Sunday, 2 August 2009

Red Velvet Lounge by night

Rita was faced with the biggest dilemma of her life last night after she travelled to Cygnet specifically to have dinner (and review it) at good friend Steve’s restaurant Red Velvet Lounge (RVL). The dilemma – how to make my review as unbiased and impartial as possible, given that I consider Steve a close friend. We talk frequently, often for hours at a time, about restaurant-related issues. We blog around similar issues. We share.

Compound this with the fact that I joined two other bloggers for this dinner, and you have a recipe for nepotism of the highest order.

So – on the return drive to town, I decided on naming it up here. I thought I could write two separate reviews: one to suit the RVL-lovers and one for the RVL-haters, then decided not to.

Instead, I’m declaring upfront that, yes, Steve is a friend. Yes, you could assume I was biased towards a positive review. So if you want to hear some syrupy prose, tune out now – because the meal actually WAS beautiful, friend or no friend.

I have eaten at RVL café countless times in the daytime. The food has always been exactly what I wanted and expected. The difference between daytime fare and nighttime fare was so marked last night. RVL was most definitely a restaurant last night – and one that gave many city restaurants a run for their money. If RVL were in Hobart I have no hesitation in saying that they would be open for business every night and fully booked for each of those nights.

Having said that, my fellow diners had eaten there at other evening meal times and felt that last night’s menu was appreciably different from their previous experiences. We asked Steve about this, but he didn’t seem to think there was any difference from previously. We can only put this down to the fact that the closure of the café for the previous 5 weeks has provided Steve with that added zing!

So – to what we ate. Coincidentally, come decision time, we found, to our amazement, that we all wanted the same dishes: the ravioli of Huon smoked salmon with asparagus and salmon pearl sauce ($15.90) entrée, and the slow roasted duck, lentils du puy, onions and Boks bacon ($32.90) for mains. Victor then amended his entrée choice to the parsley and rocket soup with poached local duck egg and truffle ($14.90).

The ravioli was fabulous. It was well executed, beautifully presented, and the flavour combinations worked extremely well. We all tasted Victor’s soup which kicked arse. It had a wonderfully full-bodied flavour, and the combination of the perfectly poached duck egg and truffle topped the dish off, and tipped the balance between excellent and perfect.

We were also served a complimentary entrée of grilled quail (pictured below) with verjuice, artichokes and green olives ($15.90). This dish was stunning, and I would kill for the recipe. Yes, I am aware that the main ingredients are contained in the title of the dish but it definitely contained some extra ‘je ne sais quoi’ which rendered it stunning.

The duck was as we all expected – a long slow cooked duck dish. If you’re a duck lover, this was the dish for you – but we all agreed that the serving size of half a duck was way too much. We mentioned this to Steve, whose response was that the locals prefer value for money – and that is indeed exactly what the locals DO want, but whilst agreeing with that, I still would prefer to confront a smaller portion size, as did the others at my table. We also received a bowl each of Steve's special old school chips, Sir Grumpy will be happy to know!

We shared two desserts: chocolate ice cream sandwich with hot salted caramel and toasted cashew nuts ($16.90) and poached meringue with lemon curd, soft cream, orange and mint salad ($16.90). Whilst both were good desserts, I preferred the ice cream dish which contained the variety of textures, flavours and sweetness that I love.

With a few additions for Rita's comfortability, it would have been a perfect night. The hard wooden chairs need at the very least a cushion on them. The addition of a floor to ceiling red curtain at the kitchen end of the room, hiding the kitchen, was a great idea and did add to the ambience, and warmth of the room as a whole. The recent floor replacement makes the place feel a lot cleaner and professional. The company was excellent and we didn't stop for breath over the course of nearly 3 hours! Thanks guys.

So – my final summation: the night food at RVL is fabulous. It’s a world apart from the day café food. If you want to dine royally on a Friday or Saturday night, get down to RVL and check it out. The food calibre is of a similar standard to Marque IV or other top restaurants in town.

PS - note to Steve - horseradish has an 'e' in it! x

Posted on by Rita


Victor - Foodtrail said...

