Saturday, 16 November 2013

Restaurant Manx - Chicken and Lobster? Can it work? Should it work?

It seems as if we had been spending a lot of time at the airport recently and only a few short days after returning from Perth I again found myself at the airport.  This time is was a pick up job, with SC returning from an day in Cairns on business.  Usually when we come back from the airport, we have a ritual that we head over to our favourite restaurant, which is just across the street, and have a lovely and relaxing meal.  Unfortunately, when I went to book a spot for dinner I was advised that a private function was on and the dining area was not open to the public.  This presented a dilemma, what would we do for dinner?

Once SC had landed and I broke the bad news that we would have to go elsewhere for dinner, we took the pragmatic approach to checking out somewhere new on the way home.  This didn't leave us a heap of options but we did have one dining precent that we have not spent a lot of time exploring open to us.  We have eaten at Portside Wharf before when we checked out Sono Portside (see post here) but Hamilton is not an area that is generally on our radar when looking for a meal.  It's a little surprising actually given the concentration of reasonably good restaurants in such a contained little district.

We normally take the tunnel when returning from the airport to the CBD, which is the best of all the major road infrastructure programs over the last few years, but a quick detour through the old route took us right past Portside.  It was a relatively quiet Tuesday night and the under ground car park was pretty empty, so we thought that we would have no problems getting a table without a reservation.  After a short walk around the restaurants looking at the menus on display, we opted for Restaurant Manx, partially due to some of the menu items and partly because of our Entertainment Card.

It was pretty late by our usual standards when we entered the restaurant and the lateness coupled with it being a generally quiet Tuesday night meant that we easily scored a table.  The inside of Restaurant Manx was a lot smaller than I thought and was dominated by a bar area on one side and an elevated dining area down the other side.  What was cool about the dining area was the hanging curtains, which would serve to create a few intimate little dining spaces.  

We were given our drinks and food menu to look over but before the waitress could leave, SC had quickly ordered an appletini with the excuse that it had been a long day and she deserved a cocktail.  Not that she needed an excuse but I thought it was funny that she wanted to justify the appletini as opposed to a glass of wine, which she would not.  The menu at Manx is very much Modern Australian and had a few different options on the entree and main selections that looked pretty interesting.  As it was later in the day, SC decided that she would have a couple of entrees instead of the traditional entree and main approach. 

Straight up SC noticed that Restaurant Manx had a signature dish, which was an entree as well, so was pretty excited to order the duck parfait with port jelly, cornichons, mustard fruits and toaster sourdough.  What we didn't expect was to be told that they didn't have any of the duck parfait available.  I mean seriously, why have a signature dish but then not have it available?  Overcoming her disappointment on missing out on what clearly was the restaurant's best dish, our waitress really sold the the confit duck rillettes with dried cranberries, apple salad and toasted hazelnuts.  When it came, the the dish din't look like a traditional rillette, which is normally a little 'wetter',  but more of shredded duck meat.  The look aside, the duck rillette was lovely, it had a deep gamey flavour that can only come from well cooked duck.  There was some great texture on the plate with the dried cranberries and hazelnuts and a little sharp contrast from the acidic apple. I was a well balanced dish overall, it just wasn't the signature dish. 

There was only one item on the starter menu that was of interest to me and that was the seared scallops with crushed peas, crisp pancetta and jus gras.  The flavour combinations are very classic and I was looking forward to a delicious starter.  The dish itself looked wonderful, with perfectly seared scallops that had a beautiful crust from the caramelisation that were coated in shards of crispy pancetta.  They were sitting atop a bed of crushed peas, in fact more of a sea of crushed peas, there were a lot.  I quite liked the dish and the flavour combination worked well, with the saltiness from the pancetta working with the sweetness of the scallops and peas.  There was a slight problem with the balance of the dish, as I thought there was too much of the crushed peas on the plate and while it was only a minor issue I did end up leaving most of the peas behind.

The second entree that SC ordered, which doubled as her main course, was the spice dusted squid with hot and sour dressing.  This was a very simply presented plate of food, which could have looked much better with just a little something extra on the plate, as it was there were just a few pieces of calamari and some garnish along with the bowl of sauce.  The calamari was cooked exceedingly well and really quite nice but I found to be a little dry.  The spices and the cooking process meant that the crispy coating was hard to swallow unless doused in the hot and sour dressing.  Not a huge issue because the hot and sour dressing was delicious but my first sample of the calamari was hard to take, so I needed another sample dripping with the sauce.

There were a number of great looking options for main course but I had been intrigued by the corn fed chicken filled with lobster meat accompanied by a pumpkin gallette, green beans and a silky lobster sauce.  I usually like chicken and I definitely love lobster, but how would the two go combined?  And in a lobster sauce to boot! I was so intrigued, I overcame my usual distaste for anything with pumpkin on it and ordered the dish. I was in two minds about the presentation of the dish, which was very brown with a streak of green from the beans. The chicken was actually quire lovely, it was moist and succulent with crispy chicken skin that was delicious but the lobster was lost.  Firstly, there was not much of it on the dish and secondly, it seemed to have been badly over cooked through the process of integrating it with the chicken.  The silky lobster sauce was very nice with the chicken but there was just something missing, the freshness that you want when eating a lobster dish and it slightly detracted from the overall dish.  I think this would have been great without the lobster bits but with the addition it was somehow less than it could have been.  As for the pumpkin gallette, I completely left that alone...

Up until this point we had been provided with first rate service from our wait staff, who had been attentive and all over us (in a good way).  I was keen to have dessert and I really wanted the wait staff to bring over the dessert menu, but for what ever reason, they never came back.  It's not as if we were sitting a long way away from them, the were only a few meters away doing other 'stuff'.  It wasn't busy either, there were only a few other diners in the restaurant.  After about fifteen minutes of sitting there with no food on our table, no drink fill ups and watching other tables get their desserts, we decided that we would just leave. Strangely enough the staff knew when we had made this decision and came over to ask us if we wanted our bill.  

The food on the night had been pretty good, with a few minor issues and one major one.  As far as I am concerned it's a cardinal sin to advertise a signature dish and then not have it available, especially something like a parfait.  I think a couple of tweaks to the food that came out of the kitchen would have made a big difference between what was an OK meal and turned it into something that could have been great.

There are a lot of restaurants over at Portside and with all the development and excitement just around the corner at the Gasworks, there could be a danger that Portside becomes a bit redundant.  I think it's important for the dining spots in the area to keep at their game and while Restaurant Manx was OK, it was not good enough for me to want to come back for another visit, especially given it's so far out of the way.

Pretty quiet on the night and the curtains could make it seem even quieter
There are a lot of wines on display throughout the restaurant
There is a big alfresco area out the front that seems bigger than inside.

Restaurant Manx on UrbanspoonRestaurant Manx


  1. while the food is ok in this restaurant, it really was one of the worst customer experiences i have ever had. what you described with wait staff being busy is jut the tip of the iceberg! thanks for the review :)

    1. Thanks Chris, it was a bit disappointing for such a quiet night. Customer service is so important in restaurants I think!!


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