Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Veraison, Toowoomba


I haven't done a Toowoomba post in a while... I'm close to running out of restaurants here! Veraison is actually considered a rather reputable restaurant, even at a state level. It was recently awarded two Chef's hats and listed amongst the top 50 restaurants in Queensland by the Queensland Good Food Guide.

In the whole time I've lived here (creeping towards 2 years), I haven't had the chance to eat at Veraison. Last week, however, the Toowoomba dental community happened to have a meeting there over dinner. I was very pleased to be able to finally try the food.

The first room inside the restaurant is small and intimate with dim lighting and neutral tones. We then crossed through an enclosed courtyard that also had a few dining tables, into a meeting room with a bar and projector set up.

I grabbed a cup of white wine from the bar and settled in to enjoy the evening.

House bread roll

There were small dinner rolls to ease our grumbling stomachs. I wasn't expecting much but they were alright. Or maybe I was just very hungry.

Our meal was comprised of 3 courses. The way it was set up was that with each course, there were 3-4 different dishes (more variety in dessert) and what you got was the luck of the drawer. It was a bit like how weddings tend to be alternating dishes... but with more alternations.

At this point, I'd like to remind everyone that this meal at Veraison was a set menu, mass catering deal for a business dinner. It may not accurately reflect the standards of a sit-down meal for regular patrons.

Roast beetroot salad - with rocket, goats cheese, walnuts and extra virgin olive oil

My entree was the beetroot salad. It was a simple affair with a couple portions of roast beetroot, some rocket leaves, goats cheese, walnuts and a splash of olive oil. I had originally been landed with the scallop soup but swapped for the salad because I have a thing for beetroot. I'm glad I did. The salad was a classic combination of flavors that worked predictably well. It's something that I could easily throw together at home though.

I wasn't going to personally sample everyone else's food so I started gathering feedback from my work buddies. Everyone had a crack at coming up with blog aliases too.

Smoked cauliflower soup - with Hervey Bay scallops

Randy had the scallop soup that was orignally set in front of me. He said it was fairly good but the soup was slightly too salty and the scallop was 'chewy'.

Banyard farm quail - with raisin and pine nut agro dolce and polenta gnocchi

Pizza and Stain had the quail. Their comments were that it was messy to eat and the quail was a tad dry. There was a lot of debate about what the little golden bricks were. Pizza called them cheese logs. Stain said they were eggy. Princess didn't try any but as a vegetarian, she confidently pronounced them to be polenta. In the end they asked the waitress who said they were in fact polenta gnoccchi... with cheese. So everyone was partially correct. The consensus was they tasted good anyway.

Free range chicken breast - with creamy potato mash and organic mushrooms

My main was the chicken on a bed of mash, with grilled mushrooms. The chicken had a nice flavor and wasn't dry, although for me, it was too garlicky. I am rather garlic-sensitive though so it may not be an issue for others. The mash was silky and creamy but I think that might be because it's more butter than potato.

Polenta gnocchi - with mushrooms and rocket

Princess had the vegetarian main which comprised of what appeared to be the mushrooms from my main and larger squares of the gnocchi from the quail entree.

Pan-fried Tasmanian ocean trout - with pickled beets, broccolini and watercress and dill creme fraiche

Pizza scored the fish main. She said the fish itself was good. I spied pieces of beetroot that looked like they came from my entree. Hmm... some food recycling going on here? I asked her what the green sauce was and she wasn't sure but said it was yum. I tried a bit but couldn't tell either so I checked the menu, which says it's watercress and dill.

New England lamb shoulder - wrapped in speck and served with slow roasted baby tomatoes and kiplers

In my opinion, the strangest main was the meat log. I actually asked a few people what they thought it was an the response was meat log. Superman said it was basicall corned beef rolled in bacon. Being a typical man, he made out that was a good thing. To me, it sounds kind of disgusting. I was relieved to have been given the chicken. According to the menu, it's actually lamb shoulder wrapped in speck (which is kind of like bacon, so he gets a point there).

Poached pear - with chocolate creme anglais

There were 4 different kinds of desserts. I was eyeing the plates as they were handed out and thoroughly disappointed when I was presented with the poached pair. I don't get what the deal is with poached fruit. I imagine it has to be done perfectly to be worth having over say, a chocolate fondant. This wasn't an outstanding poached pear. I kept thinking of how George from Masterchef emphasizes that poached pear can be eating with a spoon. This was a bit too firm for that. The worst part though, was the sauce. It was served with a runny chocolate custard of all things. We all agreed that it tasted exactly like Yogo. Some people like that... I HATED it. Spiced pear and chocolate custard? What the hey??

My inability to eat my own dessert made me end my reluctance to try everyone else's food. I dug into each other type of dessert, except for Stain's creme brulee but only because that was too far away (and because he polished it off before I could get there).

Lime and coconut cake

The lime and coconut cake was comparatively good on first bite but it was a bitter lime zest aftertaste. Princess warned me of this but even so, I was taken aback but just how bitter it was. It was intense! In an off-putting way.

Strawberry tart - with whipped cream

Pizza's dessert was the most palatable. We tried to analyze exactly what it was and Pizza's conclusion was that the texture was like cake batter in a tart shell. There was nothing profound or skilled about this and it tasted very much like a supermarket ready-made tart shell, but at least it was sweet and 'normal' with no funky components.

Creme brulee

As I said, I didn't try the creme brulee but Stain RAVED about it. Not only that, his cup and plate were both dishwasher-quality clean by the time he had finished licking off every last molecule of dessert. I would say that is testiment to a dish well enjoyed.

I wasn't blown away by the food I tasted at Veraison. At best it was boring and at worst (the pear dessert), it was inedible. Stain and Randy were surprised by my opinion as they thought their meals were quite good. Pizza remarked that it was hit and miss. I'll say that when compared to my usual restaurant ventures, it is way below par. However, considering that it was a mass catering effort, it was borderline acceptable

I'm not willing to give them a free pass for dishing out those reject dessert and recycled main/entree components though. I've had some meals elsewhere that were catered to large groups for conferences and workshops that were AMAZING. It can be done. If Veraison wants to pride themselves of being a contender in top QLD food culture, it needs to step up its game in ALL aspects of service, including group set meals.
Veraison on Urbanspoon

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