Rita - I could not have provided a better and fair review than what you have written here. Every details are spot on. Dinner last night was definitely a good restaurant quality without the formality and attitude. As we just came back from Adelaide last weekend, having dine at the Wine Underground and had such a fantastic memorable degustation dinner, it would be quite difficult to match the experience, but Steve has pulled it off in his new dinner menu, which is sophisticated for Cygnet folks in a comfortable, relax and warm environment. To top it off, we had a great time dining with you. Cheers, Victor :-)

reb said...

Nicely summarised Rita. It was the perfect mid-Winter meal. The entree's were all delicious. I especially enjoyed the perfectly grilled quail which was hot and juicey and perfectly matched with the added dimension of the olives and texture of the artichokes. The soup as you say, was stunning. I struggled with the duck, purely because it was such a generous portion (it will satisfy those with a heart appetite) but it was tasty and succulent as you'd expect duck to be. I think next time I might try three entree's and a dessert!!

Rita said...

Hi guys - as the old song goes, "We belong to a mutual admiration society...."! Thanks for the company last night, and I'm glad you agree with what I said about our meal. I look foward to a repeat of last night.

steve said...

Hi Rita- Like all under review I am relieved that you did actually enjoy what I cooked & our service at the RVL.
I empathise with the trepidation that you felt as a friend & the ballast it carries, especially in your role as a fearless, respectful & honest arbiter.
I trust you to say honestly, without concerning yourself of my sentiments, what it might be that you felt was lacking in our attempt to 'frock-up' as a restaurant for two nights of our week.
We are never static in our offer on these nights & to be fair we have not settled on the plan that suits us best for now, in fact we are considering what might work best on these two nights as we speak.
Victor & Reb mentioned that the menu was more 'appreciably different'than their past experiences & this feedback made me very happy as we are trying to offer our customers a differing menu each time they choose to dine week in, week out.
Having said this, we are still in a state of flux as to where we will pitch our evening menus from this point forward.
All this aside, I have come to appreciate, that their appears to be an appreciative, enthusiastic & very supportive market for the type of food that we do at the RVL which continues to inform & embolden the direction we take & the kind of food we like to serve.

steve said...

Hi Victor-Without sounding trite I am very happy you had a good evening. You have always been a vocal supporter of mine of which I am very grateful. I also know that from your vantage point you can offer informed & illuminated criticism from the perspective of an operator, a chef & an enthusiastic diner.

Reb-Thank you for your kind words. Knowing that you dont pull any punches & that your bullshit detector is permanently set to 'eleven'I am relieved that you night was a success. Hopefully we'll see you again soon

Hazel said...

Thankyou for the excellent description of your dinner at RVL -most tempting, will have to try and get there as soon as we can. We had a less than successful dining out experience in North Hobart last week - and are keen to erase that memory with a more enjoyable one! We thought it funny that your only criticism was the serving size of the duck, I think we can cope with that! ;)

Rita said...

Hey Steve - I have absolute confidence that had I had any qualms about either the food or service there at RVL, you are the one person in the world who I know without a doubt can take criticism on the chin and review it honestly, and take it in the way in which it was meant. My problem was other people's perceptions of what I wanted to say, not yours! As I drove back to town on Sat night, mentally drafting up what I was intending to say, I could already see the comments added to the post, accusing me of being totally blinkered and biased, etc etc! Am grateful that both Victor and Reb backed me up there.

Hazel - hi again, and glad you got a laugh out of my only criticism of the duck serving size! I will be interested in your feedback when you ultimately do manage to get to RVL for an evening meal, so make sure you come back and tell us about it please.

I am already making plans for my return visit for another gorgeous evening meal at RVL, so looking forward to more wonderful food.

reb said...

Hi Steve,

We will be back very soon. (this Saturday in fact!) I'm organising the social secretary to book us in as we speak!

BTW, I liked the new wine list - a good selection of exclusively Tassie wines - all reasonably priced. Which is not something you see very often these days.

I liked the curtain too!

See you on Saturday...!!

Victor said...

Steve - we are booked in at 6:30pm. This time no duck for us, though we did thoroughly enjoy the flavour. We are not that "localised" yet, and we will go for 4-5 entree with 1 entree this time, like our own designed degustation at RVL! Tee Hee.

