We wanted to go somewhere a bit special, and decided to go for Gerard’s Bistro because it had great reviews. The restaurant is in the vibrant James Street area, across the road from the markets and tucked away in Gerard’s Lane.
We arrived slightly early for our table and were seated at the bar while it was prepared. The wine and drinks list was quite impressive and I chose a glass of Harvest Sauvignon Blanc which was nice but not amazing.
We were then seated, given menus and informed that our waitress would be with us soon to explain the menu. On looking through it there were items that I did not recognise like samke nayyeh, laham nayyeh, bekaa wings, and batata harra. It was quite a while before she came to our assistance and it seemed strange that other waiters seemed to be free but we had to wait for our particular waitress to explain the menu. When she arrived she was very pleasant and explained that samke nayyeh was a kind of ceviche white fish, laham nayyeh was a raw meat dish and bekaa wings were chicken wings in harissa. She also explained that the dishes were Middle Eastern style and designed to be shared, with small plates at the top of the menu and larger plates in the middle.
I love raw fish and imagined that it would be similar to a lovely Peruvian version that I had chosen before, so we went with the samke nayyeh and the bekaa wings to start.
The samke nayyeh (with walnut milk, chamomile oil, grapefruit, green almond) came up first and it was quite frankly disappointing. A very small portion for $22. It was also very bland, and even though grapefruit was listed in the ingredients there was no nice citrus hit, which is probably what it needed. The walnut milk was not very plentiful and not very ‘nutty’. It also arrived on a chipped plate – not really acceptable for a top class establishment.
The chicken wings ($18 for 6 wings) came next and they were very very good. Lovely spicy harissa flavoured coating and yoghurt. Very tasty. They arrived with some dehydrated wet wipes which need to be rehydrated by placing them in water – I have seen them before, but most diners are puzzled by what they are, and I am not really sure why anybody uses them instead of regular wet wipes.
Our plates were changed and the two main dishes arrived together. We chose suckling pig with roasted plum, morcilla (black pudding) puree, smoked almond and perilla (a mint like herb) priced at $39. The second main dish was whole smoked eggplant, turmeric, mint, kashk yoghurt, and blackened onions priced at $18.
Both dishes lacked seasoning. The pork was tender but not as tasty as you would expect a slow roasted dish to be, the plums were not ripe enough, and the blood sausage puree was frankly unpleasant. I love blood sausage (or black pudding), however this version was thick, sticky and bitter tasting. With two pieces of pork each it was an expensive dish. The eggplant was very bland except for the blackened onions which just tasted excessively burnt and again were unpleasant. I have eaten charred foods before and I love a bit of charring on capsicum, chicken or steak, but the onions had been burnt beyond all recognition and left a bad aftertaste. The dish was advertised as a ‘whole’ eggplant but there was very little of the eggplant flesh to share, and it would have benefited from a really good twist of salt and pepper to give it some taste. No condiments were provided at the table.
Very disappointed at having one good dish out of four, we asked for the bill. I had been excited at the thought of trying the black fig dessert with aniseed ice cream ($16), but I didn’t want to waste any more money. The only dish that the waitress asked if we enjoyed were the chicken wings – which of course were great, and the only reason that we ate the other food was out of hunger rather than enjoyment. I still felt quite hungry after the meal which came to $124 in total.
I will not be returning to Gerard’s Bistro – it is expensive and pretentious. I have eaten at several ‘minimalist’ restaurants before and if premium prices are being charged for small portions, then the food has to be of outstanding quality. Our meal fell far short of this, the food looked good but did not deliver on taste.
UPDATE – I did write to Gerard’s to express my disappointment, however they chose to be rather condescending, suggesting that their menu was different and adventurous and ‘not for everybody’ !