Sunday, March 13, 2005

open louvre

i have been following the current series of my restaurant rules since about the second episode (having never watched the first series), and had been looking forward to checking out the brisbane entry, restaurant louvre.

i had tried to organise a group to go because dining out is always more fun in the company of friends, but i encountered an 80% pike rate with the friends who initially were keen on the uptake. nevertheless, one person stayed true to his word, and together with another late ring-in, our party of three arrived in milton to a small queue - thankfully so because we had feared that getting there too late would mean a 2-3 hour wait for the first lot of customers to finish their meals.

there was some delay getting in, but only because francesca (left) was personally greeting each diner and showing them to their seats - a nice personal touch i thought. and thus we were seated and perusing the menu a half hour after the scheduled opening time. the atmosphere was moderately buzzing, and soon the place was filled to capacity - save one table of 4 (more on that later).

the first waiter who attended to us gave us some recommendations. we only saw him once or twice more the whole evening, but that was fine because the waitress who we did see more of was pretty friendly and chatty. anyway, we decided to start with the harissa and palm sugar cured ocean trout, cucumber sorbet and sea salt tuile. besides not having much of an idea of what this dish would be like (let alone having ever come across some of the words in the name!), i was just a bit non-plussed at just how small a $19.50 appetiser could be when it arrived some 15-20 minutes after ordering... anyhow, we picked at the small mounds of food and were very pleasantly delighted at the reception our taste buds gave to the combination of the trout and the sorbet. who knew cucumber could be made into a sorbet! hehe...

another 20 minutes later and our mains had arrived. by this time, so too had the MRR judges - turns out the spare table was reserved for them. i'm sure this lifted the buzz/atmosphere a notch or three :) but back to our table... our three choices here were (from L-R above) the oven-baked kingfish, fennel puree, lychee and citrus salad, the stockyard short bone rib, red onion tarte tatin and cafe de paris butter, and the moreton bay bug and chorizo risotto, cress and lemon oil. all rather scrumptious and well received by the happy diners (we shared a bit so we could sample as much of the menu as possible). our first side dish (the truffled mash potatoes) was served with the mains, but the other side dishes (the rocket, pear and walnut salad) arrived 10 minutes late (after we chased its whereabouts), and also came with the fork (handle) nestled against the salad itself - i thought this was a bit below par, as one normally expects to use the fork to dig through the salad, not dig through the salad to get at the fork.

earlier in the night i had inquired as to whether francesca would be singing at all, and she indicated she may do requests. not being all that musically cluey, i couldn't really think of what song to request. in the end i settled on "moon river", and she promised she would sing for me after i finish my main course. true to her word, she came by our table as we were thinking about dessert, and gave a little private performance - i had hoped to hear her voice filling the whole restaurant, but hey... a little private session has that personal touch :D i'm not sure if she gets badgered much to sing, but i appreciate her willingness to fulfil my request and to do it all with a smile. unfortunately i didn't manage to get a nice shot of her in action... oh well.

an hour after starting on our mains, we were staring at a vacherin with banana parfait, banana beignet and roasted cinnamon ice cream for dessert, which was again shared for taste testing. the vacherin was already falling off the ice cream by the time it arrived at our table, and you can see from the photo evidence of it having been repositioned (by us) prior to the shot. this was, as with pretty much all of the food we had, quite nice. the only real exception was for the rocket, for which i didn't care much, but then again i've never been into bitter tastes...

our bill arrived shortly after, along with some chocolates, a postcard (complete with a recipe on the back for their signature dish which was way too technical for us culinary simpletons!), and a $30 gift voucher redeemable at a neighbouring beauty salon - this we unanimously consented to leave for the sole female on the table to enjoy :p (i was pretty surprised at the "size" of the complimentary gift... and even though it's not something i could really use myself, receiving it does take a bit of the psychological sting out of our bill). we stayed chatting away while waiting for someone to collect our payment, which none of the staff seemed in any particular hurry to do, and finally left the venue satisfied with an enjoyable night out :)

other miscellaneous thoughts/comments:
  • there is quite a mixture of styles of seating, which i found slightly odd. so where you got seated determined your level of comfort (whether your seat has a back, and whether it is cushioned). there is also a communal table in the middle of the main section, so you could well end up sitting next to some complete stranger(s)! could be a good thing, or could be a bit off-putting if you want some privacy/personal space/elbow room...
  • the storage unit for the cutlery/linen is quite funky! irregularly shaped surface, with unconventional and stylised knobs. interesting piece. didn't think to get a photo...
  • the toilets (which we didn't actually go use/see) are apparently very small/crampy.
  • also didn't get to peek at the kitchen, for fear of getting in the way of the staff and tv crew.
  • there's another side section which we didn't know about until we left and saw it from the outside! quite separate from the main area, so probably good for more private group dinners etc, but you could also feel cut off from the front.
  • forgot to look for the confession booth and record some comments! darn... miss out on my 5 seconds of fame (assuming it would have made it to air :p). now i have to settle for looking for myself in the background when francesca was standing between our table and the cameraman, while talking to the judges table...
  • speaking of the cameraman, boy he was literally dripping sweat! must be hot and hard work... :o
  • i'd swear that the original pitch for the restaurant included todd in the kitchen, and francesca out front, occasionally singing (for the entertainment of diners). but there's really no dedicated space for her to do this, as far as i can see. this was a bit of a disappointment, as it was part of what i expected of the complete louvre experience.
  • the food, while delightful to eat, is rather on the expensive side (if not completely over the border!) maybe i don't fit the market they're targeting, but take away the tv (show) and the novelty factor, and i don't think i'd ever consider dining at a place like this... maybe once every few years at the most, for very very special occasions??
  • on a related note, the servings are not what you would describe as "generous". i've heard it said that the food is designed to be consumed as a 3 course meal. that would make it a $70+ per person affair (for food alone) if you all had the full 3 courses and a side.
  • it's good having friends to share!
  • it's disappointing when they pike.
  • i had fun :)

1 comment:

  1. Hey Winshton :)
    Sounds like a relatively good night out! Very sorry that Shte1 and I couldn't make it.
    Serving sizes look smaller than average restaurants...but I guess you were right to say that they are focusing on a 3 Course meal - that most Asians are use to...right? :P
    Thanks for the photos!