Saturday, December 16, 2006

RESTAURANT: Zest

Type: Modern Australian
Location: City Tattersalls club, 202 Pitt St, Sydney
Booking Required: Sometimes.

Normally my instincts are pretty spot-on when it comes to things like restaurants. With Zest my instincts were telling me it was wrong right from the start. But Calypso had chosen the place and made a booking so backing out wasn’t really an option. Unfortunate, because Zest turned out to be rubbish.

Tucked away near the back of the City Tattersalls club in Pitt St, Zest tries far too hard for such a classless setting. We walked in to find that they had stuffed up the booking and it was nowhere to be found. Luckily, there were plenty of free tables so they could still seat us.

The ambiance is fairly poor. The d├ęcor is okay but the lighting isn’t right and a lot of other elements just seem cheap. And the air conditioning is turned up way too high. It all feels like a butchers cold room with some aqua coloured pieces of plastic lying around. Although I suppose the mostly 60-plus crowd wouldn’t be complaining as it probably helped slow their aging.

The menu is fairly standard for a modern Australian restaurant that is trying too hard. I started with the tomato & Mauri buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto, basil, pine nuts and aged balsamic. Good on paper but not well executed. The balsamic is almost invisible and there is no harmony with the different elements.

The wine list was extensive and had a bit of everything but the markup was fairly high. We ordered a bottle of the Yarrabank Cuvee (over twice the retail price) but by the end of the entrees we were still waiting for it, with no explanation offered. Eventually we were told that the bottle was still chilling and would be a little longer.

It eventually arrived, still fairly warm. The waitress opened it and spilled roughly a glass worth. Although I do have to give her acting skills credit because she was pretending that nothing had happened.

Main was the pan seared salmon with baby cos, smoked bacon, parmesan and herb ciabatta. Also known as a piece of salmon with an egg on top and a Caesar salad. Overwrought items on menus piss me off. The dish failed to live up to expectations. The Caesar salad was good but put in a bowl so pretentious that it was incredibly difficult to access the food. The salmon was overcooked and the poached egg on top was such a bizarrely poor decision. It added nothing to the dish. I could make this dish better myself at home.

Dessert was a vanilla panna cotta that was, again, overwrought on the menu. It was good but nothing special.

For roughly $80 a head for three courses and a bottle of wine it’s not the most expensive modern Australian restaurant out there, but with food, ambiance and service this average, I wouldn’t bother. If I ever return I'll officially be 60 and have lost all sense of taste.

RATING: Will never return to

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