Saturday, October 5, 2013

Harry's Restaurant, Melbourne CBD (by invitation) by Bureaucrat

In my experience, restaurants that are attached to hotels take on two forms.  They can either be the ultra luxe and decadent fine dining experience, with the price tag to match or they're the incredibly unimaginative hotel food.  Just like airplane food, hotel food can be incredibly depressing and formulaic - a porterhouse steak w mushroom sauce, a chicken Caesar salad, beer battered fish and chips... need I go on?

So when Stamford Plaza Hotel extended an invitation to us to try out their new tapas style menu at their Harry's Restaurant, I was curious to try it out.  Located on Lt Collins St, Harry's Restaurant feels a little secluded and protected from the hurly-burly of the main streets near by.  While Harry's Bar is visible from the street, you have to enter the bar to find Harry's Restaurant.  

Ganduja chocolate mousse with popping candy

Inside the restaurant, it has the neat, nondescript decor of an upmarket hotel, however, it does have a nice warmth to the place.  We were greeted by friendly staff, including the PR manager and the executive chef, Ketan Seth.  Although we had carte blanche to chose what we wanted to try from their new menu, we made our selections based on the recommendations of the staff and chef.

For starters, the Lawyer and I each ordered a Yorkie Peninsula oyster.  These were medium sized, plump and had a lovely sea flavour.  I had mine with a white balsamic and shallot dressing (bottom plate).  The Lawyer had his natural. I really liked the lighter balsamic and the sweeter flavour than the typical black balsamic, and I think I much prefer having my oysters with white balsamic vinegar instead of vinaigrette (which can be a bit tart and overpowering for oysters).

The next dishes were from the small share plates menu.  The first were fresh soft shell crabs w panko curst, served with kewpie mayo and daikon.  I loved the presentation of this dish, which Chef Ketan also liked when we spoke to him about this dish.  I especially loved the visual contrast between the yellow, pickled daikon and the squid ink infused kewpie mayo.  My photo here doesn't do the colours justice - the colours really did pop from the plate.  The crabs had a light crunchy outer with quite a reasonable amount of sweet, tender crab meat inside.  This was the Lawyer's favourite dish.

The chicken chimi churi sliders were these cute housemade buns.  Poached chicken which was topped with a generous amount of chimi churri (a sort of salsa/pesto topping which is usually made with coriander, parsley, oregano, garlic and olive oil) and mayo. The bun was soft and sweet.  Altogether, it made for a very morish snack.  I could imagine this being very popular as a variation of chicken finger sandwiches at high tea.

For the larger share plates, we went for the slow braised Otway pork belly w Thai sticky caramel and cilantro sprout salad. This was one of the most recommended dishes on the menu from the staff. Three cubes of juicy, flavoursome and very tender pork, which had a nice fat-to-meat ratio.  The pork had a nice depth of caramelly flavour - deep and mellow, and not at all sweet.  

We ate this with side of the truffle mash.  My god.  To.  Die.  For.  It was smooth, buttery and had that earthy/woody aroma of truffles that distinguished it from you're regular run-of-the-mill mash.  I hate to think how many calories are in this serve...which is why I didn't give it another thought!  The buttery, mushroomy flavoured mash went incredibly well with the tender belly pork. 

Finally, our last dish was the Singaporean red snapper curry.  This is one of Harry's Restaurant's signature dishes.  While I loved the oysters and mash, this was definitely my favourite dish of the night.  Fresh, sweet snapper fillets in this unctuous sauce made from eggplant, okra and tomatoes.  Chef Ketan said that there is a little bit of coconut cream to give it a richness.  I liked the limited use of the coconut cream as it meant that the curry wasn't too heavy/rich and you could taste the freshness of the vegetables in the sauce.  Chef Ketan said that he had got this recipe from learning a few tips from an old, and very experienced chef who had made this dish.  I could easily eat a big, big serve of this curry and rice at any time! 

Although the Lawyer and I were almost at bursting point, we a had a short break before trying some of the desserts.  Of four desserts to choose from, we got the warm rhubarb and apple oat crumble w honeycomb ice cream. This appeared and tasted to be more of an apple teacake than a crumble.  While the cake/crumble was light and apple-ly, I was wondering where the rhubarb was.  It was served separately underneath the cake/crumble and it had a texture that was a between a compote and a puree - I did wish that there was more rhubarb. However, it was a touch too sweet for me, as was the ice cream.  I did like the playful pastel purple (tongue twister!) sugar crystals on the ice cream.

Finally, the Ganduja chocolate mousse w popping candy - aka death by chocolate (see first pic)!  This was recommended Chef Ketan.  I loved how the shiny chocolate that encased the two types of mousse - the lighter colour (Ganduja, which is a nutty chocolate) and a bit more firmer set, and the softer dark chocolate mousse.  The base was a chocolate brownie-ish cake.  I'd recommend eating this with a cup of coffee of tea to help cut through the richness.  While it was very chocolately, it wasn't as sweet as you'd think.  This was my favourite of the two desserts.

Food – 9
Service – 8*
Ambience – 7
Price – 7.5*

*Scores are notional as we were guests of Harry's Restaurant.

The food at Harry's Restaurant is definitely not what you'd call hotel food.  The choices on offer are varied and interesting, mostly an Asian influenced menu, but with some European and trans-Atlantic options (think steak tartare, salamon ceviche, jamon).  The quality of the ingredients is definitely above average, and this is reflected in the price.  

Although we were guests of Harry's Restaurant, we did note that the staff are very friendly and helpful with the other diners too.

The only suggestion I'd make is for there to be some serving utensils for some of the dishes (e.g., the curry) and perhaps for the plates that we used to eat to be replaced during the course of the meal.

We were very impressed with the quality and the new menu at Harry's Restaurant - they've definitely set a new benchmark for hotel food!

Harry's Restaurant
Stamford Plaza Hotel
111 Lt Collins St
Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 9659 1592

Harry's Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

William Jones said...

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