13 October 2010
The Waiting Room @ Ground Floor, Crown Towers Complex, Southbank
“Welcome! You are our very first customers”. And that’s how our night began.
The night of our visit was the grand opening of The Waiting Room bar, the first of two Neil Perry culinary enterprises to open in Crown this month (Spice Temple is set to open on 25 October 2010). I eagerly watched as the sparkling and grandiose floor-to-ceiling doors were pulled open to reveal a world of opulence, glitz and glamour.
This place epitomises ostentation. With its high ceilings, walls draped with innumerous tiny pieces of shiny square mirrors, luminous pinky purple lighting and chic urban background music, it is, I am told, quintessentially Las Vegas.
Not surprisingly, Neil Perry was in attendance tonight. Chefs to me are like Hollywood celebrities to most. Sure Brad Pitt has the looks, but I would much prefer to be charmed by the presence of Heston Blumenthal or Ferran Adria any day. Therefore, you can only imagine my elation when I saw Neil Perry floating around the room, only metres away from me. I thought it was the opportune moment to take a snapshot with one of Australia’s Iron Chefs. On our request, our waitress kindly guided Neil Perry to our table. A couple of quick photos and I was kept beaming for the rest of the night (below is a photo of my friends with Neil Perry).
Of the four cocktails that we ordered during the night, there was only one true highlight - the “Floradora”, a moreish concoction of raspberries, house brewed ginger beer and Flor de Cana rum. For a newly opened bar, this was rather disappointing.
The Spanish inspired food menu was a bit more promising. We began with the prawn, olive and tuna pinchos. The prawn was fresh, the tuna was sweet, the olives were robust, and together, the flavours were excellent.
Next up were three terra cotta dishes – the pork belly, the octopus and chorizo and the gypsy eggs (a traditional Spanish dish containing baked eggs on top of a range of various ingredients). Although these dishes were generally pleasant, the pork belly was the only memorable dish. While the pork itself was overcooked, the impressive fiery sauce that accompanied it, with the sweet acidity from the tomatoes and the heat from the chilli, provided the requisite flavour impact.
It should be noted that the terra cotta items contain a copious amount of lentils, white beans and peas. If you share my aversion to these vegetarian delights, you should consider sticking to the pinchos and baguette sandwiches.
To finish, we ordered a couple of “mini open sandwiches” - we opted for the Avruga caviar and boiled eggs. Creamy eggs complement caviar like apples complement pork, so the flavours were destined to work. To an extent they did. However, as the tiny pearlescent fish eggs burst in my mouth to flavour the velvety egg salad, nostalgia had set in and I was consequently left underwhelmed - my recent foodie trip to New York was to blame.
During my recent foodie trip to New York, I had the pleasure of indulging in a variety of caviar and egg dishes. The chef’s choice of fish eggs was more often than not, Osetra caviar. These prized sturgeon fish eggs had titillated my taste buds with each spoonful. I vividly remember the silky balls exploding onto the roof of my mouth to release a rich, buttery liquid centre. Laced with distinctive bold flavour, it was the ultimate decadence.
Unfortunately, these fond memories were not to be relived tonight as the Avruga caviar was insipid in both taste and texture, at least in comparison to the Osetra caviar. Nevertheless, given the rarity of this type of dish in Melbourne, for $3.50, this baguette delight still gets my tick of approval.
The Waiting Room has more to offer than sparkly doors and pretty lights; the food actually has substance. Although the culinary offerings at The Waiting Room are not as slick as its swanky surrounds, we must remember that all new establishments take time to iron out their respective flaws.