Now here was a scary experience-and I should have known better when the reservations clerk reminded me to wear a coat, perhaps a tie as well. This soon turned out to be old style establishment dining, as I was led to the nominated table having to take imaginary ducks to avoid the collateral hanging from the ceiling (hard hats, model trucks, model planes and other kitsch big boys toys). Couples were led to be seated side-by-side to view the middle of the restaurant and the garish ceiling while pairs of gents were seated opposite. Curious seating plans here, crying out to be debunked.
Champagnes for starters were from a choice of Taittinger, Krug and Mumm (later found out to be Californian fizz and mis-represented as the real thing). The waiter threw my partner when he suggested “she can have anything she wants” when just the wine list would have sufficed but that was not forthcoming. Both settled for a glass of Taittinger (AUD 28.75).
Menus were quite an enjoyable read; ordering Vermont lamb and local veal T-bone (AUD 49.50); the orders were served in reverse cooking request (rare and medium) but as this was dinner pre Jersey Boys it was pointless returning these to the kitchen and arriving late for the show.
Glasses were two Californian cabernets -Ascot Vale 2005 (AUD 11.50) from Napa (14.2%) and Ridgeline 2005 (AUD 20.75) from the Alexander Valley part of Sonoma (14%). The blockbuster was the latter wine-a nose of layer upon layer of charred and smoky oak over very ripe fruit in the jam mould, then a huge palate of tannin and more than a trifle of extra oak barrel tannin to tip it over. Extremely full bodied aka Barossa and McLaren Vale styles made in the full-on category. The Ascot Vale had good power, as much tannin but a greater level of fineness which kept the fruit-extract in balance; good wine (90). No brett, no cork taint. www.ridgelinevineyards.com (wines out of date), don’t confuse with Ridgeline Australian in the Yarra which bears no relation.
The wine list finally arrived-it was a bible of all the blue chip brands, multiple vintages, from France, Germany, Italy, Spain (including Priorat) and even a suite of Grange at uncompromising prices. Our waiter who did not introduce himself, had worked at this address for 26 years, while others around the room, some of whom were tripping over, signalled that a reinvention phase for this place was long overdue. No restaurant score as the food sampling was restricted, average value, wines can be expensive but the glass suggestion quite modest with 20 wines. A full 20% tip was requested.
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