Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cream Cafe Bar, Canberra

Back to Canberra for a visit last weekend and a group of us had dinner at a new restaurant, Cream. I was a litle taken aback upon entry with the bright flourescent lights but realised once seated that whilst it was different, it did work. My initial impression is that Cream tries to cover too many bases: Restaurant, Bar and Cafe all in one, instead of doing one thing well. However I later reaslied that Canberra needs somewhere like this to lift the profile of dining in Canberra. Whilst they are not raising the bar in quality by any stretch, they are re-setting the bar in terms of style. Canberra's nightlife has always been questionned and as far as I know this is the first place where you can enjoy a good meal or just have a couple of drinks.

Unfortunately Cream already has a reputation for particularly slow staff. The organiser of our dinner opted for a banquet because she thought it might mean our meals arrived at the table in a more timely fashion. No such luck. We were all seated within 30 minutes of our 7.30 pm booking. The waitress kindly came and opened our bottles of wine but we then sat there for 5-10 minutes longer before someone realised that wine glasses might come in handy. I'm not sure whether it was because the wait staff weren't very good or because they were understaffed, but attention to detail was not a focus.
The first half of our banquet was inspiring. Delicious dips with pita and garlic turkish bread filled the growing hunger until the tapas plates arrived. Marinated olives sat alongside rocket and parmesan salad. Prawn wontons were crisply fried and tasted of lime, however the chilli balsamic dipping sauce was nowhere to be seen. Salt and pepper marinated quail was flavoursome and a pleasure to eat whilst the roma tomatoes stuffed with goats cheese with red wine balsamic syrup were definitely something new for Canberra.

Sadly the quality stopped here. Considering we had a 7.30pm booking, the long wait between our tapas plates and main course started to drain us. One diner who had to leave at 10pm missed her mains altogether. Just after 10 large bowls of pasta and pad thai arrived almost as an afterthought. The website states "served in tradition banquet fashion" so I can only assume they were aiming for the current trend of communal eating. Instead, given the wait, I felt like the chef had forgotten us then thrown something together at the last minute. The Conchiglie Putanesca seemed like something I would whip up on a Sunday night with a tin of tomatoes and some frozen veges. The Pappardelle however was something different. Piping hot lamb sat amongst the pasta ribbons and simply fell apart on the fork, nevermind melt in your mouth. Perhaps we waited so long because they were slow-cooking the lamb to order. I would almost say the wait was worth it.
Overall I would say don't go to Cream to experience new heights in Dining. But do go to lift the profile of eating in Canberra. If this restaurant does well hopefully more of it's kind will open, which is exactly what Canberra's eating scene needs. We can only hope the quality will follow shortly after.


kazari_lu said...

Hi Ali,

We've done lunch there. Can't say I was overly impressed with the service, but the food was ok.

Next time you're looking for a drinksy/dinnery place in Canberra, maybe Das Kapital in Griffith? They're not too bad. Or Debacle for the more casual. think Little Creatures in Fremantle, or one of those odd waterside places in Darling Harbour. without the water :(

Ali-K said...

Thanks Kazari_lu, I thought of you when I wrote this post. I was a big fan of debacle when I lived in Canberra. Especially the 2-for-1 Pizza Tuesdays. I tried to go there for breakfast the same weekend I went to Cream, but it was bright and early Sunday morning, before my flight, and they hadn't opened yet.