Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Golden Harbour

Golden Harbour sits quietly minding its own business in Hunter St, under Zero Davey. It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of spot, next door to Saffron. I was completely put off when I tried to book a table over the phone. It was way too hard. But something made me persist.

Oh lordy, my China Syndrome quest may have yielded the unholy grail of hangover cures ...

The evidence:
  1. Wonton soup that has redefined my opinion of what great wonton soup looks and tastes like. A delicate broth reminiscent of the royal Chinese cuisine we tasted in Vietnam. A bowl with seaweed and wontons that looked so appealing and so fresh that I expected wee fishies to be darting in and out of the seaweed. The wontons were little burstlets of flavour and I could have eaten this all day.
  2. Steamed scallops served on the half shell - fresh, plump, and had to be teased free of the shell. Served with crushed fresh garlic, rice vermicelli, and a delicate mirin-style sauce. Gorgeous!
  3. Salt and pepper prawns with shells that shattered in the mouth - yes people, eat them with the shells on (unlike the indelicate manhandling I watched at the next table). Salty. Peppery. Prawny. Yummy.

They advertise themselves as purveyors of Fine Chinese Cuisine ... and I'm glad to say I didn't feel this was an overstatement.

The setting is very comfortable. No laminate or vinyl to be seen, instead there are carved timber tables and very solid chairs. The service was attentive and considerate, if a little awkward at times. Booking by telephone is a feat in communication - but well worth it. I'm not sure I'm convinced by the wisdom of the big screen TV airing Chinese variety shows, but I'm sure I'll grow to love it.

The sad thing is that Sunday lunch is by booking only. No bookings, they're closed. So, as far as my spontaneous hangover cure goes ... there'll be a little less spontaneity involved. Until of course they are regularly hounded by the likes of us for a Sunday lunch ... then it should be on for young and old!

Oh, I forgot to mention Golden Harbour is great value. Four of us shared:
2 bottles of Nobilo sauvignon blanc
Wonton soup each
Steamed scallops with rice vermicelli and garlic
Whole steamed fish with garlic and ginger
Salt and pepper prawns
Total price ... $160. Most excellent indeed!

AND THEN we went back for more. Our second outing was a brave dip into the other items on the menu. Beans with mince. Sounds appetising, non? Well let me tell you buster, don't screw your little nose up until you've tried it!

In stark and grossly disappointing contrast was our visit to the Bund in Shanghai. The elegant interior set my expectations way too high. The team from Sen's is behind the scenes, so the duck should be a corker. Our meal (not duck) was less than great, our waitress should have been wearing L-plates (and perhaps she was), in short everything that could have gone wrong did. BUT I'm putting this down to opening niggles. This could be a great restaurant once they settle in. However, the pending birth of Mee Wah in Magnet Court is going to be a big competitor. Let's hope there's enough good will for everyone. At this rate we'll soon be referring to "Sandy Beijing".

In the meantime ... Get thee to Golden Harbour in Hunter St and try those damn scallops!



Anonymous said...

also try the ma po tofu, very good. they also make a house chilli with sesame seeds which i have with black vinegar.

Anonymous said...

Hey Georgie,
Just went there. Lovely food: broccoli with garlic and spicy beans gorgeous! Where were the scallops? None on our menu!
Service a bit laissez-faire.

like a tiger said...

There's more than one Golden Harbour, right?

I was part of a large party that had booked - with considerable difficulty - four weeks in advance, confirmed the day before, and arrived on time on the night to find... an even larger party at the table that had been prepared for my group.

Not a good start.

So we put together the restaurant's two lagest, round tables (one of which was stunningly unstable) and commenced.

I never understood, HRB, your devotion to Sen's and I'm now questioning whether or not you should even be driving a car or voting: Golden Harbour was appalling.

All the classics: fried entrees, having to dive behind the bar to get wine glasses for ourselves, only some of the mains we ordered arriving... But the greatest horror was the food itself.

The scallops aside (which were not fresh, despite their being in season) almost everything we ordered came battered and fried and... goopy. What IS the gunk they put in the batter to ensure nothing has any texture other than... goop.

The chicken & cashew - free of goop and the single, comparitive highlight of the meal - should have been labelled 'cashew & chicken' but the stunner was the eggplant.

Who the hell came up with the eggplant? Eggplant swimming - drowning - in canola? It was truly nauseating: oily AND goopy, jesus, this was truly startling.

I cannot overstate how disappointed I am; not just with Golden Harbour and its ineptitude & truly wretched food, but with HRB for her recommendation. I like Mee Wah in LTN very much, too, and hope the southern offshoot shows Hobartians how interesting, delicate AND GOOP-FREE Chinese can be!

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