Apologies in advance for the length of this review, I do hope it helps some of you though.
I was up in Sydney yesterday and stopped in at the Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst for dinner. We went with their Beer & Food Matching Banquet at $48 a head including matched beers.
Overall, it was a mixed experience. Individually, the courses and beers were good but put together in the way they were, it was a repetitive and uninspiring meal.
We started off with some very good marinated olives with bread and a decent olive oil. The first real course was a dish of Abondigas in a fairly spicy, tomato based sauce. The dish was unbalanced with the chilli dominating. It was also slightly annoying that there was an odd number of meatballs on a plate designed to be split between two. The beer match was Trumer Pils which while okay, could not stand up to the flavours.
The next course was a nice, crispy school prawn dish with chilli salt and a chilli aioli. The dish was paired with Little Creatures Pale Ale. The prawns themselves were fine, though not as good as those I've had previously at Cumulus, Inc in Melbourne. The beer match again failed to fire with there being no significant synergy between the items.
The next dish was a Hoegaarden cured gravad lax paired with Hoegaarden witbier. This was okay but the lightly flavoured, subtle salmon was dominated by the lingering chilli from the last two dishes. The beer match here was the most successful of the evening with the lightly tart, citrussy wheat beer playing off nicely with the slightly oily salmon.
The final savoury course was a spicy, pork rib paired with Budvar lager. Again, we get a heavily chilli dominated dish paired with a lightly flavoured lager which fails to accentuate anything. I get the feeling that the kitchen really isn't trying with these dishes as they lack and sort of subtlety. On the positive side, the ribs are literally falling off the bone.
The dessert course is a Chocolate Mousse made with porter and served with 5 Islands Brewing Bulli Black Porter. The mousse itself was acceptable if unremarkable with an odd garnish of basil and under-ripe blackberry. This was the worst beer pairing of the night. I normally like dark, malty beers with chocolate desserts but the Bulli Black was too dry and failed to complement the food.
If there was a running theme through this meal it was a sense that the menu was disjointed and not well thought out. Even for this spicy food lover, the overdone chilli in a majority of the course was off-putting. There was no flow to the meal and this was also reflected in the beer choices which appear to be aimed not at showcasing the possibilities but at using the cheapest beers available and hoping they at least weren't awful. The rich, spicy food being served called for hoppier beers and in some cases maltier beers. I had the pleasure of trying a number of beers after dinner which I felt would have been better matches (Feral Hop Hog IPA, Flying Dog Horn Dog Barleywine, Red Hill Harvest Ale, Murray's Punch & Judy).
The last problem for the evening was the service. The Local Taphouse has two seatings. We were part of the first seating and knew that our table had to be free by 8pm. While the service was generally friendly, it was a bit slow (easily 10 minutes between courses) and thus we being rushed to finish our last two courses so they could have the table.
Overall, a meal where the whole was worse than the components. The value probably isn't quite there and the kitchen really needs to think more about the combinations they use. I'll be back for the beer but would be wary of letting this kitchen guide the menu.
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