The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Vanitas at Palazzo Versace Australia (Gold Coast, QLD)

94 Seaworld Drive
Main Beach QLD 4217
+61 7 5509 8000
http://www.palazzoversace.com.au/vanitas

The other day, Marty had his birthday. We spent our daylight hours at the gym, eating ramen at Surfers Paradise (that will be my next post) and watching Nat Geo documentaries. I think I might have tried Bikram yoga for the first time too that day but I can’t remember. What we could remember, however, was the epic dinner we shared with Marty’s parents that night at Vanitas restaurant at Palazzo Versace.

The plan was for the two of us to share a nice romantic dinner at what has to be one of the nicest-looking restaurants we’ve even been to. However, Marty felt like being a nice son for once so he invited his parents along for the ride – they don’t have a lot of experience with fine dining restaurants so he wanted to treat them while he himself got treated. And this is from a guy who called me a ‘sausage roll’ over the weekend, ugh.

Driving to the world’s first fashion-branded hotel on a rainy Friday night proved to be a bit of a task, even for the three Gold Coast locals I was with. Getting to Main Beach was easy enough but finding the actual hotel in darkness was a lot harder and we ended up at Marina Mirage before realising that we were in the wrong place. We did find ourselves in hotel’s circular driveway eventually, though. We asked the concierge where the guest parking facilities were and we were told that it was ’50 metres ahead’ and that ‘there’ll be a big sign’ to tell us where it was.

So we drove out of the premises and up Seaworld Drive for approximately 50 metres before finding ourselves at a random car park that was reserved for fishermen rather than guests of a boutique hotel. We drove around and around some more but gave up so we ended up parking at Marina Mirage again and walking to Palazzo Versace in the rain.

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Palazzo Versace has got to be the most opulent hotel we’ve ever set foot on. The sight of the majestic chandelier, the illuminated lagoon and the beautifully classy young folk mingling in the foyer told us one thing: Toto, we weren’t in Surfers Paradise anymore. Gold Coast’s economy might be going to shit, but you couldn’t tell at Palazzo Versace for people were partying like it was 1999.

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We also loved the Medusa mosaic on the lobby’s floor.

Once we walked into Vanitas, Palazzo Versace’s top of the line fine dining restaurant, however, we realised that perhaps we were wrong about Palazzo Versace being immune from the ‘Coast’s economic downturn. It was practically empty. Okay, so three other tables did fill up during the entire time we were there – but for the most part, it was eerily dead for a Friday night.

We were led to our table, which was located right by the window so we can admire the beautiful lagoon. We were even surprised to see a lone duck swim across the pool during our dinner!

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Vanitas has to take the cake for having the best crockery I’ve seen at a fine dining establishment. Every single plate we had was embellished with the Versace logo and intricate designs ranging from mythical creatures to foliage. In fact, they were almost too pretty to eat from.

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But eating was what we were here for so let’s get onto the food, shall we? What sort of food does Vanitas serve? Like most Gold Coast fine dining restaurants, it goes for the mod-Oz option, with influences from France and Japan. We knew from the start that we were going to go for the five-course degustation menu designed by head chef Martin Glutz ($125 per head). There was also the option to get matching wines for an extra $65 per head but because one of us didn’t drink (Marty’s mum) and because two of us were pussies (Marty and I), only Marty’s dad agreed to it.

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The birthday boy received a birthday card, signed by Vanitas’ manager, as well as a miniature bottle of Versace Pour Homme. Although nothing will tear Marty away from his signature Armani Code, he really appreciated the token (let’s be honest, how many other restaurants give diners a bottle of perfume?!).

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We started off with some delicious bread. The bread was as flaky as puff pastry and as buttery as a croissant – and tasted even better with lashings of French butter. We were also offered extra bread throughout the dinner which I gratefully accepted.

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Marty and his dad started proceedings with a glass of Dom Perignon each. While a glass of Dom is certainly not cheap ($75 a glass here), it was one of those ‘try anything once’ moments which both men relished.

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Our first course was the sand crab sandwich, soy marinated tuna with chilled tomato consommé and wakame salad. Marty and I found both found the raw tuna to be a too ‘stringy’ and it was certainly not the freshest slab we’ve had – but then again, we’ve been spoilt by super-fresh seafood in Sydney’s restaurants and at their fish market. That aside, I didn’t think this dish tasted too bad. If Vanitas was trying for the ‘cutting edge’ approach, they weren’t achieving it by sprinkling strands of wakame all over the place – it just looked almost ‘try-hard-y.’ Having said that, Marty’s dad liked the dish and declared the tomato broth to be similar-tasting to the Vietnamese canh (sour soup). He was probably right when said that his son just ‘didn’t know how to eat’ (i.e. appreciate) dishes like this, hah.

