Sunday, 29 May 2016

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse Wanchai - the steaks were a little bland

As an Aussie living in a foreign city, there is a natural propensity to gravitate to what you know, to what is familiar and what make you comfortable.  I'm sure that's true of most expats living in a place like Hong Kong, you only have to wander past a 'British Pub' to see plenty of pasty white guys spilling onto the sidewalk, beers in hand, taking about the latest premier league game (football for the uninitiated).

Anyway, this post isn't about pasty white guys in pubs, it's about an Aussie in Honkers finally getting around to visiting an Aussie steakhouse.

Wooloomooloo is one of Sydney's most iconic inner city suburbs, the home of the rich and famous and just happens to be the name of a chain of steakhouses here in Hong Kong.

With a number of outlets across HK, Wooloomooloo caters to a range of diners, from their very cheap and cheerful Chop House (see post here), all the way to their fine dining establishment Wooloomooloo Prime.  Our visit was to their mid range steakhouse, conveniently located just down the street from our new place in Wanchai.

Located on the 31st floor of the Hennessy, the Wooloomooloo Steakhouse at Wanchai has pretty much unrivalled views of Hong Kong.  Exiting the lift and making our way to our table reconfirmed our view that we were living in one of the most spectacular cities on earth and our table had a jaw dropping vista of the many skyscrapers that make up Wanchai and Causeway Bay.  Floor to ceiling windows helped provide a sense of space in the modern looking dining room that screamed Aussie Steakhouse.

We were given our menus by one of the many, many wait staff that were standing about just waiting for a busy Saturday night crowd to appear.  The Woolommooloo menu was interesting, in that it was really much broader than you'd normally see in an Aussie steakhouse.  Many options for soups and salads, along with a long list of starters ensured that there would be lots of options for those who were not purely there for steak (although why you'd go to a steak restaurant if you weren't a huge carnivore is a bit of a mystery to me)

What was most intriguing was the steak menu, which consisted of only a few prime cuts and a list of 'classic steak collection' items that included traditional favourites like Beef Wellington and Steak Dianne.

For those strange people that weren't there for steak, there were also plenty of fish options.  But again, I ask - why go to a steak restaurant and order the fish!

Orders taken, we were presented with a huge cob loaf, very Australian, on a bread board with a tub of whipped butter.  Man, that loaf of bread was fresh!  So fresh that it was impossible to slice and as a consequence, we ended up with a couple of slices of crushed bread that was incredibly difficult to butter, even considering its soft and whipped state.  Guys, my suggestion with bread that fresh is to slice it up for the diner - it would be a real value add!

The thing I remember most about our visit to the only other restaurant in the Wooloomooloo group was the pace in which the meal came out - it was literally the fastest three course meal we'd ever had.

It seemed as if we were in for a repeat experience with our starters arriving so quickly after ordering.

The girl ordered the Australian wagyu beef tenderloin carpaccio, which came presented in a pretty traditional manner, thinly sliced pieces of beef covered in shaved parmesan cheese, capers and rocket with a drizzle of olive oil to finish.  The beef was very tender (although a little dry) and the salty capers really accentuated the beef flavour.  I thought that there was perhaps a tad too much rocket and parmesan on the plate, detracting from the main ingredients but the girl seemed happy with the balance.  

I was really conflicted about my choice of the sashimi grade tuna tartare with diced shallots, capers and wasabi mayonnaise.  Looking quite spectacular on the plate, two tiers of tuna were separated by thin crispy wafers and the stacks sitting on a bed of wasabi mayonnaise.  Colour was added with a smattering of bright orange salmon roe, giving the overall presentation of the plate quite a classy feel. My main issue with the dish was the balance, there was just too much of the tuna on the plate and the wasabi mayonnaise too overpowering.  About halfway through the dish, the tuna seemed to 'dry out' and the heat from the wasabi seemed to accentuate the feeling.  A little restraint would have really helped with this dish, just one layer of tuna would have been the right amount for a starter.

Eschewing from some of the fancier main options, we both opted for a very simple Australian Angus ten ounce filet minion (or as it's called in Australia, eye fillet).  I have to say I was a little disappointed!  The steak was presented simply on the plate with a béarnaise sauce on the side and it did look great on the plate and when I cut into my beef, it was cooked a perfect medium rare.  But it was bland, really bland.  It felt like it hadn't been seasoned properly during the preparation process, leaving a really 'flat' flavour that was missing that wonderful meaty flavour of a good steak.  Not even an acceptable béarnaise sauce and plenty of extra salt could bring the beef back from the 'bland side'

We were both disappointed!

More so, I was shocked when I looked at my watch to see that only thirty minutes or so had passed since entering Wooloomooloo - it looked as if we were on track for a record breaking meal completion time!

Or at least we would have been if I hadn't ordered the souffle, which I knew had to take at least twenty minutes to prepare and cook.  

I'd gone for the raspberry soufflé, normally one of my favourite flavours.  After the right period of time, my souffle was presented unusually in a cast iron pot instead of the more customary ramekin and to be honest, it looked a little messy and hadn't risen evenly.  The top of the dessert had a sprinkling of icing sugar, but it couldn't hide the fact that it was a little over cooked, with a thick 'skin' that proved difficult to cut through with my spoon.  In fact, when I tried, the whole soufflé collapsed due to the fact it was undercooked inside!  It was a shame because the flavour was nice, it was just poorly executed possibly due to not using a more traditional ramekin to allow a more even cooking.

While my dessert was more miss than hit, the girls pavlova was was superb.  I mean, it just looked great on the plate!  The mix of toasted sweet meringue and cream was balanced out with a passion fruit coulis that added bite to the sweetness.  Strawberry and blueberry added contrasting flavours and lent an air of authenticity to the dessert - this was about as Australian as you could get and a real winner.

Thankfully our desserts had slowed down the meal, so it felt more like a dinner than a rush.  We were able to watch the sun set from a spectacular location and slowly watch the lights of Wanchai take over the more natural light from the day.  It was quite lovely really.

Service on the night was interesting.  At times, there were so many staff about paying attention to us, it was a little over the top; at other times, we felt completely ignored.  At one point I had to wait around ten minutes for someone to notice that my glass was empty and in need of refilling.  Given our water was on a sideboard and out of reach, it was a detail that did irk me a little.  It may have had something to do with how quickly the restaurant filled up though, but I really was thirsty during that time and I couldn't get anyone's attention.

Billed as an Australian Steakhouse, Wooloomooloo isn't really the type of steak joint you would find in Australia, but more a characterisation of what foreigners think an Aussie steakhouse should be.  When I think back to my favourite steak restaurants in Australia, they are very different (see posts here for comparison).

Look, our visit to Wooloomooloo wasn't a disaster, there were some pretty good elements, but for me it just lacked consistency.  The biggest issue though was the steak - ours were just not that tasty.

I'm actually keen to try out Wooloomooloo Prime, which is the group's premier restaurant.  I've got to think that it's going to be great.  I'm not sure what I'm basing that on after visiting the Chop House and Wooloomooloo Wanchai?

Maybe just the hope that an Aussie Steak joint in Honkers can remind me a little bit of home?!

While the steak was a little bland - or side of creamed corn was super tasty
Loved the way the mustard was served

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