Tuesday, 6 April 2010

...another one bites the dust....!











(Pictured above from the top: Barilla Bay Restaurant, duck breast, seafood marinara, and vegetarian pasta)

For the past week, Rita has been celebrating her birthday nightly along with assorted friends and family. Not for me a one-day-wonder birthday. I feel the need to string it out for as long as possible! I don’t take one single second of my presence on planet earth for granted, let me hasten to assure you!

Amongst other venues of choice for the birthday celebrations, I have experienced the winter 8 course degustation special at Piccalilly, which was, needless to say, perfect (and remains my most highly recommended eating-out venue in Hobart if finance isn’t an issue); a stunning 6 course “degustation” at Red Velvet Lounge at Cygnet courtesy of close friend and fellow blogger Steve Cumper; lunch at Barilla Bay Restaurant and dinner at Orizuru at the Mure’s complex in the city.

I made the deliberate choice not to write about most of those meals, mostly because I wanted to enjoy the company and conversation and I’d already written previously about all of them, but I must say, it felt extremely alien to me!

One of my birthday presents was a flight and accommodation package to Sydney, which I will be taking up first thing tomorrow morning (Wed), so all will be quiet here at Rita’s Bite for a few days whilst Rita renews a lifelong relationship with Sydney, the original family home of the Rita forebears. My mum and dad, in their early 20’s, eloped from Sydney, to come and live in Hobart (well, Huonville really) – a very deliberate choice, and pretty radical for the late 1940’s! The combination of family and excellent food are a huge enticement for me, so the next few days in Sydney hold huge promise for me!

Meanwhile, I did actually want to update my Barilla Bay review, and that was the motivation behind the choice of the BB lunch. My last meal there was April 2008, so a visit was well overdue.

I have come to the conclusion that the restaurant itself is one of our more spectacular restaurants, which, unfortunately for me generally, has held way more promise than it actually delivered. Apart from one meal there, every other time I ate there turned out to be reasonably anticlimactic.

My recent lunch there was, once again, another of those meals. Initial contact with the restaurant (to make the booking) was absolutely text-book hospitality perfection. I called to make the reservation, which was taken by a charismatic Stephen. He not only got the standard booking details, but then went on to enquire as to whether or not it was a celebration of some sort. When that fact was established, he then asked whether we’d be having dessert as they usually liked to mark the event with a surprise for the recipient. On being told it was me who was the birthday girl, he then refused to divulge any more details, promising instead that the event would indeed be recognized in an appropriate way when we arrived there, and partook of dessert.

As far as an exercise in public relations, he succeeded majorly. That was a master stroke, and he had won me from the start. It didn’t matter what he did after that, I was a convert already!

As it turned out, the kitchen let down FOH’s excellent customer service work. We were well cared for by waitress Tegan, and (presumably, maitre d’) Stephen, but arriving for a 12.30 booking and ordering a main course which was ordered pretty well on the dot of 12.30, and having it arrive at ¼ to 2 seemed way too long a period to wait for lunch, despite us having lots to chat about. The restaurant was half full, and as it was holiday time, none of the diners seemed overly hassled or anxious about the service, but, all the same, our food seemed to take an unnecessarily long time to arrive.

All would have been forgiven had it been thoroughly enjoyed and savoured by all three of us, but unfortunately it was merely average. We had ordered a Roasted Vegetarian Pasta ($25), described on the menu as comprising homemade fettucine tossed with asparagus, artichoke hearts, pumpkin, mushrooms, baby spinach, pinenuts and cream, dressed with a fresh basil parmesan cream; Barilla Bay Marinara ($32), described as fresh tomato fettucine tossed with the best fresh seafood Tassie has to offer, bound in a slow cooked Napoli sauce finished with fresh herbs and surprise seafood garnish; and Crispy Spiced Duck Breast ($32), twice cooked spiced duck breast with lemon scented rice, mango chutney and chinese vegetables in light ginger and soy glaze.

The items we selected looked great on paper. Sadly, and with the best will in the world, I can’t confirm that. The vegetarian pasta was nice and creamy but, to be honest, nothing different to what you’d make for yourself if you were a vegetarian and cooking yourself some pasta at home. The seafood marinara ditto. The duck was very chewy and hard to cut. It came accompanied by a spring roll, which must have replaced the promised “chinese vegetables in light ginger and soy glaze”. It too was only average in taste and flavour.

Having waited so long for the food, we decided not to hang round for dessert, so left. If I were awarding points for the food, I’d give it 5 out of 10, and I think my dining companions would agree.

