We decided to give the the Cactus Club at try because we had heard some good comments about it among friends. Last night we went to the one in Victoria. Nobody enjoys 'eating out' with me (especially me) because having worked in restaurants I tend to be too critical.
I was in for a very pleasant surprise. We were seated where we could look into the kitchen. All the staff appeared to really be enjoying themselves. Not in a 'goofing off' way, just an efficient friendly atmosphere. The servers were alert and knowledgeable. We shared a carpaccio ap. The best either of use had ever had and we've had carpaccio in some pretty fancy restaurants. My wife ordered the butternut squash and prawns ravioli with a truffle beurre blanc. It was excellent! I had a short rib sandwich with caramelized unions . It was excellent! My God! the plates were even hot! Desert was chocolate lava cake. Again an excellent dish. The restaurant was about 3/4s full. We didn't have to wait to be bread and watered. The dishes arrived promptly but we weren't rushed at all. The music/lighting levels were just right. We didn't order any wine. Total bill with 15% tip was about seventy bucks.
What I really appreciated was whoever owns the twenty something Cactus Clubs has got the plot figured out. Relaxed atmosphere, excellent service, food that tastes like you could be eating at a restaurant costing four times what you are paying The ravioli was as good as I've tasted in any 'fine dining' restaurant at half the price. The prawns were cooked to perfection which is just about impossible to manage in any restaurant) and sensible prices. It was obvious that the 'bottom line' was on the minds of the kitchen staff. I didn't see a scrap thrown away. At one point someone sent a dish back. For a few seconds all the kitchen staff, the expeditor the servers who happened to be at the pass the head of house immediately crowded around the returned dish. The expressions on their faces were like they all were looking at something that had just fallen from outer space onto the pass. Bewilderment/fascinated/concerned. It was apparently something rarely seen by the staff. Then just as fast they all went about their work.
I know what the Cactus Club is and doesn't claim to be. I believe restaurant chains like the Cactus Club are the 'wave of the future' when it comes to 'dining out'. The days of dropping three hundred bucks (less the pretension) on what you can get for less than a hundred are over. (The customers in booth next to us were wearing balls caps and at a six top everyone was all dressed up celebrating a birthday.) The fact that the Cactus Club business model is a success proves it. Ten out of ten!
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