The Meat House – Coolalinga

I have visited The Meat House once before while exploring for somewhere new to eat about 12 months ago. Since that visit an additional restaurant has opened up at Coolalinga. Based on my initial experience at The Meat House, and watching the second store being constructed, in my mind this emerging restaurant chain may just be the Caitlyn Jenner of restaurants – it’s struggling for an identity.

The website says modern Australian with a twist, and they also take great pride in their Sri Lankan roots, spices, and recipes. The polished granite table tops scream fine dining, but the metallic gold Tolex-inspired dining chairs and open-wide-to-all shopfront tell me cafe. Street cafe. Yet the bar running through the centre of the eating area with the cashier station attached also suggests bistro. The interior decorating is a mix of industrial with Asian furnishings… And while the menu wants to tell you pub food, the prices complete this journey by returning us back to fine dining.

None of this matters, as at the end of the day I’m more likely to remember a food establishment for its 1) taste, and 2) value for money. Put simply, if I’m going to pay more, I’m going to expect more.

My first experience with the meat house – albeit at another location – was disastrous, leading to my hypothesis that you should only order meals that an establish claim they specialise in. For example, don’t go ordering the fish and chips from an Indian curry house…

On this recent visit I ordered the 500g T-bone steak, cooked rare. The menu said it was to be cooked to perfection with seasonal vegetables in textures, and of the potato varieties on offer I was positively salivating at the thought of the roast kipfler potatoes. To accompany the meal I chose the red wine jus on the side…

On paper, the deal was sound. If not a bit ‘pubby’. At the price charged, I was expecting a great plate full of food, but noting the struggle for identity I really had no idea what too expect.

What was presented was a generously sized T-bone. I don’t doubt that it once upon a time weighed in at 500g. I could tell it was well rested, and though I ordered it cooled rare, it was an unappealing pale grey colour. The seasonal vegetables consisted of two beans, the length of my little finger, a broccoli floret cut in half, two slivers of zucchini the length of the beans, and what was explained to me as a beetroot purée. There was also something else dark green, cooked to – and tasting like – cinders. The roast kipflers had a deathly palour to them, were limp and soggy, but were accompanied by a heaping of crispy potato shavings on top of the steak. The red wine jus resembled a hearty gravy….

Back to the T-bone, and unfortunately the sirloin side was layer after layer of gristle. When I got to the meat, it simply tasted bland and stewed. The fillet side sadly looked or tasted no better. There appeared to be no seasoning, sizzling or searing and the meat had seemed to loose all it’s colour. The vegetables – what I could recognise – were excellent. The cinders I never worked out what they were, and the beetroot puree appeared to be little more than thickened cream coloured with beetroot with a hit of chilli.

What pictures conjure in your mind at the thought of roast potatoes. Certainly not the soft, limp, colourless kipflers that I was presented with on the night. If it wasn’t for a hint of smokiness in their flavour I would have suggested that they were simply boiled. And the jus? I am convinced that the thick creamy sauce was simply a gravy – yet no mushrooms, no garlic taste, no heat from cracked pepper, and certainly no red wine present.

My hypothesis was shot out of the window. After extracting what meat I could I returned to the kitchen a plate of bone and gristle and the gravy untouched, apart from sampling. Regarding table service, apart from taking the order and clearing the plates, there was no follow up or checking in with me by the wait staff. When leaving, the cashier asked me for feedback while paying the bill. I gave him a condensed version of what you have just read here, only to be promptly asked for my contact details so that I could receive feedback after debriefing the chef. I have yet to hear back.

Overall, I don’t understand The Meat House and the praise that it has received online. However it must be doing something right. I can generally find the positives in any meal, but in this instance I struggle – the taste just wasn’t there. Even if the menu price of the T-bone dinner was $10 less it would not have been value for money. I wish The Meat House all the best, but if things continue the way they do, it will be quite some time before I chose to return.

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