Saturday, May 12, 2007


We celebrated J's birthday again last night, although the actual date is March 25th, and we'd already celebrated back then with a few pints and had a lovely meal. It was his birthday present from his mum - a nice dinner somewhere to be organised by me. We hadn't gotten around to doing this until last night.

I booked dinner at Pello in Darlinghurst last week. Considering it had two chefs hats courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald's "Good Food Guide" (Sydney's equivalent to Zagat), I figured we could do no wrong. I had read somewhere that their degustation, or tasting menu, was one of the best and most reasonably priced in the city.

Coincidently, Melbourne's The Age newspaper had done a piece earlier in the week about the rising popularity of degustation or tasting menus in Melbourne restaurants. I, being the superstitious type, thought it had to be a good sign. The reservation wasn't until 8pm, so we headed to the East Village bar for a pre-dinner, celebratory drink.

Pello, Darlinghurst - degustation menu
Pello degustation menu

Now I don't really consider myself to be much of a fusspot, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed. Mind you, the food itself was very good. It's just the service I found a bit lacking. Six courses over two and half hours seems like ample time to enjoy each course, only that it seemed to drag on for longer than that since there were moments where we were waiting for service.

The problem I felt was that they didn't have enough staff for the evening. There was a private function in the other dining room, which I guess tied up most of the staff and the kitchen. Considering this restaurant had been rated two hats, I would have expected a bit more.

The timing of the whole evening was off - we had to ask for our water to be refilled twice and the bread basket twice. The food came before the wine, which we had to ask and wait for twice, then the wine came before the food. We had four different waiters bringing our food, hardly a way to build rapport with your customer. Explanations of each dish and accompanying wine were therefore brief and hurried.

Almond crusted snapper - Pello
Almond crusted snapper

Service aside, the food was pretty good. The portions were quite substantial, so I was fairly full by the end of the evening. J opted for the lamb and I the venison, which I rarely have because, in my mind, it's like eating Rudolph! It was very tasty and my favourite dish of the evening.

As you can see from the photos, I constantly have this flash-or-no-flash battle in my head when I take photos in dimly lit restaurants. But by the time dessert arrived, I was suitably pickled enough from all the wines to not worry as much.

Banana parfait - Pello
Banana parfait

J enjoyed the food, but would have preferred one less dish, which I disagree. Overall I'd give Pello a 6.5 out of 10 (less 1.5 for the disappointing service).

Still it was a fun evening, so thank you Irene, for the lovely present which we both got to share!


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