This place must have the most successful marketing campaign of anything in the food industry. "Worst vegetarian restaurant" really resonated with me and I became convinced that Norman was synonymous with a carnivore's paradise. Long time readers of this blog should know that I am in no way anti-vegetarian. I love vegetables and in my day to day home eating, I risk iron deficiency through my reluctance to cook meat (out of laziness rather than morality). I am often attracted to menu descriptions containing terms like 'sweet potato', 'pumpkin' and 'roast vegetable'. The thing is,even though I love veggies, I am just as enthusiastic about meat. When a venue touts itself as being exceptional at any form of cuisine, it is a sure way to peak my interest.
I was feeling particularly lacking in iron (read = "lethargic and tired") this week so I suggested to Marc that we go out for a steak dinner. He didn't really need much convincing. I wanted to try the Norman because of all those billboards I had seen and because Marc had been there once and had a good experience.
In theory, the restaurant is very close to our new house but because my confidence in my sense of direction is much greater than my actual ability, I lead us on a wild goose chase starting with "I'm sure we turn right here" and increasingly incorrect from there on. After about 30 minute, we ended up 5 minutes from where I told Marc to turn right. He didn't seem to mind. It was more ammo for him to use in the future.
Norman Hotel has ample onsite parking and the seating space is expansive. I saw on the website that you can book the venue out for functions and I can see that it definitely has capacity for a big event. There isn't conventional table service here. Instead, we were lead to a table for two by a waitress. We weren't given paper menus but the food options were printed on a huge wall. This is environmentally friendly but less optimal for someone like me who's shortsighted. Luckily I had done my research and checked the menu online before we left so I knew exactly what I was getting.
Marc and I chose a steak each, as well as a garlic bread starter to share. To order, Marc had to go to the counter area and line up and pay upfront. He was then given a buzzer which vibrated once when our garlic bread was ready and again when the steaks were. The bar was at a separate counter and there, we ordered a couple of beers.
Garlic pizza bread
The garlic bread was very welcome because we were so hungry by then. The unnecessary driving detour took us way past my usual dinner time so I grabbed a piece of garlic bread as soon as it was set down and swallowed it whole. It was... ok. I hadn't had garlic bread in so long and I had this specific idea in my mind. I was expecting something really crusty and buttery with tonnes of crushed garlic and herbs. This bread was more like conventional white bread in a slightly unconventional shape (triangular rather than a loaf). It was a bit sweet too. I wanted it to be crustier and more butter-infused. However, at this point I was too hungry to really care.
Amusingly, when Marc went up to order the steak, I texted him my stock standard preferences: mid rare with mushroom sauce, veggies instead of salad (when there's a choice) and chips rather than mash or baked potato (when there's a choice). Marc ended up getting us both sides of salad and baked potato, almost the complete opposite of what I like.
Midi eye fillet with mushroom sauce
My steak itself was very good. It looked tiny but the thickness is not to be underestimated. That was a good volume of protein right there. As you can see from my cut shot, the piece was cooked perfectly to a shy shade of pink.
Cut shot of steak
I have no complaints about juiciness or tenderness but this steak was lacking in the aromatic wagyu fattiness that is crucial to my idea of a perfect chunk of meat. The mushroom sauce was plain but satisfying.
Large eye fillet with mushroom sauce
As for my sides, the baked potato turned out to be better than I expected. I plopped on a piece of butter (which I think was intended for the bread roll) and let that melt its way through. There was something called bacon sauce which is basically a bacon crumble (for those familiar with pork floss, it's like that) and it all went nicely together. The salad was better than it looked so even though I intended on being a naughty kid who left her greens behind, I finished my plate.
I feel neutral about Norman Hotel. The steaks were good but I'm not convinced about the price. Marc put up an argument where he insisted that all pub steaks cost $30-$40 nowadays whereas I feel that I should be at a fine dining restaurant for those prices. After all, we had to order the food ourselves and pick it up ourselves. The whole vibrating token system is great for big group events but there aren't as many benefits when it's just the two of us dining. Aside from the steak itself, I was unimpressed by the sides and starter.