Tuesday, 24 April 2012

St Katherine's, Kew, Victoria

 St Kat's, and its food, below... for you, Deb C

 Puffed and BBQ'd corn salad, smoked almond dressing, herbs, shaved red onion

 Ground lamb pide, tomato, garlic, parsley, Aleppo pepper, lemon

 Leaves, hazelnuts,dehydrated shankleesh, sunflower seeds, pomegranate
Lamb and chicken off the rotisserie
Grilled salmon
Rice pilaf, dill, apricot, toasted pumpkin seeds
Leftover (from first course) Mahammura - roasted sweet pepper dip, walnuts, pomegranate molasses

Dessert - samples of: walnut cake, figs, yoghurt jelly, lemon sorbet, fruit jellies; (not pictured): choc chip mousse and jam doughnuts, whiskey jelly

Yes, you’re correct – it has been exceedingly quiet here at Rita’s Bite lately. There is a very valid reason for this. Not an excuse, but a reason. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I have been plagued with heart problems for the past 18 months. The upshot of all that was an operation in Melbourne two weeks ago to try and rectify a root cause of my problems. I won’t know for a few months if it was successful, but at least it provided me with a valid reason for being in Melbourne and eating a few great meals before my operation.

The first meal was a most delicious Yum Cha lunch in China Town. There were four of us, and we didn’t stint on anything. Everything that came past our table on a trolley was taken x 2 – ie we had two of everything – and guess what the grand total for the whole meal was, for the four of us? $85. One of our party was a big country lad, used to chowing down on a dinner plate-sized steak and chips for entrée! Talk about value for money!

But the piece de resistance was dinner at St Katherine's (aka St Kat’s) in Kew. Let me first set the scene…the only available meal space I had, prior to hospital admission, was the Sunday night. It was Easter Sunday. I found that most of my wish-list restaurants were either closed that particular day, closed on Sundays generally, or you couldn’t book – ie you had to queue up outside for a table which definitely wasn’t going to work with my general health issues! That narrowed the field of choice down considerably. Let me say upfront that I’m no fan of George Calombaris of Master Chef fame, so the fact that St Kat’s was one of his stable of restaurants didn’t sway me either way, but I liked the sound of the online menu, plus you could book online too, so that was locked in well and truly before I flew to Melbourne.

We cabbed from our hotel in Lygon Street to the restaurant, and were set down at an inauspicious-looking restaurant. We entered, and were immediately shown to our table which was next to a window onto the street. The atmosphere was calm, friendly, controlled and prompt. We waited for nothing all night, as did every other table in the place. It was the best example of a well-oiled machine that I have ever observed in all my years of restaurant life, whether it was working in one, owning one or eating at one.

The floor staff were friendly without being over-simpering. They were thoroughly versed in all aspects of every menu item, without giving you that withering “don’t you know anything about food, you dickhead” look when you enquired about something. We didn’t need to wait for a drink, or for the bread to be supplemented by another serving. (For general Tasmanian service the waitperson’s thoughts would go like this: Yes, that IS a half eaten plate of dip sitting in the middle of the table with no one eating it. Will I clear it back? Oh, there is no bread left to eat it with, you say? – what a brilliant idea to ask the customer if they maybe might like another serving of bread!!) There were around 10 floor staff on duty, with the equivalent in the kitchen.

The kitchen prep must have been enormous, because, as I mentioned above, no customer waited for anything all night. The food was bought out to your table when it was obvious you either wanted or needed it. When we slowed down appreciably round the end of mains, one of our waitresses suggested we take a stroll up the street, have a window shop and return to finish it up, then move on to our already-ordered desserts! So it was obvious they weren’t feeding us quickly and kicking us out so they could re-sell the table.

Our choice in venues was validated when well-known chef Guy Grossi sat down at the table next to us and proceeded to enjoy similar service and food.

What we ate was immaterial, but we selected one of their Ottoman-style sharing menus called “When Mum feeds me” at $58 per person. It entailed the chefs sending out whatever they decided constituted the best in their kitchen that night, including desserts. It was simply sensational.

We absolutely loved it, and had I been allowed out of hospital the day before I flew back to Hobart, we had intended returning there for more of the same. Unfortunately I got discharged from hospital directly into a taxi en route to the airport, and that burst that little bubble – but I can say I will definitely be returning there as soon as I can save up the required money for a weekend away.

To make it even more impressive, I received a follow-up email the next week from St Kat’s asking if I had any feedback or suggestions. What a fabulous marketing tool! I can’t think of too many Tassie restaurants who’d dare do that, even if they could find the time to follow up with customers who’d dined there recently.

So – if you’re planning a trip to Melbourne, and would like a suggestion of somewhere to eat – try St Katherine’s. I defy anyone to find fault with it!
Posted on by Rita


Shane Delia said...

Thank you so much for this review of St Kat's Rita! Despite the seriousness for your visit to Melbourne (was the trip successful in terms of your health?), I'm so happy we could host you for your Easter Sunday dinner.

