I already had one epic adventure at the newly renovated Garden City shopping centre a month or so ago when I had dinner with Kat at Hatch and Co when I couldn't get to my car because the shopping centre had closed. I wasn't prepared for even more drama at my second visit, when I went back for lunch with a group of girl friends. This time, the stress was in the form of parking difficulties. Apparently October is now when people start their Christmas shopping, or maybe lunch on a Sunday is just THAT popular. There were cars lining up to get through the entrances, even the ones far from Town Square. If I thought my previous parking spot was at the exact opposite end of the shopping centre to Garden City's Town Square, I was wrong. This time I surpassed my previous attempt and somehow managed to enter a realm that was EVEN FURTHER AWAY. It was a lengthy trek to get to The Palms and I was nearly 40min late.
My failure to park aside, I was very excited to try this restaurant. The Palms is run by the same guys behind Alchemy, which I dined at once back in 2011 and enjoyed. This new restaurant is more casual but still has a refined touch. The layout is open, with the back portion looking onto the Town Square's water features. Our girls took up a table right near the water and sitting there, I felt like I was at an overseas island resort. That's not an easy atmosphere to invoke by a shopping centre restaurant but The Palms managed very well. On the downside, half the table was in the sun so I'm not sure how that will go over this blistering Summer.
The menu here encourages sharing. There are different sizes of share plates that could also be translated to 'starter' 'entree' 'main' but our group thought it would be more fun and variety to order dishes to share.
White sangria - with Tanqueray gin, elderflower liqueur, green apple liqueur, pinot grigio, fresh fruits and mint
Being the unintentional booze hound that I am, I didn't even realise that I was the only one at the table to order an alcoholic drink until it was too late. I chose the white sangria, which was refreshing and not too sweet. In fact, it reminded me more of mojito than sangria. I'm more used to red wine sangrias but I'm complaining because this drink was nice.
Artisan bread with assorted dips
The first of our dishes to arrive was the bread with trio of dips. The bread was warm and crunchy and my favourite of the 3 dips was the bacon and cauliflower. It stood out by being tastier and more innovative than the conventional hommus and (I can't remember what the other one was).
Chips - with spiced chicken and thyme salt
Our next arrival was the chips. They came in a cute metal basket but looks aside, these chips were DELISH. The batter coating was so crunchy and they were obviously freshly cooked because they were so hot. One of the girls joked that it would be amusing if chips ended up being our favourite dish from this restaurant. After I finished the meal, I can conclude that the chips actually were the standout.
Crab linguini - with vine ripened tomatoes and basil
The crab linguini was one of our larger dishes. It was definitely full main size and beautifully presented with an abundance of crab meat. I only tried a little bit of this dish and it just lacked any punch of flavour for me. It wasn't terrible but with so many dishes to try, it didn't tempt me back for more.
Traditional haloumi - with grilled haloumi cheese, lemon and grissini sticks
The grilled haloumi plate was almost a mini lunch in one despite just being a 'small plate'. It comprised of the haloumi itself as well as grisini sticks, crispbread and biscuits to accompany it with. I'm not sure about this use of hard biscuits with haloumi. For me, crackers and cheese means either cheddar or brie. Haloumi goes better with warm, squishy flatbread... but that's just my opinion.
Meatballs - Italian meatballs with sweet and sour peppers and pineapple
I chose the meatballs for the group and this actually was a very small serve. They tasted... like meatballs. Meatballs are always yummy, unless they're terrible. These weren't terrible so they were good but not especially different from anything I make at home.
Crispy duck - with cracked wheat, hazelnut and quinoa salad
Next came our duck dish. This was a 'small plate' but looked almost like a main. It was cooked well with crispy skin and served on a bed of quinoa. This was one of the dishes that was more to my liking.
Our final dish was the harissa coated chicken that I completely forgot to photograph. I tried a few pieces from this (it was a large serve) and found the flavour was quite nice but again, it wasn't anything spectacular.
My overall experience of The Palms is neutral. The environment is lovely, especially for day time lunch/cocktails or a Sunday session. The food was completely adequate but aside from the chips, there wasn't anything that made me go 'wow' and rush back for seconds. There's nothing to complain about here but by the same token, there's nothing to really rave about.