Just among the many Christmas dinners and functions that are laid before me in 2011, my company booked 2 tables at The Red Herring in Fremantle. Located along Riverside Drive, there is no question that the view was spectacular. Summer has began so by the time we were all settled comfortably in our seats at 7pm we were able to catch the sunset with hues of orange and purple set against the river and yachts.
I have heard good reviews from friends about The Red Herring so I was delighted when the company sent out the invites with this venue. Finally, I get to see what the fuss was about. But it quickly turned out to be a much ado about nothing. We had the December set menu and, frankly, I was not all that impressed. For such a much talked about fine dining restaurant I expected something different. Something more exciting.
For starters, among the choices were:
- Snapper and spring onion fishcake, Thai noodle salad
The fishcakes tasted fresh and are lightly seasoned. The outside was fried to perfection and I thought that snapper was a good choice for the cakes. The Thai noodle salad, however, is neither Thai nor a salad. It was more like 5 strands of noodles lumped together to create a salad illusion. I not sure what we were supposed to be tasting here.
- Warm pork belly salad, bacon, egg and brie
Again, what was the flavour combination supposed to taste like? The combination of pork, brie and egg did not make sense to me as there was not any harmony with the flavours. Worse, the star of the dish, the pork belly, just did not make the cut for what a good pork belly should be. In my opinion, pork belly should only be cooked in either 2 ways: stewed or crispy skinned. Nothing in between. What was wrong with this pork belly was that it did not taste fresh and the skin was chewy. It’s as though the pork wasn’t given enough attention.
For mains, some of dishes included:
- Crispy skinned salmon, seeded mustard mash, asparagus, lemon beurre blanc
The salmon was perfect. Crispy skin, as it says on the menu, flesh cooked just right leaving it moist and juicy. The mashed potatoes were cold; not sure how long it has been sitting out before they plated up the whole dish. And it looked like someone went overboard with the mustard seeds seeing as the mustard way overpowered the potatoes. Well the beurre blanc looked more like a curd but the zesty lemon taste gave a nice tang to the fish.
- Grilled sirloin of beef, sweet potato, pancetta, field mushroom
Nothing special about this dish, really. It’s a lump of steak that anyone can cook at home. I asked for medium and got a well done one instead. The sweet potatoes are not my choice of carbohydrates with beef. Best thing about this dish was the field mushroom and that’s only because I love mushrooms.
The menu said that all mains are served with a side of salad. Where was my salad?? Oh wait, there it was in the middle of the table. The bowl of salad was placed in the middle of the table and they expected us to share it. The ratio was 1 bowl to 4 people.
For desserts, we had a choice of:
- Pavlova, lemon curd, rosewater ice cream, berry compote
This wasn’t my order personally. Based on what my colleagues have told me it’s a mixed review. One says it absolutely delicious, well, because she loves anything pavlova and thinks that the lemon curd made it all the more special while my other colleague thought it was so-so. The dessert was sweet, sour and bitter all at the same time, she said. Meringue was sweet. Lemon curd was sour. Berry compote was bitter. Go figure.
- Plum pudding, nutmeg ice cream, brandy sauce
When it comes to “fruitcake”, it’s either you love it or you hate it. In my case, I hate it. I was kind of hoping that this would taste something like sticky date pudding but obviously it did not because it is a plum pudding. Putting aside the fact that I do not like fruitcake, which this plum pudding tasted like, one of my other issues with this dessert is that it tasted like it came straight out of the box.
My boss on the, other hand, told me just minutes ago that it was “simply beautiful”.
To me it was sort of a disastrous fine dining restaurant. The seafood was great; I’d give that to them. But just because a restaurant specialises in seafood it does not mean that they can overlook the way other foods are prepared and served hoping that good oysters can make up for a bad steak.
To make it worse than it already was service was not good either. My colleague asked for another basket of bread twice. And twice it never came. We assumed they forgot about it the first time. And the scond time she followed up we were told that it was placed at the other end of the table. Wouldn’t one put the basket in front of the patron who asked for it? On a another note, I asked for a little bit of white wine, about 1/8th of the glass, just to have a taste, while physically showing the waitress how much I intend to drink and still I ended up with half a glass full and it wasn’t even my choice of wine (hence the tasting first).
The evening was only saved by a good company. And the fact that it was a Christmas dinner.