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Our next course was the seared John Dory fillet with carrot purée, risoni and caviar vinaigrette. While the previous course divided the table, general consensus was achieved with this dish: it was great. The John Dory fillet was beautifully cooked; its silky and plump texture soaked up the sweet purée like a sponge while the risoni bits were fun to eat. Marty’s mum was especially impressed by the presentation of the dish and in particular, the edible flowers.

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We then reached the ‘land animal’ part of the dinner with the ballotine of free range chicken with truffle, foie gras and pickled mushrooms, which looked as pretty as a Versace dress.

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The chicken, which was beautifully cooked, held a tiny knob of foie gras. Pickled mushrooms and little specks of truffle circled the plate, delighting Marty who loves truffles as much as he loves to hate the Collingwood Magpies. It was a well-executed meal but I did feel that they were too heavy on the vinaigrette. I reckon a more subtle level of zesty-ness would have been more appropriate.

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We then enjoyed a delicious palette cleanser of lime sorbet with elderflower syrup, mint and Prosecco, which rivalled a lot of desserts I’ve sampled this year.

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Our final savoury dish was the slow cooked tenderloin of beef with spinach purée, gnocchi, speck and broad beans. The steak was fantastic and as for the accompaniments, I wasn’t sure if I liked the velvety spinach purée or the pillowy gnocchi squares better. I did find the addition of the slightly undercooked broad beans a bit weird though. By this stage, I was quite full so I struggled to finish my steak, as juicy and delicious as it was. The boys, however, were fast on this one, ripping into their finely cooked cow simultaneously.

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By this stage, Marty decided that he needed a glass of mojito. I wasn’t sure whether it was because he was struggling with his food or struggling with his dad’s behaviour which was getting more and more, uh, animated (for example, his dad kept saying ‘BEAAUUUUTIFUL!’ in a bad Con the Fruiterer accent and kept making disparaging remarks about two shady-looking guys sitting at a table next to us).

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Our dessert was a chocolate chip meringue with berries, strawberry sorbet, coulis and Chantilly cream. It’s not exactly the type of dessert I’d order but I couldn’t help but be wowed at the presentation.

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 To be honest, I found this dessert to be ridiculously sweet. Less sugar, please!

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Marty decided to be difficult by asking the waiter if he could have a crème brûlée for dessert. I know that a lot of restaurants aren’t cool with mixing courses when it comes to set menus, the folks at Vanitas were lovely and presented Marty with a beautiful crème brûlée with salted caramel ice cream. I knew I should have also presented it was my birthday too.

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We were stuffed beyond belief but coffees and petit fours were being offered so naturally, as Asians, we stayed for that. I don’t normally have coffees this late but given that I had promised Marty that I’d stay up late to watch TV with him, I knew coffee was in order. I’m not sure how many shots of espresso went into my ‘latte’ or where the barista went for his or her training, but my latte certainly didn’t do the trick (both taste-wise and keeping-Libby-up-wise).

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The petit fours tasted better (and looked prettier), though).

While we all agreed that this had been a lovely birthday dinner, I’m not quite sure whether I’d be rushing back. The service was exemplary, with proper care given by our waiter Ryan who knew his stuff but also injected a bit of casual Gold Coast humour and charm throughout the meal. Unfortunately, the same could not be said about the concierge dude who was not only wrong about the car park being 50 metres way (it was more like 10) but also the sign which was barely visible at night (we drove past this place in daylight a few days later and lo and behold, there was the car park!).

The food, on the other hand, received mixed reactions from the table. While Marty’s dad thought everything was BEAAAAAUTIFUL, his mum just said that everything the food tasted ‘average’ with all the trimmings there ‘just for show.’ Meanwhile, Marty and I thought that most of the dishes passed the mark but could do with a few modifications. At the end of the night, we all agreed that we enjoyed the setting as well as the company more than the food.

Yes, even Marty’s dear ol’ dad.

Vanitas on Urbanspoon

19 Comments on Vanitas at Palazzo Versace Australia (Gold Coast, QLD)

  1. Martybeast
    April 15, 2013 at 21:35 (1 year ago)

    Damn that was a funny night! :)

    Reply
  2. kewyn
    April 15, 2013 at 21:55 (1 year ago)

    You write the most honest, unbiased reviews!

