Sunday, 28 April 2013

Crosstown Eating House - A classic at the Gabba

That little section of Logan road over at Woolloongabba keeps going from strength to strength, with new cafes, bars and restaurants cramming into about a hundred metres of real estate.  One of the mainstay restaurants over at the Gabba is The Crosstown Eating House, which is situated in a classic 1920s art deco building.  The building that houses Crosstown is fairly nondescript from the outside and by day is fairly hard to find, unless you know exactly where you are going.  At night, it's completely different with a bright blue neon sign advertising its presence for all the world to see.

The Crosstown Eating House (CtEH) is a very popular spot for breakfast and Sunday brunch, but we decided to come along and try out the dinner menu with some good mates, with the plan of heading across the road for a few cocktails afterwards.  SC and I arranged to meet CI and TB at the venu and as usual we were early and went in first to secure the best seats.  Entering CtEH is like entering a boisterous old pub of old, with lots people enjoying a drink at the bar and a mix of tables throughout the restaurant.  Being a 1920's style building, there is no big open spaces, but lots of pokey rooms throughout, including upstairs.

Our dinner party companions joined us shortly after we were seated and we spend a bit of time looking over the drinks menu, with the plan for everyone to have a few drinks while waiting for the meal.  CI and TB got stuck into the cocktails, which TB commented was fairly light on for options and SC settled for a glass of tempranillo, which is her favourite wine of the moment.  Looking at the dinner menu we could see that it was split by shared starters and traditional mains, with a reasonably good cross selection of foods, both contemporary and classical.

After some debate, we eventually agreed that we would get individual entrees for the girls and CI and I would share our starters.  When looking through the entree options there were quite a few that I could have had, but once I saw the sticky pork spare ribs, I knew that this was what I would be sharing with CI.  There was a decent serving of the beautifully looking spare ribs on the plate, covered in a dark and sticky sauce and once the plate was delivered SC was keen to have a try as well.  I don't eat a lot of pork spare ribs but I know what I like and I really liked these, the pork fell off the ribs without much prompting from me and was sweet and delicious.  The sweet pork married perfectly with the equally sweet and sticky sauce and I never feel that it needed any contrasting flavours to enhance the meal.  Put quite simply, they were perfect.

Given that CI and I had agreed to share our starters, he went for an option that he knew we would both love and ordered the grilled chorizo with du puy lentils, herbs and jus.  I was a little bit disappointed with the chorizo, it did not have a that lovely sweet yet spicy flavour that good chorizo has and I found it to be a little bit bland.  This could have had something to do with the fact that I had consumed some beautiful chorizo a few days earlier (see post here) and had that fresh in my mind, but I don't think so.  CI also commented that it wasn't the best chorizo he's had and we didn't eat it all, so that tells a bit of a tale.

After initially not wanting to have a starter, TB finally capitulated to table pressure and went for the baked salmon with kale, yoghurt, chilli and sumac.  This was a really interesting looking dish that would have been well suited as a breakfast instead of being a starter on a dinner menu.  There were some interesting flavours coming from the dish, with perfectly baked salmon mixed into a 'one bowl wonder' with the other ingredients.  The most interesting element was the yoghurt, which had baked into a solid film and offset the flavour of the salmon really well.  The dish was seasoned extremely well and this enhanced all of the flavours in the bowl.

SC took a slightly different approach to starters and ordered the antipasto for herself, which consisted of manchego cheese, prosciutto, anchovy olives and pita chips.  This was a very simple starter and SC loved mixing the prosciutto and cheese with the pita chips.  The quirky element on the plate was the anchovy stuffed olives, which were crumbed and then deep fried and added a contrasting texture and flavour to the plate.

A really great thing about the menu at CtEH is that almost everything is gluten free or vegetarian, which is a bonus for CI as he needs to eat gluten free food.  With a dearth of options, CI chose the pan-fried salmon with smashed kipfler potatoes, aioli, fresh herbs, walnut and chilli.  Depending on how you like your salmon, this one would have been considered to be slightly over cooked.  I like my salmon medium, so it would have been a bit over for me, but luckily CI likes his salmon well done, so it was perfect for him.  The flavours on the plate were nice and worked well together, but it was a huge serve and CI was trying to palm off some of his fish at the end of the meal.

