your 'honest' opinions. I notice that Brew is now getting all its food from Dukkah - which you all say you love. It is great not having to traipse all the way into town to get a fix of the tasty Dukkah fare.
But lets not get sidetracked here - the most important thing at Brew is the coffee. And it still remains to be fantastic! I note that HRB was not happy with the fact that the Brew guy attempted to educate her about what makes a coffee so tasty. I also note that just recently one of you punters had an intersting discussion with the guy at Amulet and he said coffee in Hobart generally isn't great because hobart people generally aren't discerning!! Exactly the Brew guy's point I'm sure, yet it seems that the over opinionated general public takes a dim view at gathering knowledge so they can become more discerning and cafes will then have to lift their coffee standards. It's all a vicious cycle you see that you too have to participate in.. So maybe it's worth a trip down to Brew, not only to eat the Dukkah food, but to get a coffee education.. I'm sure the Brew boy will be happy to offer a tip or 3..

As for Graeme Philips, I think almost everyone reads his reviews with raised eyebrows and an open mind. He probably should be replaced but i don't think that people with misinformed and vicious opinions are the ones to do it...