For my Birthday the media gun took me out for a lovely meal. He didn’t tell me where we were going, he kept it a surprise. Probably because the name of the restaurant makes me recoil. ‘Gastro Park’. Is it a culinary experience, or is it a threat to your stomach?
In the UK I’m used to the term gastropub and it doesn’t freak me out. At the time we were visiting the restaurant my trepidation may have been triggered by recent news coverage. I have got used to Aussies shortening everything. Or at least adding ‘y’ or ‘o’ to create an abbreviation. Just before my Birthday the TV news had been emblazoned with the Queen being ill with ‘GASTRO’. There was the grave newsreader with a picture of Lillibet dressed in blue, with the bold word ‘GASTRO’ stuck across it. Why on earth they just didn’t put ‘LIZ HAS THE SHITS’ on the screen I don’t know, it was what the news anchors where thinking as the corners of their mouths twitched as they reported on Queenie’s runny bum with a euphemism of ‘gastro’.
So on first sighting of the name ‘Gastro Park’ in Ronald Searle style font, I was nervous – not that there was any need to be. It’s a classy place with interesting food. The restaurant has a very small bar area to enjoy a pre-dinner drink. We went on a Tuesday night and our 8pm table was one of the last of the evening. It was a shame it wasn’t a little busier but on a Tuesday evening that is to be expected. The decor is industrial chic – polished concrete, bare bulbs with decoratively shaped filaments inside them, natural dark wood. I liked it, it gave it a moody yet urban romantic feel, however if this place was filled to capacity it might be a little on the noisy side with all those hard surfaces.
The menu offers ‘snacks’ which are roughly an amuse bouche sized portion, then entrees and mains. Dishes on offer included Roast Scallops, Charred Prawns, Pork Powder and Carrot, Endive, Crab Sauce. The Scallops were opaque and sweet, but the Pork Powder, for me, was not pleasant. I'm not sure if it was crackling which had been stuck in liquid nitrogen and then ground to a powder, but whatever the method, the resulting taste wasn't pleasant. All the plates were presented like pieces of art, almost making you feel guilty to tear it apart and eat it. And perhaps that sums it up, these pieces of art looked far more impressive than they tasted. That’s not to say the dishes were bad, but more that the description (both that on the menu and the explanation of the waiting staff) combined with the construction of the dishes made your expectations so high, that anything less than outstanding on the palate was a let down. And at those sort of prices you don’t really want to be let down.
So would we go back – well there is something tempting me and that is the 'Game of Thrones' menu nights which this place offers (no spoilers please, we’ve only finished series one). I’d be happy to head down with fellow fan pals, but aside from that novelty, I think there are other places I’d prefer to try before a repeat visit to Gastro Park.
5-9 Roslyn St, Kings Cross, Sydney, NSW 2011