Monday, 11 August 2008

Livin' in the Seventies

That's the Charcoal Restaurant on London Circuit. I swear, their menu and decor have not changed since I was a schoolgirl, and got to go there for the occasional treat with my parents. Though the prices have risen a little, and I doubt the grass matting on the ceiling would actually have lasted forty years. And the weird specification of GST on the menu wouldn't have happened back then.

But the menu is a blast from the past - avocado vinaigrette, oysters kilpatrick, tournedos rossini, beef stroganoff. And, of course, charcoal grilled steaks of all sorts of cuts, in sizes ranging from 180g up to a very scary full kilogram.

The bloke and I went there on Friday night, after a cocktail and some very good cheese at the Parlour. We almost had a larger party, but our friends had to bail out at the last minute, literally at the table. We weren't too bright and chirpy ourselves, but we needed dinner so we stayed. The waitress coped with admirable grace, and we had excellent service throughout.

Since we'd eaten snacks already, we went straight for the mains, Tournedos Rossini for me, Tournedos Bearnaise for the bloke. They arrived cooked exactly to order, served with a foil-baked potato and some steamed vegetables. The waitress comes around with parmesan, sour cream and chives for you to dress your potato as you like. The potato seemed a bit watery to me, but the vegetables were fresh and nicely done - not overdone at all, as you might suspect from the vintage style.

I was very pleased with my steak - properly rare, nicely charcoalled but not to excess. The mushroom sauce was perhaps a bit old-fashionedly gluey with flour thickener, but otherwise good. The chicken liver pate wasn't on the toast underneath the steak as is traditional, but on top. It was, well, OK, rather than a great one. No foie gras, that's for sure. And the toast was totally soggy and useless. It wasn't the great dish invented by Carême, but for a steak with mushroom sauce it was pretty damned fine, and obviously you don't get foie gras for $35. The bloke's béarnaise sauce was excellent - lively with tarragon and rich with butter; I thought his was the better dish.

We had a bottle of Pialligo Estate Cab Sav, which was pleasantly quaffable once it was aerated enough, but no great star. The wine list is quite good, with some serious fancy French reds and Granges, as well as the more affordable types. With that, and a couple of predinner drinks, the bill came to $120, which seemed just a little on the steep side to me. While I was much too full to eat dessert, I wish I'd at least looked at the dessert menu. I'd place money on there being a chocolate mousse, cheesecake and pavlova.

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