Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's in a name?

Stench blossoms and scum drops aside, The Meat & Wine Co is up there for straightforward names. It's to the point - if only I can work out what's not quite on the spot.

We're there an early Saturday night with a massive table and within the first few moments of service, I feel we're in for a messy night. Thank goodness for the rib bibs and my patience that increases with alcohol consumption. The wine list isn't as exciting as the wine-stacked spiral staircase would indicate, but it's not all about the wine. It's about the meat too.

Half rack pork ribs with mashed potato from
The Meat & Wine Co, Darling Harbour

After sharing bread platters (note: there's 10 pieces per serve) to start, it really is all about the meat and wine. The ribs imposingly take us back to prehistoric times, with bones waved in the air and basting juices dribbling down bibs. There are struggles with the ribs but man eventually emerges, stained but victorious.

Dry aged rib eye on the bone (pasture fed) with salad

My rib eye is slightly less imposing, especially with the salad on the side - which turns out to be a regrettable decision, as a stolen chip proves to be a pretty amazing, chunky, tasty and fluffy stolen chip. Nevertheless, the thick steak is cooked to a perfect medium and needs nothing more than hot English mustard to accompany the tender beefy goodness.

Pan-fried giant prawns

So it wasn't meat and wine all round; there were also beers and prawns, and what big prawns they were. Split and grilled, these massive crustaceans were served with a dome of white rice and sweet chilli sauce.

Salt and pepper calamari (front) and caesar salad (back)

I love the concept of eatining multiple entrees, which is what one at the table did. The salt and pepper calamari was golden crumbed and ludicrously soft and tender. A little lacking on the spicing it was, but compensated with loads of lemon and again, sweet chilli sauce.

The caesar salad had the all makings of the classic - crunchy cos lettuce; parmesan; croutons; a coddled egg - but for some chewy rather than crispy bacon.

All that meat and wine calls for one thing - dessert. Or in the case of our table of oversized appetites, many desserts.

Cheese and fruit plate

The prettily presented cheese and fruit plate seemed an odd collection with watermelon and rocket amid figs, crackers, and three cheeses - none of which made it to my end of the table. Which wasn't all that much of a concern given the platter before me.

The Grand Finale dessert platter

For once, indecision was not a problem as I dipped and dug my spoon through the quintet of sweets on the huge glass platter. The creme brulee was decent without being spectacular; the chocolate fondant was full of gooey inner goodness, pairing with the scoop of vanilla ice cream perched on its very own stand made of chocolate; the strawberry tart pretty but missing a taste summit; and the mango cheesecake surprisingly light in texture and flavour.

As we all toy dangerously with the need/want to roll over and snooze after the massive meal, it seems the restaurant is yet bustling and buzzing. I still can't quite put my finger on the place - its certainly pricey for what it is but there is the locational offset to that. Perhaps it's the unshakeable feel of a franchise - albeit a nice, upclass one. Whatever it is, I can't quite name it.

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