Saturday, 6 October 2012

Epicurean, Room for Improvement

A little while ago the well known Russell Armstrong restaurant, Seasalt at Armstrongs in the Incholm Hotel closed its doors.  This was a lovely little seafood bistro that always produced great quality meals and was pretty much annually awarded an AGFG chefs hat.

As is the way in Brisbane, when one door closes another opens.  After a relatively significant amount of remodelling inside the Inchcolm a new establishment opened its doors.  Adam Barton is the man behind Epicurean, who also runs Cove Bar & Dining at Southbank & head chef is Adam Herbert.

I was pretty excited about Epicurean and followed the news of its remodelling and opening pretty closely.  I can actually see the Inchcolm Hotel from my desk in the office at work, so there has been a constant reminder for me to get in and try it out.

I ended up booking a lunch with a Work Buddy (henceforth known as WB) and when we arrived at 12:30 it was fairly quiet, with only a few other tables occupied.  We were greeted warmly by the maitre'd / waiter and taken to a table.  After some chatting, I realised that the maitre 'd was in fact the same gentleman who had been front of house for Armstrongs for many years, good to see the continuity!

The menu at Epicurean is fairly basic with a good spread of options for entrees and mains, with mains split between 'Main' and 'Grill' which is a selection of steaks.  There is also an interesting and different list of desserts.  The entrees are all moderately priced between $16 and $21 with mains in the $30 range and grill up to $42.  There is the usual assortment of sides available too.

I selected the Diver Scallops with Black Pudding, Cauliflower Puree & Red Shallot Dressing. Scallops, cauliflower and black pudding is a very classic match and the flavour combination of the dish worked really well.  However, there were some problems with the balance of the dish.  There was an abundance of cauliflower puree that in the end overpowered the subtle flavour of the Scallops.  I was also a little disappointed with the Scallops, as they did not have the lovely caramalisation that you expect with them, and actually seemed to be poached.  Overall though, it was quite tasty.

My WB also wanted the Scallops, but ended up choosing the King Prawn with Young Avocado Slaw & Green Tomato Relish.  The dish looked spectacular in its simplicity and was definitely the dish of the day.  While it was more like a prawn salad, due to the prawns being cold, the flavour combinations worked well.

For the main course, my WB selected the Mary Hill Lamb with Vanilla Parsnip, Vine Tomato and Soft Herb Coulis.  This was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day.  You normally would see lamb with a lovely pink hue and expect the lamb to be tender and full of flavour.  Unfortunately, the lamb was murdered, there is no other way to put this.  It was certainly on the other side of well done and was tough and lacked any flavour as a consequence.  My WB was actually unable to eat much of this at all.

My main was Rolled Pork Belly with Jerusalem Artichoke, Belgian Endive and Pedro Ximenez Caramel.  This is certainly a case of studying the menu a little better.  Unfortunately, I had been studying the online menu for too long and had expected to see Pork Belly Roulade with Red Apple & Onion Puree, Belgian Endive and Pedro Ximenez.  Subtle difference, but if you head over to the online menu, you will get a feel for what I was expecting.  Anyway, this was my error and I have never been a fan of rolled Pork Belly, so it was no surprise that I did not really like this dish and left most of it on my plate.  The Jerusalem Artichoke was bitter to the palate and quite unpleasant.

What I like about a new restaurant and Epicurean is no different, is that they are genuinely interested in feedback about the dishes and are keen to hear what you like and don't like.  My WB and I provided at times critical feedback about the mains, but to their credit took this feedback in the spirit in which it was intended.  The chef agreed that the lamb was unacceptably over cooked and was extremely apologetic. As a consequence, we were not charged for the Lamb and the dessert and dessert wine (for WB) was covered free of charge.

 We were both feeling a little deflated from the mains after having quite high expectations but we did opt to take up the offer of free dessert and both chose the Chocolate with white frozen chocolate and caramel paste.  There was something not quite right with this one.  The Chocolate mousse was dense and rich, but too much so.  We were not able to get through even a third of this.  The white chocolate also had a chalky texture to it.  This felt quite disconnected on the plate, with nothing to really bring the elements together.

Overall, I was really disappointed with the meal and combinations selected.  I think the biggest issue for me was the disconnect between what was promised on the internet, both with photos and menu options. So much was promised in these photos at the end of the day, just failed to connect expectations and reality.  The Maitre'd was very apologetic and was genuinely concerned that our experience had not been a good one and asked that we not give up and come back again.  It is possible that I will be back, it will be some time before Epicurean will be at the top of my list.  However, I am always prepared to give Restaurants the benefit of the doubt & I really did love Seasalt in the same location, so we will see about a return visit.


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