Btw, my impression of last Sat dinner esp the entree was that it reminded me of the time I used to eat at Peppermint Bay (when you were the Head Chef). The only difference is that it was not overly formal and "dressed up", which will not suit Cygnet country charm, but yet it has the finese of a well designed menu blending comfortably with the rustic charm of your place. Many cheers from a happy face. :-)

Hazel said...

Just booked in for this Friday night....looking forward to it - will let you know how we go- a bit worried it will be addictive....

Victor said...

Rita - one other comment, which I think Reb would agree is that all the dishes we had were served in a clean white round plate; which was different from our previous dining experience at RVL prior to the reopening. Food always look better in colour and texture presented in a big round white plate, as shown in your pictures.

sir grumpy said...

Looks very nice, Rita. And those white plates have been filled and dressed, so look very appealing, unlike the one-ingredient to a vast plate we often see nowadays.
I would have bunged the chips on the plate too though! But I am a peasant.

sir grumpy said...

PS Rita, I think youse were all very brave to go after-dark to Cygnet. I thought they brought down the boom gates and rolled out razor wire around the town to keep the league of gentlemen and women in and non-locals out, for everyone's sake!

Victor said...

Sir G - that was very funny. I was a bit concern for Rita as well esp that she had to drive back, and may run into some bogans. But, heh not all of us are feral in Cygnet or the Huon..oh, maybe in "Hoon-ville" which is quite unfortunate as one has to drive through the hideous town to get to Cygnet. Otherwise, use the alternate route through Allens Rivulet or Woodbridge.

Rita said...

The only 'bogans' I encountered on my return trip to town on Sat night was a breathalyser unit situated just beyond the Night Owl takeaway in Main Rd Huonville! Imagine Rita's immense relief that getting pulled over and breathalysed held no fear at all for her!
Mind you, there didn't seem to be many cars round at that time of night - but, hey, I'm glad that they were there keeping a check on the more rowdy element of the 'ville! However if you're a local, you know two things: that the police are there, and ways to avoid their roadblock!

Victor said...

Oh, Rita. Don't trust anyone trying to stop you on a dark road in the Huon. Our girlfriend next door once was stopped about 11pm by an unmarked car in Franklin main road. He approached her claiming to be a police and asked her to get out of her car. She was smart to lock her car and roll down her window a little to talk to him. When she asked him to show his badge, he couldn't and tried to open her door. She quickly stepped on her accelerator and sped off! Imagine what would have happened.

sir grumpy said...

Actually Victor, attempted Cygnet joking aside, me and the missus are big fans of Cygnet as a wee destintion drive.
Isn't it funny that nearby Huonville hasn't marked out a cafe-restaurant market while Cygnet has?
But I do wish the baker at Ranelagh would open up a shop so we could buy his stuff during our winding little trips down that way.
And we often do the cut-across from Woodbridge etc, just for a change. The store across from Peppermint Bay is good fun and the local garlic I get there a dish-saver.
May the region flourish.

Anonymous said...

maybe RVL could run a mini bus service to / from Hobart 4 courses get a free bus ride perhaps

Quacker said...

Anyone know where a soul might purchase fresh duck in the Kingston area? Her indoors has decided she must try making a duck dish. I am keen to procure the ingredients forthwith.

Rita said...

Hi Quacker - unless you have local contacts, going on what Steve told us the other night at RVL when we asked him about the provenance of the duck (pictured in post), it would apprear that fresh duck is not available in Tassie at all. The duck on his menu had flown from interstate.

Quacker said...

Thank you Rita. A word rhyming with duck springs to mind.

How about frozen duck?

Rita said...

I have seen frozen duck round but not sure exactly where you could go today to get one. Anyone else know of where Quacker could get a frozen duck? Steve - where did you get the ducks on your menu?

sir grumpy said...

Some of the Asian restaurants near the Mayfair Tavern in Sandy Bay (Touch of Asia is one) have duck often.
A mate gets his duck dish at Touch almost weekly. But they'll probably keep their supplies to themselves.
So maybe there is a freash supply locally. But if steve can't find it, chances are slim.

Anonymous said...

I too have been looking around for fresh duck in Hobart - I am sure I did see some duck breasts somewhere recently but have not been able to find them again since…..
I noticed that the Vietnam Kitchen in Salamanca has whole Chinese roast duck for $40.00 take away...not sure about the quality at this place.
Written in Tea in Sandy Bay has the best take away duck I have had in Hobart thus far. The best sit down duck I have had in Hobart is at Me Wah.
I am a bit of a Chinese Duck fiend and will find any excuse to travel to Melb to indulge...
Spag Blog

Christina the duck freak said...