    Reply
    • libishski
      April 17, 2013 at 08:59 (1 year ago)

      Haha apparently I’m TOO honest for some, Kewyn. -_-

      Reply
  3. Martybeast
    April 15, 2013 at 22:05 (1 year ago)

    Remember when dad told those two old gaybo Pommy blokes to shut up? LOL classic! Awesome B’day dinner! :)

    Reply
    • libishski
      April 17, 2013 at 08:58 (1 year ago)

      Hehehe good ol’ Alf…

      Reply
  4. Kelly
    April 15, 2013 at 22:44 (1 year ago)

    I remember seeing this beautiful hotel when I was in QLD. Those plates are soooo Beauuutifulllll (sorry Marty’s dad). Might be a reason why the place is empty on a Friday night ($75 glass of DP omg), scared to ask how much the bill totalled.

    Reply
    • libishski
      April 17, 2013 at 08:58 (1 year ago)

      Yeah, it wasn’t a cheap dinner. I did think the food was reasonably priced ($125 p/h for degustation) but the markups on the drinks were ridiculous, even for a nice place like this.

      Reply
  5. Choc Chip Uru
    April 16, 2013 at 06:13 (1 year ago)

    A good and ok mixed night haha but the interior certainly is classy :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    Reply
  6. iisneeno
    April 16, 2013 at 11:05 (1 year ago)

    ooooooh damn classsy! Happy birthday to your man!

    Reply
  7. Daisy@Nevertoosweet
    April 16, 2013 at 15:22 (1 year ago)

    Now that’s definitely a classy restaurant and it’s so pretty and extravagant :) A shame though that the food wasn’t as outstanding…and gosh $75 a glass of wine! That’s so expensive hehe but I guess it’s worth trying at least once ~

    I liked the sound of the hocolate chip meringue and sorbet and I really want to try and see if it’s really that sweet :P

    Reply
    • libishski
      April 17, 2013 at 08:56 (1 year ago)

      The food wasn’t too expensive; we had degustation at $125 p/h and I used the Entertainment Book discount card like the tight arse I am haha. It was just the drinks that were pricey. Fair enough they charge $75 for a glass of Dom (okay not really… I mean, it’s not supposed to be cheap but I thought $75 was a bit unreasonable), but $20 for a glass of Dr Loosen riesling and $9 for a mocktail?! Yeah, nahhhhhhh.

      As for the chocolate chip meringue… haha when Marty read that I thought it was too sweet, he was like, “NO IT WASN’T.” I think it’s just me that’s weird -_-

      Reply
  8. Candice
    April 16, 2013 at 21:10 (1 year ago)

    I was lucky enough to spend a couple of nights at the Versace a few years ago and eat at the restaurant (My boy got the weekend through work – didnt come out of our pockets). This was before I was blogging but I remember it being nice but not having much of a wow factor. But the interior of the hotel completly blows my mind.

    Reply
    • libishski
      April 17, 2013 at 08:53 (1 year ago)

      Oh wow, lucky you! I wouldn’t mind spending a night or two at the Versace (can only imagine how beautiful the rooms would be)… and then ducking off to dinner elsewhere :p

      Reply
  9. Nami | Just One Cookbook
    April 17, 2013 at 10:07 (1 year ago)

    Hi Libby! It’s too bad that they lack of the most important part – the quality of the food! Such a beautiful place and setting, but yeah I guess their attention wasn’t the food. Too bad! You wrote a great honest review. :)

    Reply
  10. msihua
    April 17, 2013 at 23:22 (1 year ago)

    Woah! I remember seeing this place years ago on Postcards or something. Love it! It’s just sooooooo OTT that you have to do it. Aww what a lovely son and what a terrible bf :P (get use to it) and you are so NOT a sausage roll :)

    Reply
    • libishski
      April 19, 2013 at 19:26 (1 year ago)

      Ahhh gotta love boys sometimes… :|

      Reply
  11. ChopinandMysaucepan
    April 19, 2013 at 09:21 (1 year ago)

    Dear Libby,

    The hotel looks pretty ostentatious. The food looks nice but I would prefer my steak as just a piece of juicy meat on the plate without any of these puree or tapanade piled at the bottom.

    Reply
    • libishski
      April 19, 2013 at 19:25 (1 year ago)

      You’re right – the better the steak, the less garnishes/fillings it needs :)

      Reply
  12. Jessie
    March 24, 2014 at 20:53 (6 months ago)

    You do know that Foie Gras is created from force feeding grain down ducks throats right?
    Hope you enjoyed your dinner consisting of abused animals.

    Reply

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