RAGE @ The Cottage Bar & Kitchen, Balmain

With a husband whose main working day is Sunday, Saturday afternoon date days are a rare treat. So when the opportunity comes up, I try my best to turn it into something a little bit more special than your standard food-court and a movie outing. A few weeks ago we headed to one of my favourite parts of Sydney, Balmain, and after consulting the interwebs on a nice place to eat, we ended up at The Cottage – which is a new “Bar & Kitchen” that uses a run-down cottage on Darling Street as its premises.

I have to disclaim, the overall tone of the post is coloured by what happened near the end of our lunch – there’s a good chance this post would have been bubbly and gushing if the event didn’t occur. Shame, really.

The Cottage, like The Baron, must be owned by young hipsters who cleverly save money on the fit-out by taking a shabby-chic approach to décor. The Cottage is more shabby than chic though, everything is odd, vintage/second hand and looks like it was all picked up from the Rozelle markets down the road. I think the intended effect is unique and charming, but it seemed a bit bare to me. I imagine the ambience is a bit better when the lights dim and the Cottage goes into “bar” mode for the evening.

Using a napkin to steady a table = not a good look.

The cutest things are the upside down tea-cup lights at the kitchen.

Serving water in empty liquor bottles is clearly a growing trend that I actually LOVE. We have a bottle of scotch whisky at home we bought at duty free on our honeymoon – I can’t wait for it to be empty so I can fill with water and use it for dinner parties!!

We started with the chicken liver parfait – which we were really excited about just having come home from our honeymoon as pâté  junkies. Matt LOVED this, and ate about ¾ of the massive slab, but I credit this to him being a very very novice pâté-lover. I thought the parfait was quite bland – and without flavour, pâté  just becomes a strange texture in your mouth. The colour was also really off-putting – parfait should only be pink if served in a milkshake glass with strawberries and ice cream.

Next we had the house cut chips with a spicy tomato sauce. SUPER crisp, just the way I like ’em. The term “House cut” sounds pretty awesome… but when you think about it… how does the way chips are cut actually affect their flavour? And won’t most (nice) restaurants cut their own potatoes to make chips anyway? If you want your chips to be special, at least come up with something mildly creative like “thrice cooked”!

The pork belly  we ordered certainly looked impressive – with a really generous portion size! I so wanted it to be delicious but it really failed on all accounts – like something a bogan Masterchef contestant would try and cook for the “Asian” challenge.  The crackling was more like a brulee top than bubbly, crunchy pork rind. The meat was tough, and the accompanying purees were just dull and did nothing to help the heaviness of the belly. At this point, disappointment was slowly developing into a mild hanger but there was still hope – soft shelled crab was on its way.

OR WAS IT?

About 15 minutes after staff cleared our finished pork belly, still no sign of soft shell crab. Waiters walking past us constantly, clearly not noticing that we hadn’t had food on our table for ages and were still sitting there. We asked one waitress, she said she’d check, then no response. We asked another waiter, he said he’d check, again no response. Only after another 15 minutes and many angry glares did they come up and tell us that the crab was on its way. I was too ragey and hungry to object, but PLEASE. You’ve clearly forgotten about our order, at least have the decency to be honest and admit that you’ve forgotten and a) apologise profusely, offer it to us on the house or b) apologise profusely, and give us the option of just leaving without it. It’s the pretending that everything was normal that annoyed me. This is the kind of behaviour that makes…

Oh and I forgot to mention! Earlier in the meal Matt ordered a chai latte, and the waitress went to check if they did chai lattes, and came back and told us they don’t, but if we wanted, they could brew a chai tea and give us a glass of hot milk?! Even undemanding, happy-go-lucky Matt was like “I’m not going to pay these people money to make my own chai latte!” Very very strange.

The very very late soft shelled crab. All I remember about this was that it burnt my fingers and tongue because I rage-ate it.

After leaving in a huff, we headed to Zumbo’s to try and redeem our visit to Balmain. I hadn’t actually been to Zumbo since I went after he appeared on Masterchef season 1 and I experienced the pleasure of  my very first macaron. So I was very happy to see another Masterchef memory  on offer in the patisserie that day.

The truly epic V8 Cake (in fun size). Honestly when I saw this on the show, I thought the 8 layers of vanilla thing was a bit of a gimmick. It seems over the top – I just imagined the layers to fuse into a confused mess of super sweetness. Looking at the Masterchef recipe, this cake consists if: vanilla creme chantilly, toasted vanilla brulee, vanilla glaze, vanilla ganache, vanilla macaron, vanilla dacquoise, vanilla almond crunch and vanilla syrup. But digging into the real thing – wow – SO WORTH THE PAIN that the poor apprentice had to go through making this. There are distinct textures, distinct flavours, and the overall effect is not overly sweet, it is what it should be: Vanilla in all shades of its glory.

So with this little whiter-than-white cube of amazing, we ended the day on a high. Thank you Adriano, thank you.

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