As for the meal at RVL – despite Steve promising a ‘degustation’ meal to mark my birthday, what came out to the table at each course was most definitely not your standard degustation-sized portion! I sincerely doubt that word is in Steve’s vocabulary! As I (and others) have commented in the past about Steve’s evening meals at RVL, he simply doesn’t do ‘small’ with regard to portion sizes. If he were a pub owner doing schnitzels, his would be the biggest and the best in Tasmania. As it is, he doesn’t do schnitzels, but all the courses for my degustation dinner, and most notably the Mount Gnomon pork main course which he’d slow cooked for maybe 5 hours at 150 degrees, were just the most stunning and flavoursome ever. The pork arrived on 2 huge platters (pic below) piled high with tender, steaming pork and crackling, looking for all the world like the best medieval feast you’ve ever attended.


So – an auspicious start to my 62nd year of life. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year!

Posted on by Rita
18 comments

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey Rita happy birthday.................I hate to say and i know i leave myself wide open to critisism.....Barilla bay........why would you invest that much in a building, a cohesive front of house and wording on a menu and nothing on the people manning the kitchen......Barilla Bay a significant Tasmanian BRAND..........PITTY YOU CANT EAT THE BRAND.

Stephen Estcourt said...

Happy Birthday fro yesterday Helen.

Rita said...

Hi Anon - thanks for the birthday wishes. It was most unfortunate about our BB meal.
SE - thank you too for the wishes. Trust your lunch went well?
Georgia - I didn't have a coffee, so can't help you with the coffee question I'm afraid. If it were me I'd give them one more chance to redeem themselves.

Victor said...

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, once again! Glad you are still celebrating your birthday, sweet sixteen!

ut si said...

Enjoy Sydney gorgeous!

Mount Gnomon Farm said...

Many happy returns Rita! Hope you're having a lovely time in Sydney. It's absolutely pouring here at Penguin, but the pigs will have a lovely time digging up the soft dirt tomorrow.

Susannah said...

happy birthday, Rita.

I've been a bit of a magazine junkie, but lately have decided that my life (and cupboards) could do with a little less clutter. St Vinnies is doing well. One collection that has languished in a dark corner for quite some time is a large collection of Gourmet magazines (and yes, many of them are pre Gourmet Traveller). Before I parcel them up with the general donations, I thought you may know of an appreciative home for them? The culinary highlights of the 1980s make for interesting reading.....

steve said...

Hi Susannah, I'd be that appreciative home! silvercreekfarm@bigpond.com
cheers Steve

Anonymous said...

She was aaking Rita

simon cordwell said...

Hello Rita, that is the way to do it a week long extravaganza for the birthday bash. Barilla Bay yes well what can one say. Mrs chef and I went there for a Sunday lunch recently and lets just say that the view was excellent and we had a VERY long time to enjoy it. Such a pity with all that they have going for them.

Anonymous said...

Its a brave chef Mr Cordwell that casts the first stone, best steer clear of that or you'll unleash the fury of the anons!

Hazel said...

Happy Birthday Rita- can't wait to hear tales of your Sydney adventure! A pity about BB. But Steve's degustation looks like it more than made up for it!

The Passionate Gardener said...

Happy Birthday Rita. Enjoy Sydney

Anonymous said...

throw some stones..............seriously if its crap its crap......why is everyone skimming around the edge...do people relise that if all the crap places shut down...Tasmanian food might actually stand a chance.

Anonymous said...

people are skimming around the edge last because they are being respectful of someone elses hard work & business. By your tone I'd think its something that you might want to take on board if ever you open your own place & want the same respect back.

Debra said...

hi helen best wishs for your birthday catch up when you get back
bfx

Rita said...

Thanks all, for your good birthday wishes.
Deb - you dork! You bypassed my latest post which told everyone I was back from Sydney and even included pics of my holiday, to write your comment (above) on this older post! Thanks for the birthday wishes, and, yes, we will catch up soon....
Hope you read Steve Cumper's latest post, btw....link here:
http://the-view-from-my-porch.blogspot.com/2010/04/reincarnated-as-food-rep.html

Anonymous said...

Had dinner at BB last night for our 10 year wedding anniversary. It was well below expectations and what they did to some of the oysters astounded me! Could taste nothing but vinegar on one style and another was most unappetising with a green goop and breadcrumbs on top of it...we perused the menu in the Entertainment book only to find it had changed. The scallops for our second course were something I could have done myself. The octopus salad was the best dish we had but again was a little on the ho hum side. We won't go back, sadly...