There was only one special available on the night and it was a main sized serving of mussels and given TB's love of seafood, she had no hesitation ordering this dish.  There was a generous serving of mussels in a delicious broth and a couple of huge pieces of crunchy toast to mop up the remnants of the broth.  When mussels are done well they are spectacular and these were done well, with the plump mussel meat soft and full of flavour.  I only got to sample one of the mussels and almost had a regret that I didn't order them myself.

There was some pork belly on the menu as a main and I almost went for that, but after the sticky pork ribs as my starter, thought that another protein would be the way to go.  SC and I ended up having the same idea and went for the duck breast with roast beetroot, carrot, chard and apple.  The room we were in was quite dark, so it was hard to see if the duck was cooked perfectly and it was not until I had my first mouthful that I knew that it was over cooked.  Even though the flavour from the duck was lovely, mine was a little tough and chewy.  SC fared a little better than me, with her duck being much more tender and obviously slightly better cooked.  The skin on both ducks was rendered perfectly and had a delicious and intense flavour and the flavour profile of the beetroot and carrot worked in harmony with the duck.  I didn't really pick up any apple flavour in the dish, nor did I see any apple, so I am not sure what happened with that.  While my duck was over cooked, I still really enjoyed the dish but think it would have been elevated to a great dish with perfectly cooked duck.

When you see that a menu has only a couple of options for dessert, this is often a warning sign that it's not a real focus of the restaurant.  We decided to ignore the warning signs and order some dessert anyway.  In what should have been even louder alarm bells, when we eventually caught our waitress' attention to try to order desserts, she promptly told us that the kitchen was having a freak out and wouldn't be taking any orders for dessert for ten minutes!  Still, we persevered and waited the ten minutes until the kitchen was again ready to function and put our orders in.

To be fair, CI did pretty well with his dessert, which was pear and vanilla cake with chantilly cream.  Look, the dish was never going to win any awards for it's beauty, with a slab of cake and some sliced pears and a dollop of cream, but CI seemed to enjoy the dessert.  I tried a little bit of the dessert and the mouthful I had was dry and really needed the cream to help it go down.  However, CI assures me that I must have just had an edge as he found the cake to be moist and yummy.

It was a case of 'snap' for SC and I again as we both ordered the vanilla bean pannacotta with orange and campari jelly.  This is definitely where things went wrong with a pretty average looking dessert presented to us in a glass.  I'm not totally averse to a pannacotta being delivered in a glass, but generally it would be a fancy glass with a little more care put into it.  This just had a heap of fruit thrown on top of a pannacotta that when we put our spoons into the glass was far from set and was more like a custard.  I didn't pick up any orange or campari flavours with the dessert, nor did I pick out any jelly textures.  There were some harder pieces of fruit on top of the concoction to give it some texture other than soft, but it didn't work for me.

One of the things I love about the CtEH is the atmosphere of the restaurant, which is noisy and boisterous and a little bit hectic.  It's a great spot to have a few drinks before, during and after a meal with the bar area that is a big focus in the restaurant.  We had been to a function at the venu for another mate's birthday and the outdoor function area has it's own window into the bar, which is really cool and easy to get drinks.

I found the wait staff on the night to be friendly and competent and apart from the way our desert orders were handled, did a great job on a pretty hectic night.  We were sitting quite close to the kitchen and could see that they were under the pump most of the night but didn't realise they were in meltdown until we were told.  I think a better way of handling the situation would have been to take our orders but advise that they would be a little while until the backlog of orders was cleared.

The food prices at the Crosstown Eating House are pretty reasonable and make for a pretty good value night out, however, once the drinks are added to the bill, things can get a bit pricy.  We quite enjoyed our visit and felt pretty good about the night.  But I could tell when it was time for us to leave the CtEH and move across the road to Canvas when a little gleam in TB's eyes said 'cocktail time'.


The kitchen came unders some severe stress at one point.  Just when we wanted desserts!
Up the stairs gives a good bird's eye view of the main bar area
There are heaps of weird and wonderful wall hangings all over the inside of Crosstown Eating House
Lots of pokey little spaces crammed with tables and chairs too
The Crosstown Eating House would be a good spot in a Zombie apocalypse.  You can lock the front gates!

The Crosstown Eating House on UrbanspoonCrosstown Eating House

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