Not sure if you know that I am co-owner of St Kat's with George and myself and the team go to great lengths to live up to the Delia family crest 'fortis et hospitalis' or 'strength in hospitality' - so it always brings a huge smile to my face when I hear that we've delivered a fantastic experience for people such as yourself.

I wish you all the best with your health and hope that next time you're in Melbourne, I can cook for you at my other restaurant, Maha Bar & Grill.

sir grumpy said...

Hope you are now 100 per cent Rita.
The whole experience at St Kat's sounds great.
That's the mark of a wonderful outing, the whole experience.
How often have we had great food/bad service or vice versa?
And shades in between.
Hope you get to the Maha under better circumstances and let them look after you.

Rita said...

Hi Shane Delia, and thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my review. Yes, I did know you are a partner with GC, and apologise for not mentioning that in my review. I researched extensively online, about possible great restaurants for me to eat at, well before going as I didn't want to waste a single moment of my precious pre-operation time eating a meal that gave me no joy to either eat or pay for. I was happy to spend a fortune on the meal, but really wanted guaranteed some great hospitality and culinary moments - which I well and truly did at St Kat's.
I love your stated Delia family motto - strength in hospitality - and can now believe they are most definitely not empty words, having experienced that very thing at St Kat's. Your staff and food indeed do you credit.
I would love to sample the wares at Maha next time as well, so will make that a reward for myself, as I regain strength and health enough to do fun things like time away for great food!
Thanks Sir G - am not anywhere near 100% better yet, but quietly working on it. Not allowed to drive, so that has curtailed activities hugely, especially in regard to getting out and about to restaurants. However, have I a meal booked for next week at the new-ish Italian place in Bellerive, where Jeans-Pascals used to be - Cugini, so am really looking forward to that. I'll be writing about our experience there, so at last, something of relevance to my local readers here on the blog!

Deb C said...

Would have loved piccies! Tried to check out the website too but not working... glitch perhaps?
On another note, please get better soon, my lunch time is spent eating crappy frozen meals and reading food bloggers and their delicious food experiences...makes it seem a little less dire!

Christina said...

Hi Rita, great review.Sounds awesome and the website looks great. Hoping to get to Melbourne later in the year so St. Kats is now definitely on the to do list.
I also am dining at Cugini in Bellerive next week, so we'll be able to compare notes. We're going Wednesday night.
Glad to hear your on the mend and I hope everything works out fine after this trip.

Rita said...

Hi Christina - you will LOVE St Kat's! We're going to Cugini on Thurs night, and I am very much looking forward to it. I have a copy of their takeaway menu and it sounds great, so if the food is anything like it sounds, it should be exceptional. I look forward to your feedback.

Educating the General said...

Hey Rita,

Looks like a great dinner you had.
Wishing you all the best for health + happiness + Relaxation throughout 2012 & beyond.

Note to Sir Grumpy & Rita -
There's a new(ish) Asian Restaurant in Blackmans Bay - menu says they serve BBQ Pork BUM (sic) ... You should get along there ASAP and try it.. hahahaha

How do you all think the economny is going? Places are closing, left, right and centre. Landlords are increasing RENT @ 10-20% p/a, Power costs are increasing @ 30% p/a... Everyone is losing their jobs and places are stopping out sourcing and are now doing things cheaper themselves.

Is the future grim or will we recover fast?

Also had a bad experience at Steve's RVL, posted my experience and he took the piss by editing my comments to turn it into a praise for himself. Bloody hell.

steve said...

That's because you were obnoxious and chose my personal blog in which to slag my team & myself off anonymously, unconstructively & maliciously. I welcome constructive criticism via email or a call & I extend this to you if you are able to be civil

sir grumpy said...

Yes, Educating the General,
we had a little giggle at the Bums instead of Buns on the new menu being letterbox dropped.
It's only Rump after all.
Good to see it has lots of szechaun-influenced dishes on the menu.
They're my new thing!

Rita said...

Yes, Educating the General, it's going to be a very tough and long winter for your average cafe/restaurant here in wintery, wet, cold, snowy, low population Hobart. The rise in Aurora costs, combined with our traditional depressingly grey winter days, will ensure most diner-outers will have to seriously think twice before they plan a night out. To pay the power bill, or have a night of fun out a restaurant/pub? Unfortunately, your average restaurant will need to offer way more than just a respite from having to cook and clean up for yourself. Also, debt will mount up as the more frivolous amongst us decide in favour of the night out in preference to paying the utility bill, and will end up paying the ultimate price.
My heart goes out to all who have invested in a cafe, to see their hopes and dreams fade away, as less customers can afford to spend less. Yes - I am very worried and concerned about the state of hospitality here, generally. Meanwhile, there are some fabulous businesses in Hobart who will never experience the above, because they are smart, have researched their market properly, and are committed hospitality business professionals.