Saturday, 10 January 2009

Pearl Cafe, upon closer acquaintance

Pearl Café
599 Church Street, Richmond (map)
9427 1307

Pearl Cafe

I've long been a fan of Geoff Lindsay's cooking, both the food in the formal Pearl restaurant and the more informal bar menu, so I was thrilled six months ago to hear that Pearl Cafe was finally opening, just a few hundred metres up the road from Pearl (ie four minutes walk from my house).

I went along there one weekend morning, looking forward in particular to trying some of the coddled eggs, only to be snootily informed at 11:02am that they were no longer serving breakfast (it stopped at 11) and that if I wanted something to eat I'd have to order from the lunch menu. "Humph, well sod you and your coddled eggs", I grumbled to myself, and didn't return.

Fast forward to several months later and I decided to try it out a second time, going for lunch on Wednesday with K (in Melbourne on furlough from her Top Secret Hush Hush Defence job in Canberra). Upon arrival, I noted with interest that Pearl Cafe now does breakfasts on weekends until 12 noon. Quite right, too!

Pearl Cafe

Somewhat brazenly considering the fact that I'm recovering from illness, I chose the most exotic sounding thing on the menu, the jungle curry of eggplant with "Siamese watercress" (better known to me as kangkung) and bamboo shoots, steamed rice and sour lime pickle ($16).

The dish itself looked great and tasted pretty awesome (I loved the round baby eggplants), but a huge chunk in the centre of the timbale of rice had fused rock-hard and was inedible, no matter how hard I hacked at it with my knife. Boo!

Jungle curry of eggplant

K had the smoked salmon salad ($16) with rocket, red onion, lemon, caper salad dressing and bagel chips. She reported back that she liked the capers but it was otherwise rather unexciting and the dressing was far too oily.

Smoked salmon salad

We pushed on and decided to get something sweet as K had her coffee. The olde time nostalgia factor made me choose a miniature slab of the coconut ice ($4), which was a little denser than I like to make it but still pretty tasty.

Coconut ice

K's Turkish delight ($4), on the other hand, was awesome. And how great does it look in this picture?!

Turkish delight

So there you have it. I'm afraid that I'm still not sold with Pearl Cafe (it appears I'm not alone in finding the attention to detail (ie dishes not cooked properly) somewhat lacking). I find the antiseptic decor a bit off-putting too. What do you reckon - worth one more shot, to try the coddled eggs? Or write it off?

Pearl Cafe


MildlyCrafty said...

Hi Claire, Firstly, thanks for all your restaurant and cafe reviews, I've been out to brekkie at a couple of places you've reviewed and they were great. Went to Porgie & Mr Jones this morning actually. Very tasty!

I got a take away coffee from Pearl cafe a few months ago and it took about 10 minutes! I didn't think that much of the décor either.

Frankster said...

Hmmm did I read correctly? Serving up stale hard rice no matter how nicely it had been re-jigged on the plate seems poor form indeed, for a name such as Pearl.

Anonymous said...

Hi Claire, I really enjoy your reviews! I went to the Pearl cafe about a year ago for lunch and ordered the mussels. For a 3 hat restaurant, my chef friend and I were totally unimpressed. After a long wait, the mussels came out and 3/4 of the shells were unopened! I sent the meal to order another from the menu. I have not been back since.

claire said...

Hi MildlyCrafty! Thanks for your kind words, am glad you liked Porgie & Mr Jones (I must get back there myself, there's still lots on their menu I'd like to try). :)

Hi Towser, alas yes you did read correctly... old rice that had fused together in the centre. Boooo!!!

Hi Anonymous, glad you like the reviews! Hmm, if it was a year ago it was probably Pearl restaurant rather than the cafe, the cafe only opened in about June. Bad luck with the mussels! I used to love them but nowadays tend to steer clear of them (really bad food poisoning once in France)... :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Claire
I am heavily involved in the industry, and i have given pearl cafe two goes, and been appalled both times... the first time they acted like rock stars, and the attitude was incredible.. the food was nothing to write home about... the second time was a joke... we though we would give it another go, so we ordered the baked eggs with ham, overcooked, tasteless, took 40 mins to come out and was served with cold toast and no butter... we paid our $50 (with a couple of 'ok' coffees) walked out in disgust (we couldnt eat the eggs dish..) and popped around to Richmond Hill Cafe _+ Larder for a real breakfast... amazing... they should leave breakfast up to the places that know real food and what people wany.. like Porgie + Mr Jones haha!!!

ice tea: sugar high said...

Hmm.. I apparently the only one who had been having pleasant experiences at Pearl. I work just directly across the street, so Pearl cafe often become my lunch venue when I feel the need for a little bit of splurge. Their prices might be the only thing that I object from the cafe. Especially the coffee (3.50$ for a regular latte? GOSH! not a fantastic one too).

Their chicken salad, chicken curry and long & short soup is one of my favourites. The crowd can be quite stuck up sometimes, but the waiters are very friendly. We're almost on first name basis right now.

Too bad i've been hearing a lot of bad reviews..