Saturday, 24 November 2012

Vintaged Bar & Grill -

One thing that my food adventures have shown me is that Brisbane is redefining its place in the culinary world and gaining a reputation as a food destination.  While this is especially true in comparison to Australian cities, it still has some way to go for international recognition.  One of the transformations that is happening, just might help with this.  In Europe and the Americas, many of the finest restaurants (often with two or three Michelin Stars) and top shelf Chefs are situated in Hotels.

This is a trend that has started to appear in Brisbane with two of this year's Brisbane Times Good Food Guide One Hat recipients being hotel restaurants, with a third hotel restaurant pushing for entry.

If it's been a while since you've eaten at the Hilton, (remember the seafood smorgasbord anyone?), then you are in for a complete surprise.  Vintaged Bar & Grill is located on the 6th floor of the Hilton hotel and has completely transformed the feel of the Hilton and the dining experience.  This transformation did not come cheap, with a reported $2 million dollars spent to help things along.  When you exit the lifts on the 6th floor and make your way to the restaurant, you are transformed in to a sleek, sexy and very open restaurant that is designed by well known architect Mark Landini to bring an interactive dining experience with the chef's on view to the diners.

I was catching up with a friend and industry colleague for lunch today, mainly because it had been ages since we caught up for lunch, but also to talk a little shop.  After a long look at the menu BD and I both had our eye on the same choices, so we knew there would be some sharing going on at some point.  BD opted for the Pork Belly with an apple puree and candied walnuts.  The pork was well cooked and and that lovely soft layer of fat you love to see in Pork Belly.  Pork and Apple is a very traditional combination that always works well together and the apple puree was the perfect foil for the sweet pork.  There was texture and crunch with the candied walnuts and overall was not a bad dish.  BD and I both agreed that the main issue with this was the skin was not crispy, which ended up detracting from the overall dish.  Pork belly simply should have crispy crackling and this is what I always look for in a top notch belly.

Pork Belly with apple puree - but no crispy skin

I chose the Seared sea scallops with sweet corn puree and tomato vinaigrette, which looked amazing when placed in front of me.  The scallops were huge, I mean seriously large and I immediately had some reservations about the origin of the scallops as Australian scallops are not this big.  My fears ended up being justified.  The scallops were well cooked, with a lovely sear, but lacked any taste at all. After enquiring where the scallops were sourced from I was informed that they were from California, so must have been frozen for transport.  There is a very big difference between fresh and frozen scallops and in my view I would rather have smaller fresh scallops, which always have bags of flavour. Not even the sweet corn puree and tomato vinaigrette could save this entree as both lacked any real flavour either, which was a real surprise.  Overall, this was visual style over any substance and a real disappointment.

Huge scallops that lacked any flavour

Vintaged, above all else, is a steak restaurant and this is why we were here, so I was hoping that the mains would have a better showing than the entrees.  The signs were promising when my 300 day dry aged rump arrived at the table.  The rump looked a perfectly cooked medium rare and was presented beautifully on the plate.  It only took one mouthful for me to realise that this was a superb cut of meat, cooked exceptionally and had bags of flavour.  The rump is a part of the cow that gets a little more work than other cuts of meat and therefore is a lot tastier.  I had a bearnaise sauce as an accompaniment that initially seemed to be to acidic, but after it rested for a while was a really nice addition to the rump. While this was not the best steak I have had, it was definitely an enjoyable one.

The dry aged rump was perfectly cooked

BD professed a preference to pasture fed beef over grain fed so decided he would go for centre cut of filet, 30-36 months.  We were both a little surprised when the filet was presented, usually a filet is a much thicker cut and this looked more like a traditional rump or sirloin cut.  While the cut looked a little off, the steak was anything but.  It was again cooked to a perfect medium rare and was a lovely piece of steak.  BD also ordered the green peppercorn sauce as an accompaniment and was a little perplexed with what came out.  While it tasted OK, you would normally expect to have visible peppercorns and more of a bite to the sauce itself, both were missing here.  The sauce aside, BD really enjoyed his steak.

the fillet was an unusual cut but well cooked

Along with the mains, we ordered a side of hand cut chips.  The chips came out and looked spectacular, with large and uneven wedges of potato delivered with the skin still on.  There looked to be a lovely crispy skin and outer and we were excited about the prospect of some first class chips.  This was another case of the visual not meeting the expectations.  The skin was far from crisp and were actually a little soggy.  Even worse was that some of the larger chips seemed undercooked and hard on the inner.  For chips that held so much promise visually, another real disappointment.

Soggy chips

BD opted out of dessert but I was keen to continue so ordered the Parfait with mint, lime and blueberries.  I was quite taken aback when the dessert was placed on the table as it looked more like a cheese course than a dessert.  I had to double check with the wait staff that they had not got the order wrong and was advised that I did in fact have the parfait as requested.  While the dessert looked more like cheese, there was no mistaking the taste and texture, it was sweet and silky smooth parfait.  The mint and blueberries added a lovely contrasting taste and the crumble added a nice texture.  I am not really sure why there were some wedges of lime as they did not really add anything to the dish and the little I tried threw the balance of the dessert right out.

The parfait looks like blue cheese?!

I feel pretty conflicted about Vintaged.  When we first arrived we were warmly greeted and shown to our table which had been booked in advance.  The table was set for four but there was just the two of us and normally you would expect the wait staff to clear the additional place settings, this happened, but not until the mains arrived.  The wait staff were friendly and attentive on the whole, but there were times where we needed seek the attention of the wait staff and found it difficult to locate any.  As a steak restaurant, Vintaged delivered in spades but the entrees did not really meet expectations.

The first time I went to Vintaged with SC we had a great meal that we really enjoyed, but this was for dinner.  As a recipient of a coveted Brisbane Times Good Food Guide chefs hat, Vintaged has a big reputation to uphold.  A big part of maintaining the chefs hat is being consistent with all aspects of the meal and not just relying on a strong steak offering.  The Hilton is an international hotel with many international guests, if Brisbane is to continue to develop a worldwide reputation as a gastronomical destination, then it is crucial Vintaged shine and only time will tell.


Vintaged Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

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