Saturday, 21 June 2014

Two Small Rooms - rebirth of a restaurant

In what was possibly a sign of things to come, in March 2013 well known and much loved Toowong fine dining restaurant Two Small Rooms announced that it would be shutting it's doors after nearly twenty years of operation.  I was a little sad about this at the time, I'd never been to the Milton Road restaurant but had always meant to go.  I think this was a sentiment from a lot of people once they heard that Two Small Rooms was shutting up shop, if only....  If only more people had moved from thinking about going to actually going there might have been a different outcome....

Fast forward a couple of months and it was announced that Two Small Rooms would be resurrected by enterprising young Chef Josh Lawson, moving into the role of chef-owner for the first time.  Josh has spent some time in some of Brisbane's favourite restaurants, most notably Cha Cha Char, Alfred and Constance and former South Bank French favourite Piaf.  While Two Small Rooms had always been a fine dining restaurant, Josh's plans included making the restaurant a little more accessible, with a more casual approach.

I'd held off on checking out the new Two Small Rooms, looking for just the right opportunity to get along and check it out.  That opportunity presented itself recently when regular dinner buddies CI&TB had a slot available to catch up in their very busy schedules.  It had been over six weeks since I'd seen my bud CI and I was suffering withdrawal symptoms from not catching up with one of my best mates.  We ran through a list of possibilities and all decided that Two Small Rooms would be a great spot to catch up and hang out.

The original plan was for a double date with SC and I spending some time with CI&TB but as it turned out, SC was pretty sick and instead of cancelling, insisted that I get out and catch up with my mate.  Even though I'd never been to Two Small Rooms before, I'd driven past the Milton Road restaurant countless times, so I had no trouble finding it, and being in the suburbs, there was no difficulties finding a park.  As is usually the case, I arrived before my dining buddies and was able to select the best seat at our table (the one with the best lighting, of course).  As I sat there waiting, a steady stream of couples and small groups arrived at the restaurant and disappeared out to what I assumed was the second of the two small rooms.  It was a good sign that the restaurant was going to be busy.

TB was the first to arrive while CI found a park, so we had a bit of a joke that our significant others had cancelled and it would just be a romantic dinner with the two of us, but then CI came in and it was bro-hugs all around!  James, our waiter for the night, then set about giving us menus and getting our drinks orders under way, which essentially was just champagne for TB, while us boys stuck to the hard stuff.... water.  We spent the next little bit catching up while at the same time trying to decide on what we'd be ordering for dinner.

Once we'd made our decisions, it wasn't long before our starters were brought to our table by the affable and friendly James.  TB had decided that the split chorizo and green onion stuffed king prawns, with remoulade sauce, chilli oil and herbs was too appealing to pass on.  We were all really interested to see what stuffed prawns looked like and were a little disappointed that the prawns presented in the dish were not in fact stuffed.  Setting aside the disappointment, the dish had a very rustic presentation with the chorizo and green onion salad covering the prawns, which should have been the star of the dish.  The large, fresh prawns were well cooked and the sweet flesh worked well with the accompaniments and TB enjoyed her starter.

CI and I had the same idea for our entree and chose the mushroom soup with grilled pork and fennel sausage, crème fraiche and crusty bread.  The large bowl of earthy brown mushroom soup had a couple of grilled fennel sausage bits floating on the surface.  I quite liked the fennel sausage but CI thought that he'd had much better.  What we both agreed on was that the mushroom soup was delicious.  The very strong mushroom flavour was simply delightful and while the texture was a little grainy for my liking, it in no way impacted the flavour of the soup.  We both really loved the soup and used the crusty bread to mop up any remnants before James took our plates away.

