Bianca: Searching for a place to eat before Chelsea Handler’s stand-up comedy show at the State Theatre late last year was fairly easy. What was close, had decent food, an excellent wine list and offered something a little bit different to the norm? That would have to be ‘Gowings Bar & Grill’. Situated adjacent to the State Theatre and below the QT Hotel, Gowings offers a brasserie style menu with quite a large portion of the menu devoted to seafood and steaks.
The QT hotel really is one of the most interesting hotels I’ve stepped into, almost transporting you to another city, I always get a kick out of the elevator ride, with sensors that detect the number of people inside and changing the music accordingly.
The QT is no corporate paradise, more suited for rock stars, movie stars and those that like to pretend they are.
Toning down QT’s eccentric (ness), Gowings is very refined, with lounged seating along the walls, heavyset brown chairs, bold copper light fixtures and the heart of the restaurant – an open kitchen where you can see all the action unfold. I’m always curious about the staff here, someone seemed to have been on a mission to hire every single attractive person in the hospitality industry and succeeded.
Joining me for dinner was Alex and my ‘Chelsea partner in crime’, our uncle Z.
It was prime dinner time when we arrived, 6:30pm on a Friday night, so the restaurant was in full swing. It was full and at times a little loud but for the most part it was still possible to have a conversation without shouting. I also like the fact that the tables were of a decent size and not edged right up to another dining party because lord knows I don’t want to overhear their conversations.
Whilst we perused the menu we were brought a little basket of small baguettes and a pat of ‘Pepe Saya’ butter, which we happily gobbled up. We were running a little short on time, so kept the food to a respectable minimum.
Uncle Z opted for the ‘Line Caught SA Snapper’ – Pan Fried, classic lemon butter sauce, frisee, mint, shallot salad. $39. Which we were a little puzzled by when it arrived at the table, it was served inside a paper bag which was not stated on the menu, we initially thought it was pastry, luckily we saved ourselves the embarrassment and ‘disrobed’ the fishy for some photos – realising it was in fact not edible. It was a clean tasting dish but it didn’t exactly knock my socks off, which ultimately didn’t matter in the end, my uncle loved it.
As luck would have it, upon writing this lil review my chosen dish on the night, is no longer on the menu. Which is probably a good thing to be honest. It was a Baby sized whole chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes and spinach. It was quite the spectacle when it was brought to the table, I’ll put this out there – I do not like to work for my food, when I go to a restaurant I don’t want to be fart-assing around foraging for edible bits of meat/chicken. This would have been a far superior dish if it were perhaps served as a chicken breast w/wing attached etc. (As I have noticed they are now offering, instead of my mentioned dish). Despite the actual vehicle, i.e the baby chook, the flavours were really very nice, the Paris mash was creamy and smooth and the sauce was an intensely thick jus. Disappointing for the price, considering over half of the food on the plate was inedible (bones). This is a perfect example of not listening to your gut, I originally wanted the duck but did the sisterly thing and ordered the chicken dish as Alex was torn between that and his final choice. Another instance where my siblings ruin my life.
As for said sibling, Alex chose the ‘Wiener Schnitzel Holstein’ – crumbed milk-fed veal, sunny side egg, Ortiz anchovy. $39. It was nice to see the generous portion, with almost the entire plate engulfed by this enormous schnitty, which you would hope for 39 smackeroo’s. Named after a German diplomat circa 1837-1909, who liked a variety of food on one plate, he enjoyed his schnitz topped with an egg, anchovy, capers, parsley as well as caviar, crayfish, smoked salmon, mushrooms and truffles. Kind of sounds like a nightmare to me but to each their own. I’ve eaten many schnitzels in my life but never one topped with a sunny side fried egg, it was tasty with a crispy outer exterior and a flawlessly cooked veal cutlet. Alex and I both detest anchovies so sent those Uncle Z’s way.
As two of our chosen mains were served without an accompanying side we decided to order two: the first being our most anticipated dish of the evening the ‘Mac and cheese’ w/black truffle, reggiano, asiago, taleggio, gruyere cheese sauce, gratinated with pangratto. $16. It was a cornucopia of cheese, a cheese fun land, able to render a lactose intolerant person unconscious just by looking at it. Or in English, it was fantastic, a highlight of the meal for me. I had a fair few bites and not once did I think it was too rich. This is a must order!
The second side was an attempt at some sort of fibrous element ‘A salad of butter lettuce, coz, frisee, mint, chervil and vinaigrette. $11. Not too much to say here, it was an adequate side salad.
And lastly, seeing as we were still reminiscing about our USA adventure, mainly some New Orleans luvin, we couldn’t go past the ‘Hot Beignets’ – French Market Doughnuts, dusted in icing sugar. $16. We were probably setting these up for failure as we had very high expectations and had pretty much two of the best versions on this planet back in NOLA at Café Du Monde and Café Beignet. Whilst they were tasty, they had nowhere near the airiness and lightness of its New Orleans counterparts. Nice to see them on a menu in Sydney however!
My uncle made a point to get me to commend the hospitality on the night, staff were really on their game, they were aware we had a tight deadline to get to the show and made sure our meals came out expediently, constantly filling up water glasses. They were around but unobtrusive.
I left satisfied but ultimately underwhelmed – word to the wise, never listen to your brothers, they’re nothing but trouble.