You can but whole frozen ducks. They are the luva duck brand {I know}, and I buy them quite often.
Size 22 is around $18.
I get mine from pfd but I pretty sure creative chicken in moonah sell them as do Country Wide.
I've never had a problem with the quality and have been buying them for years because you just can't get fresh duck.
The butcher at Hill Street also often has duck pieces but pretty sure this is frozen.
You could also try Wursthaus. I know they sell fresh duck breast but am unsure about the rest of the duck.
Hope this helps!

Bri said...

I've seen frozen duck at Mundy's Meat and More in North Hobart. They might be able to arrange fresh duck?

Anonymous said...

Ahh - yes it was the Wursthouse I saw the duck breasts, thanks Christina and also thanks for the whole duck info...
Thanks to you too Bri
Now I am hungty...
SPag Blog

lemon curd said...

I know that if you eat/buy duck in Tassie it will be a frozen product.
I think (and yes this is entirely without any basis of fact!) that buying fresh duck commercially in Tassie is impossible because of the lack of processing facilities for the meat?
Can anyone else shed some light?

Rita said...

I would tend to agree with you Lemon Curd, as that correlates with exactly what Steve told us last Sat.

lemon curd said...

Talk about a gaping hole in the market!!

Anonymous said...

there's only 2 commercial duck processors in australia that are allowed to ship to tassie, only one does, luv-a-duck and the whole shipment is frozen and distributed through wursthaus wholesaling at cambridge. anyone with duck in tassie that isn't wild or home bred will be cooking and eating this said brand of duck.

regardless of where you buy it, they have come from the same place.
the joys of the modern food system.....not!

steve said...

Actually last anon, the 'other' supplier Pepe's can be bought here also. Luv a ducks are also available from Lenah game & beleive it or not, PFD.
As I said to Rita, all the ducks sold in Tas are frozen. I have learned that a couple on the East Coast are preparing to go into rearing ducks commercially-so here's hoping.

Hazel said...

Rita - the report back! ;)
Dined at RVL on Friday night – having not been before I can’t compare the décor to before it’s renovation – but the new floor and red curtain certainly add a decadent feel to the room. Firstly, I was pleased to spy the last loaf of rye sourdough so quickly got the waitresses to put it aside for us!

The two waitresses were attentive, helpful, and friendly which is unlike staff we’ve experienced recently at other restaurants – it made a refreshing change.

It didn’t take long to pick – I had the Cheese soufflé with pear, rocket and walnut salad, followed by a Pork coteletta with parmesan mash and tartare sauce. My husband the Duck Tortellini with duck neck sausage and duck tea sauce, then the Beef Wellington with Bordelaise Sauce.

Soon our bottle of Kreglinger sparkling arrived, and not long afterwards our entrées. We agreed to share these – although I must admit that once started it was hard to stop! The cheese soufflé was delicate, but the salad was the highlight particularly the fresh walnuts. Meanwhile the duck entrée was being devoured opposite with appreciative murmurings! The verdict: Quite perfect. The slices of sourdough helped to sop up the duck tea sauce which was (when I was allowed my half) delicious.

With our mains before us, there was a growing reluctance to go halves! The pork cotelleta was almost an inch thick – with a crunchy crust, and the meat was incredibly succulent. The Parmesan mash and sauce a perfect match. The beef wellington was tender and we think had pate and mushrooms between the pastry and the beef. We did share a little, and he declared the coteletta the best pork he had ever eaten!

I still managed to fit in a dessert – a Confit of apple with salted caramel and a vanilla panna cotta. As my husband pointed out it was a guilt-free apple tarte tatin – as the only missing element was the pastry!

All the dishes were beautifully balanced and executed, and the sauces were all fantastic. Best of all RVL will only be a 17 minute drive from our home one day – so we are both looking forward to returning as frequently as we can.

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

Hi Hazel, I'm very happy you enjoyed your RVL dinner experience & hope to see you again soon!

Christina said...

Oh Hazel, you have my mouth watering. It's been ages since we've been down. Must go again soon.