Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Astor La Vista, Baby

Oh Dear.

I like to think we're spontaneous. What we are is a couple of last-minute larries. None of our favourites had a table free. So through a process of elimination, we ended up at The Astor.

We arrived five minutes early. The table wasn't ready, so we were asked to wait in the (cold) corridor. We waited for 15 minutes. If I'm asking a business client to wait, I'll at least offer them a tea or coffee to while away the time. Were we offered a drink? Another couple, who arrived after us, also waited. The "maitre d' "(she says through gritted teeth) invited the other couple to come to their table (hang on, we were first). Then he looked at us:

"You might as well come in too, your table's ready."

Right. Off to a flying start.

The Astor has such a lovely ambience, especially in the main dining room. There are two, but the main dining room has the bar and the flash and sizzle of the kitchen. Quite lovely. And embarrassingly let down by the menu. Uninspiring, dull, boring, see-Dick's-appetite-fly-out-the-window.

I had rather foolishly talked myself into being excited about an 80s style fug-fest, having fantasies about lobster thermidor and the like. No lobster on the menu. Never mind, what were the specials? No specials, except the fish of the day: Trevalla done two ways. Trevalla was already on the menu as a regular dish. Crikey. Desperation set in. For entree I ordered tempura prawns and bloke ordered salt and pepper squid. The 'battered' (not a tempura's arse-hole!) prawns were reminiscent of dagwood dogs. At least the squid was not overcooked (perfectly done, actually) ... but what the hell was that McCormick shake n bake bloody salt and pepper? To be frank, based on these two dishes, there was no evidence that this chef had ever set foot in an authentic Chinese or Japanese restaurant in his life.

Thank God we played it safe with the mains: Steak. Perfectly cooked, tender and juicy. Phew. And the panna cotta dessert was nice. But I can get a decent steak at the Cascade Hotel. And I don’t usually order dessert.

The Astor is a beautiful old restaurant crying out for someone to come and take the reins and return it to the quality of its glory days. The awards on the walls (circa 1986, 1988, etc) tell of a time when this was a grand dining establishment. Now it is just Hogsbreath Cafe in a fancy frock. Prices are low enough to attract the Hogsbreath crowd, who behaved throughout the night in a Hogsbreath manner: loud, mobiles going off, shouting by the end of the evening. Even the alleged maitre d' was dressed as if he was ready for a shift at the all-night Waratah Hotel bottle shop after the restaurant closed.

Apart from the d├ęcor, which on a cold wintery night always looks so warm and inviting, there is nothing to recommend The Astor in its current guise. I won’t be back.

Sad really.


Anonymous said...

Went to North Hopbart's Taj Palace for takeaways a few weeks back - and had a neat little evening-ruining exerience.

Friend ordered a combination meal while I ordered fish curry. The food took a while to arrive and was eventualy handed over in multiple plastic containers, some with rice and others with mains - no attempt was made by the staff to tell us which was which and there were no labels on the food. We did the 10 minute walk home where we discoverd that my friend's meal, which was supposed to be a combo, was actually marinated mushrooms. She does not like and cannot eat mushrooms (I know ... poor thing).

Taj Palace then added insult to injury by patronisingly telling her (after she had rung then up), that she could "keep the mushrooms for free". How very generous of them. They ruined our meal together and then basically insisted that she pay for the meal she didn't originally receive and which she had to drive back to pick up ... but only after waiting around, yet again, for it to arrive.

I had to leave shortly after she returned home with her food, having finished my meal at home, while she waited in the street for hers.

So thanks Taj Palace.
This is your reward.

Next time, why don't you try refunding the money paid over for the non-existant combo dish and THEN offer up the incorrect meal for FREE. Is that too much to ask ... in return for a ruined meal together, a meal we paid good money for?

I feel your fire Georgie - I swear I will name and shame ANY eatery that does anything like this to me or mine ever again.

Anonymous said...

On a lighter note, I had the opportunity to visit The Left Bank at Swansea on Easter Saturday. What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon with a good friend. With a lovely bottle of Tassie Pinot we enjoyed a wonderful experience. The staff as much as the food made the "afternoon" an enjoyable one. I had scallop roulade. While not quite what I imagine a roulade to be, it was absolutely wonderful, and very scallopy. Is that a word? I'm sure seafood lovers will agree with me that it is. I also wolfed down a lovely little greek salad to go with this. My friend had the tasting plate, and while very different than the first time we dined there over 12 months ago, it was still exactly what it claimed to be. Lamb and Rosemary mini pies, venison sausages, fresh oysters, camembert, beetroot salad. Yum. if the opportunity arises, go there!
My sympathy to anon above. I also live by his motto. Name and Shame!
Too many dollars have I wasted on crap meals and crap service.I now do not put up with it and I let people know. If the customer doesn't point out to these people their downfalls, how will they know? {hoping that they care}. Word of mouth is the best advertisement around. But do congratulate when called for. Isn't that what it's all about.

Stephen said...

I don't know anyone who can claim to have had anything but similar horrors at the Taj - my favourite was my brother who started nibbling at the entre naan (90 minutes after being seated), only to have it removed from his table and provided to another table. Can you imagine?? Basil Fawlty would have been proud.

And yet the place always has plenty of customers/prisoners/reality show contestants. I just don't understand.

Stephen said...

As for the Astor, I have some great memories of it from the late 80s. Lovely food, expensive french wines I could pretend to appreciate, and that wonderful imperial feel to the decore.

Oh, hands up those who believe this claim by Georgie, "And I don’t usually order dessert..."

Puleeese :)

Stephen said...

Another memory of the Astor back in the day was the accomodation upstairs - there was an old matron stationed at a desk at the end of the corridor, presumably to make sure there weren't any shenanigans among the guests!

Anonymous said...

The service is pretty darn terrible at the Taj, but I think the food is good enough to keep going back. Mmm, maharaja thali. I'm hungry now.

Stephen said...

In my one and only Taj visit I had a really really great entre that almost made up for the long wait at a bare table. But the main, a beef vindalo was actually bland...

Zelda said...

the Taj is evil. I have yet to hear decent reports on it. Even the taxi drivers seem to treat it with distain. Stephen any vindaloo which is not literally on fire you claim is too bland.

PK said...

Dear Georgie; your comments motivated me to take some action. Welcome back to the Astor. Please call to come in for a free glass of sparkling white for your first return lunch or dinner at the New Astor Grill. Quote: Marshall.
Marshall K.
0415 902 453