Saturday, 18 May 2013

No 4 Blake St

Happy early birthday to me!  Tonight is my first and only planned birthday celebration this year as I'm trying to forget how old I am.  I chose No 4 Blake St, a restaurant tucked away in the back streets of suburbia because I love trying out new restaurants with my loved ones and I had never been before.  I had no idea whether it was good but the reviews from Urbanspoon seemed quite promising.

No 4 Blake St offers a set menu for dinner - you have the choice of entrée and main for $70 or entrée, main and dessert for $90; wine matching is optional for an extra $30-45.  It might be useful to know that you get surprise dishes in between your courses and also what seemed like an endless supply of bread. 

Of course we went for the three course menu!

Our menu
Olive bread with three flavours of butter (truffle, pepper and orange zest)

Amuse bouche (surprise!)

Moi & CP - Goat's cheese 'Gnocchi', aromatic oils, baby herbs, borage blossom, tomato water
HS - Butter poached yabbies, blood orange gel, boudin noir, purple potato crisp
LD - Rabbit parfait, belly presse, leg and pistachio terrine, gingerbread tuile, pomegranate

Al dente (surprise!)

Moi - Chicken stuffed with Perigord truffle, summer corn, popcorn, pickled shimeji, porcini foam, mushroom paper
HS & CP - Pan fried Coral trout, smoked sardine pate, samphires, mussels and Chenin emulsion
LD - Seared duck breast, pencil leek, poached plum, celery leaves

Palate cleanser (surprise!)

Moi, HS & CP - Strawberries: Stilton blue, declination of strawberry, black pepper tuile, balsamic jube
LD - Chocolate Garden: Valrhona chocolate mousse, salted peanut, dacquoise

Food and presentation - 3/5
The food at No 4 Blake St was immaculately presented unfortunately the taste of the dishes didn't live up to the presentation.  I didn't have any stand out dishes, as most of them were very average except the gnocchi which was horrible. 

Before we ordered, the wait staff were raving about the gnocchi so I decided to take their advice, CP also chose the gnocchi because there was nothing else in the entrée section that she could eat, little did we realise that we would be so disappointed.  I know it's goat's cheese gnocchi but we didn't expect (1) the texture to be like Clag glue, (2) that it would be so bland - you can taste the goat's cheese but that was it, it needed some salt and (3) for it to leave an unpleasant, bitter after taste which we didn't like.  The tomato water that the gnocchi was sitting in was not bad and made the gnocchi slightly more palatable but I think it's pretty hard to make tasteless Clag glue taste good.  HS loved her entrée and so did LD although she found some components quite salty.

Our mains were nice but nothing special. 

LD's dessert was amazing,  we all had to have a bite (or two) of her dessert because it was so good.  The presentation was very cute, like a newly sown pot plant.  It really looked like you were eating soil!  There were different layers in the pot containing surprise elements and even a little earthworm to complete the package.  Our strawberry dessert however, didn't really work for me.  The strawberries and balsamic jubes just didn't go with the blue cheese.  I love blue cheese and also love strawberries but the flavours just didn't work in this instance.  I'm sure there is a way it could work because blue cheese definitely does work with sweets but they either need to choose a different blue cheese or modify the sweet component.  Overall, a bit disappointing because I expected No 4 Blake St to be above average, luckily I had good company.

Olive bread and butters (truffle, pepper & orange zest)
Amuse bouche - rabbit
Amuse bouche - beetroot
Entrée - Goat's cheese 'Gnocchi'
Entrée - Butter poached yabbies
Entrée - Rabbit parfait
Al dentre - pork & chestnut mince gnocchi
Al dente - Mint pesto, goat's curd
Main - Chicken stuffed with Perigord truffle
Main - Pan fried Coral trout
Main - Seared duck breast
Palate cleanser
Chocolate Garden


Service - 3.5/5
I'm actually a bit unsure how I feel about their service so hear me out.  They do everything that a fine dining restaurant should do, they change your cutlery after every course, they're polite, they check whether you've got any allergies and/or special dietary requirements, they top up your water automatically, they know their wines and their menu and they're French. 

So far so good right?  My niggle was that when I booked online, I specified on the form that I had a pregnant guest and I also rang them a few days later to confirm that their menu catered for pregnant and pescatarian (to put it simply, pescatarian is a vegetarian who eats seafood) guests, they do, which was great.  However, the day before, I received a text message to confirm my booking and asking me whether I had any guests with special dietary requirements, so I replied to confirm the booking and again to confirm that I had a pregnant and pescatarian guest.  Now, you would think that they would write this down somewhere because otherwise what is the point of asking these questions right? Wrong.  When we sat down, we were once again asked if anyone had special dietary requirements.  If they asked WHO were the guests with special dietary requirements, that's fine because they acknowledged the information I had already given to them THREE times but it was as if they had no idea. 

There were also a few times when they brought out the dishes and put the meat dish in front of CP (pescatarian).  They also didn't click when HS (pregnant) ordered a dessert which contained blue cheese, the waitress thought HS knew the cheese was pasteurised therefore fine for pregnant women.  Really?

The staff although polite and knew their menu, didn't seem to take a real interest in their guests,  they were not very clear when explaining the surprise dishes, they only asked us a couple of times how everything was and some of the staff didn't seem to be professionally trained all of which was a bit of a let down especially since they seem to be marketing themselves as a fine dining restaurant. 

Atmosphere - 4/5
I loved the layout of No 4 Blake St, I loved the presentation of the menu, I loved their wooden floor boards and I loved the big, red, heavy theatrical curtains (which ties in with their theme "Rediscover the theatre of dining...").  The furnishing was warm and welcoming.  Definitely a great place for a group or romantic dinner.  However, there are a couple of areas for improvement, (1) music choice - I think they need to rediscover that they are a fine dining restaurant and not a club, they were playing some electronic dance numbers which really didn't suit the whole feel of the place and (2) used red wine decanters should not be left on display on a single table in the main dining area, it looks messy and unprofessional - hide them somewhere.
The menu

Value for money - 3/5
For a set menu at a fine dining restaurant, $90 per person is not too bad.  If only the dishes and service were better...

I probably won't be back for dinner but wouldn't mind trying out their brunch and high tea when time permits.

Taste Test Total Score 13.5/20

No 4 Blake Street on Urbanspoon