81 Surf Parade
Broadbeach QLD 4218
+61 7 5592 2250
I’ve met quite a few of Marty’s friends and while most of them have been great, there have been a few eggs in between. Thankfully, his workmate Dominique sounded like someone I’d get along well with – especially after I was told that she was a bit of a foodie too. Win! We decided that we’d meet each other over a nice dinner (of course) so after consulting both the Queensland Good Food Guide and the Gold Coast edition of the Entertainment Book, we agreed that one-hatted restaurant Room 81 would be a great place for our first date (with Marty as the third wheel, hah!).
When I made the booking two weeks beforehand, I asked for an 8pm sitting on the Friday night. The reservations lady said there was a table available and booked us in. Awesome. However, a few days before we were meant to have dinner, I got a call from the restaurant saying that they made a mistake. They realised that the Friday I made the booking for was a public holiday for Gold Coastitutes and that the restaurant wouldn’t be open and whether I would like to book for another night.
I asked if there was anything on the Thursday night to which the lady told me, ‘no, all booked out.’ After I pulled the ‘but I’m flying in from interstate’ card sprinkled with a bit of
bitchiness firmness, the lady put me on hold to ‘speak to the manager.’ And when she returned, she told me that she could arrange a table for us at 8pm after all. Excellent. Now that that was done and dusted, it was time to rock up and enjoy what would be quite a memorable dinner.
Room 81 is aptly located on the ground floor of 81 Surf Parade in trendy Broadbeach, which happens to be the address of the Sofitel hotel. Room 81 is very sophisticated and modern, that is, everything that the Gold Coast tries to be. But while your typical Gold Coast slurry fails in that regard, Room 81 gets it so right – we felt like we were in Manhattan.
Room 81 is also one of the few places on the ‘Coast that backs style up with substance. Its head chef is Michael Crosbie, who not only spent time in some of the best restaurants in London but also worked under Quay head chef Peter Gilmore. Although we didn’t see any snow eggs here, we were certainly treated to a theatrical display of spectacular food, cementing Room 81 as one the better fine dining places on the Gold Coast and certainly deserving of its one-hat status.
When we rocked up to Room 81 at 8pm, we were surprised to find that it was not even half full. All booked out? Yeah sif, mate. All was forgiven though, when a cute-ish waiter of European descent lead us to our table by the kitchen and quickly poured us water while giving us the menus. We barely glanced at it for we knew that we were after the six course tasting menu ($130 per head) with matching wines (an extra $70 per head).
Our first drink was glass of NV from Wicks Estate in South Australia. It was as bubbly as Dom herself and a great champagne to start the meal with.
Our amuse bouche was a creamy Jerusalem artichoke veloute, which we all liked. I love Jerusalem artichoke in soup form (or similar) so this was a real winner for me. Who would have thought that such a small vessel carried so much flavour?
Warm bread was provided all throughout the dinner. As much as we thought the bread was lovely, we declined top-ups because we wanted to save room for the food.
Our first course was the Nordic cured king salmon served with avocado, wasabi, daikon, lime snow, apple, nasturtiums and tendrils (‘what tendrils?’ I pondered). The fish was beautifully soft and plump, with a slight smoky taste that went especially well with the dehydrated lime ‘snow’ which Marty said ‘looked like a gram of coke.’ I also appreciated the house-made wasabi that wasn’t as potent as the commercial stuff but still had kick, while the glass of 2010 Plantagenet Riesling with its spicy green apple and lemon rind notes complimented the dish very well.
Next, we had the venison loin. Dom was a vegan for so many years so I wasn’t sure whether she liked this. To her delight, she discovered that that shaved peppered venison tasted delicious, especially when paired with some beetroot gel, horseradish cream, watercress, port wine jelly and puffed buckwheat. Oh man, especially the buckwheat and jelly which were really fun to eat. Our 2010 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio wasn’t as intense as our first wine but that also meant that the venison was able to shine more.
Our third course was called ‘by the sea side,’ a pan-fried John Dory, mollusc, marble potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, edible sand and sea foam. It was a beautifully executed dish and I particularly thought the ‘edible sand’ (made out of wakame and breadcrumbs) was spectacular. Marty also thought that the dish was earthy, which isn’t what one would normally expect from a seafood dish. I guess that’s why the 2010 Rockbare Chardonnay from McLaren Vale was chosen as the wine accompaniment for this dish – its herby-ness flecked with hints of warm honey married well with the dish’s earthy undertones.
The Berkshire pork assiette, a medley of different ways to cook pork, was another highlight. We received a piece of crackled belly, a roasted neck trompette and a crisp rillette ball. The whole thing was perched on a small blob of cauliflower cream and served with turnip shoots and a glazed apple piece, which Marty thought looked like a piece of cooked potato. All the pieces were cooked well but for some reason, lacked a bit of something so it wasn’t my favourite dish of the night. If it weren’t for the glass of 2009 Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir that brought out the flavours, I would dare say that this would have been an almost boring dish.
The lamb loin was a better meat dish. The very tender loin piece was perched on top of a crisp lamb breast terrine and served with broad beans, leek, sunchoke cream (I thought it was odd that they used the word ‘sunchoke’ on the menu, why not just say Jerusalem artichoke?), confit potato and basil.
Here’s a pic of the terrine. This dish was amazing. The loin was tender, fatty and rich and the terrine proved to be an interesting way to enjoy lamb. I particularly loved the Jerusalem artichoke (sorry, sunchoke) cream that meandered around the lamb and surprisingly, did not make the dish too rich. A glass of peppery 2010 Knappstein Shiraz from the Clare Valley managed to also cut through the creaminess, making it an excellent pairing.
Room 81 love dishing out soufflés for dessert and the one we received on the night was a pear one, with gingerbread sauce and toast ice cream. While I thought the soufflé was a tad too heavy, I liked the pear and gingerbread flavour combination and we all thought the toast ice cream was amazing (‘who on earth comes up with the idea of toast ice cream?’ said Dom in amazement). As for the wine pairing, a second Riesling – this time a Mt Horroks Cordon Cut Riesling which was sweeter than the Plantagenet – capped off what was an amazing dinner.
We couldn’t say anything bad about Room 81. The food was spectacular and the service was super-fast (though I did suspect that waiters were rushing so that they can go home earlier – fine with us, though!). Although I did not appreciate the 1.5% credit card surcharge (booo, and I’m not even an AMEX customer), $50 off the total bill thanks to the Entertainment Book discount made it even. As a final aside, although I did say great things about the food, I have to be honest and say that what really made the night great was the awesome company I had that superseded apple clouds, lime snow and glasses of Rieslings. Yep, we were having a fabulous time just ‘hangin’ the f*ck out on a Thursday night.’ Naw, shucks.