It was time for mains and CI really only had eyes for the eye fillet of beef, smoked butter potatoes, leeks, cavelo nero and oxtail sauce, mainly because none of the other main options appealed.  Again the dish was presented in a casual and rustic way, with the smoked butter potatoes dominating the plate.  CI's steak was cooked a perfect medium rare but he found that while it was quite tender, it lacked a punch and after having a bite, I agreed.  It probably needed more seasoning while being prepared, which would have helped bring out the natural meaty flavour.  What didn't lack flavour was the smoked butter potatoes, which were incredible, as was the oxtail sauce.  It was not a bad dish, it was just let down by the fillet, which needed an extra oomph of flavour.

TB and I are big fans of duck and when we dine as a group, usually head in that direction, so it was no surprise when we both opted for the grilled duck breast, herb crusted duck rillette, spiced braised cabbage and quince. I quite liked the presentation of the dish, which was more refined and very colourful but there were some elements that weren't quite right.  Firstly, the duck and the (assuming) quince puree were cold.  I wan't sure if the puree was supposed to be cold but the duck certainly shouldn't have been.  I also thought the duck was ever so slightly under cooked, with the fat not quite rendered fully and the flesh just a little too pink.  It was a shame really, the flavours were lovely and I can only imagine how great they would have been if served hot. In case you were wondering if my taking photos had an impact, TB had the exact same dish and her duck and puree were cold also.

We'd had a pretty good meal so far, albeit with a couple of minor hiccups and we were looking forward to a sweet dessert to finish off the meal.  TB never orders dessert and usually has an espresso martini instead.  In one of the funnier moments of the night, TB asked if James could bang together an espresso martini, even though there were no cocktails listed on the menu.  James responded that he'd worked in a cocktail bar for two years and was quite the expert in making cocktails.  CI and I pissed ourselves laughing that TB hadn't checked in at the beginning of the meal and had therefore missed out on cocktails throughout dinner.

As for dessert, CI went straight for the sticky date pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla bean ice cream, which came simply presented on the plate.  The gooey toffee sauce was drizzled over the plate and soft pudding and was superb.  In fact, CI thought that the dessert was the highlight of his meal and couldn't eat it quickly enough.

I'd chosen one of my favourite dishes in the warm chocolate fondant with crunchy peanut butter ice cream.  I love fondants and will order them pretty much whenever I seen them on a menu.  There is nothing better than the anticipation of cracking through the outer layer of chocolate cake and watching the warm gooey chocolate centre ooze out over the plate.  I was completely surprised and dismayed when my fondant was presented in a ramekin.  My first thought was, that's not a fondant!  I'd cracked into the chocolate pudding and it was gooey on the inside, but because the soft centre had nowhere to go, the dessert ended up being a mess.  When I checked in with James about the fondant, he explained that the kitchens oven was playing up and that all of the fondants had been collapsing.  I thought it was a fair explanation, but my feedback was that the diner should be advised of this or the menu should change to reflect that it's more of a pudding than a fondant.  Never the less, I still enjoyed the pudding, especially with the incredibly creamy and wonderful peanut butter ice cream.

Since I'd never been to the original Two Small Rooms, I didn't have a point of comparison and couldn't know if the new version was an improvement or not.  What we did know was that there were some high points and some areas for improvement with the meals.  Probably the biggest issue was with the duck breasts, which were cold and under cooked.  We were left wondering if the huge party in the second room had impacted the timing of the cooking and delivery of our mains.

I thought that our waiter James was pretty good on the night, by being engaging and also working really hard in a restaurant that was pretty full.  As the only visible waiter on the night, we wondered if the restaurant was a little short staffed, which could have also contributed to the cold mains.

Two Small Rooms had a quiet and refined feeling about it, with some cool art on the walls and a comfortable open feeling of space in the main dining room.  It was a really cold night out and we were nice and toasty warm inside, which contributed to a feeling that Two Small Rooms was a great place to spend some time on a cold winter's night.  I was happy for head chef Josh that the dining room was full and everyone in the dining room seemed to be having a good time.  It will be interesting to see if the new version will have the same longevity as the original.

The hot chips as a side were pretty good
A casual feel in the main dining room
I just loved this city scape of London

Two Small Rooms on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...