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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Steak N' Chicks Tuesday #3

Cold weather and the tyranny of distance kept this month’s Steak N’ Chicks Tuesday on the petite side. The mountain sometimes comes to Mohammed, but you just can’t get some chicks across the Harbour Bridge.

27th June 2006 – The Commodore Hotel, Blues Point Road, North Sydney

The Place
The Commodore is a pub most definitely suited to daytime Summer drinking, although it’s also well set-up for the lower end of the thermometer – very open-plan, with a magnificent outdoor area. A discreet pokie room hides in one corner, and is separated from the kitchen and swish bistro area by a long, meandering bar. The outdoor bit, which takes up over half the pub’s footprint, is strewn with umpteen tables and outdoor lounges, warmed effectively by umbrella-hoisted heaters and a cosy enclosed fire. The toilets are a bit of a low point, seemingly unbothered by the pressure of being attractive, and painted in a colour probably listed on a Taubmans sample sheet as “Mottled Vomit”. Not a significant drawback, but worth mentioning.

The People
Just four chicks this week, but quality. Alex, Fee, Jo, and Steak N’ Chicks newcomer Vanessa, who was originally only going to stay for a quick beer until she clocked the menu. Fee arrived laden with her impressively slick and gorgeous new brochures for her printing company, and several minutes were spent all gushing over them. We all agreed that the staff at the Commodore were very pleasant indeed, with manners my Grandma would have raised her teacup to. The glassies seemed to have been trained at the Ninja School of Bar-Help, as our empties kept disappearing conveniently and efficiently from the table with barely a shoe shuffle or a shadow. Clientele were plentiful without equating to a crowd (I’ve seen this place on Friday nights, and it ain’t arf heaving), and mostly young with a minimum of body hair. When an older-than-forty couple walked in, I almost imagined swinging saloon doors, a piano suddenly stopping and a distant tumbleweed, such was their seeming incongruousness. A handful of suits provided the obligatory lecherous stares to any bosomed people passing their tables, but as far as ogling office-workers go, they were non-intrusive and mild.

The Food
I think the Booker Prize needs to be expanded to include a gong for Best Descriptive Menu Sentences, and if they do, The Commodore menu would probably be a finalist. It’s hard to read when your dribble keeps obscuring beauties like Warm Tart of Balsamic Tomato and Onion Jam with Ricotta and Rocket Salad, or Home-Cured Gravlax with Caper and Dill Salsa, Seeded Mustard Cream and Sourdough Toast.
The chefs at the Commodore seem to have discovered a kind of Tardis Of Flavour – meals look reasonably tasty on the outside, but manage a good fifty square metres of intense and gorgeous flavour on the inside. Before we even ate, all our dishes easily managed big ticks in both the presentation and nasal waftage boxes, too.
Vanessa, starvacious as she was, ordered the fish & chips. Points initially lost for not-hot chips were redeemed when we considered that Vanessa’s your-food’s-ready buzzer was faulty (hence the meal was waiting at the counter for a longer-than-usual time), and also when we all tasted the Best Tartare Sauce In The World. Tartare Sauces usually fall into two general categories – too piquant or too creamy, but this was a perfectly-balanced mouth-party to which anyone with a few bucks can be invited. A brief cutlery shortage was sorted before the rest of the meals arrived, and Fee sat down to a subtle but flavour-packed pumpkin & ricotta ravioli with burnt butter, lemon juice & pine nuts. She ordered a crusty roll as she was picking up her meal, and managed to talk the kitchen hand down from the initial fifty-dollar price tag to a one-dollar final settling fee. Nobody was quite sure how that whole scenario worked, but Fee’s appreciative lip-smacking indicated that either price was a bargain.
Alex ordered the warm salad of winter vegetables with medium rare lamb loin and basil, featuring gentle chunks of pink, flavourful lamb with delicious lumps of non-stodgy vegetables.
I had “Sausages with Braised Onions and Potato Puree”, which we all know as Bangers N’ Mash, but proved itself worthy of its somewhat flowery menu description. Three fat, perfectly cooked and fork-responsive sausages nestled around a mound of fluffy, smooth potato, topped with sweet brown onion and fresh cress – islands of good stuff in a truly lovely pool of dark, intense gravy. I gave up daintiness for the joys of gorging, stopping occasionally to wipe smudges from the sides of my mouth. Quite possibly the perfect Winter meal. Portion size for all meals was ever-so-slightly-too-big, which is vastly better than the alternative. Bloody yummy, mate.

The Summarising Bit
Whilst truly worth a re-visit in some warmer months, and with an interior décor that seems to have been a little overlooked in favour of the far-more-popular outdoor area (save for the swanky bistro), a hugely appreciative and satisfied nod goes to The Commodore. The phrase “decent feed” was never more appropriate – nothing was sub-standard, and quite a few meal features, including bread, sausages, and sauces were spectacular. Go. Across the bridge wit ya.

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