Char Restaurant, Darwin
When you are in Darwin it is hard not to notice all the advertisements for the hugely popular Char Restaurant. I have walked past it many times as I have walked down the Darwin esplanade so I figured that its only fair that I give it a go. Char Restaurant has received many awards for their food, wine list and a range of other things. The most recent awards received from the Australian Hotel’s Association include the 2010 Best Steak Restaurant and 2010 Best Stand Alone Restaurant. My five acquaintances and I made a booking for Tuesday night and went along. It was surprisingly busy for a Tuesday night so it was lucky that we booked. The first thing you notice about Char, even if you are just walking past, is the atmosphere – it’s great. The lantern and tree filled grounds of the heritage listed Admiralty House provide the perfect backdrop for a special dinner.
On entry we were greeted with great enthusiasm by the maitre d, so much so that myself and MF turned to each and said “Wow, he was nice”. We were given a restaurant card with the booking name on it take to the bar area for the tab while while we waited for our friends to arrive. I had a glass of Stella Bella Sauvignon Blanc (WA) while MF had a Heineken. The wine list was quite comprehensive with the cheapest glass of wine being $13, I thought this was a bit steep. We sat on one of the comfy lounges under a large tree and drank our beverages while we waited. When our other friends arrived the attentive maitre d came over with menu’s in hand and asked if we would like to move to our table. On arrival at our table we took our seats and were introduced to our waiter for the evening who I found a little hard to understand but then again I am terrible with accents. The waiter was very knowledgeable with the menu and told us the specials for the evening without any prompting, something you would expect from an award-winning restaurant like Char. I have to admit the menu did sound delicious, particularly the items on the Jellyfish menu, however since I was at a steak restaurant that had won awards for its steak I decided I should probably have a steak. Again, we pretty much skipped the entrees apart from the bread which a few of us ordered. Char corn Rolls with Moo Jus Dipping Sauce, Pistachio Dukkah and Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (AU$5). Sounds good huh? It was really just a bread roll with butter and sauce, it wasn’t even warm.
Everyone except one person at the table ordered the same thing and we pretty much chose that item as soon as we spotted it on the menu. Being squid lovers we chose the 250gm Scotch Fillet with Chilli salt squid, roast tomato, green olives and watercress salad (AU$35) while MF ordered the 200gm Eye Fillet with Potato Puree, Broad Bean, Crispy Prosciutto and Horseradish Cream (AU$37). The sauces were all extra ($AU5) and we all ordered the green peppercorn sauce while MG ordered the Red wine jus. I ordered a side of Roast beetroot, Goats Cheese and Orange with my steak (AU$8).
The meals came out very quickly and the first thing that my friends noted was the small portions on the plate. I wasn’t surprised since I do dine out quite regularly and it seems these days the more expensive the restaurant, the less food you get so I was expecting none the less from Char Restaurant . The steaks were cooked to order although I think mine may have been medium, rather than medium rare. I also noticed that the roast tomato was cold, not just ‘it had been left on the plate cold’ but more like ‘just been taken out of the fridge cold’. That was pretty disappointing, and the olives were well, nothing special and I think that olives from the deli section at the local supermarket may have tasted better than these ones. The scotch fillet was nice, not fantastic, and I have to admit that MF, who just happened to be sitting right next to me, actually frequently cooks the best steak I have ever had. The squid, albeit imported, was delicious and this was reiterrated from the other four that ordered the same meal as I did.
MF’s eye fillet looked delicious and tender and he said that it was cooked just right, he didn’t however like the horseradish cream that came with it and left that on the side.
Overall the atmosphere was great, the service was good and so was the food but nothing to write home about really. Char Restaurant? Meh.
Cnr The Esplanade and Knuckey St, Darwin NT 0800
Ph: (08) 8981 4544
Open: Mon-Sun 12.00pm-11pm