You may be familiar with the saying “Jack of all trades – master of none”. I have worked along tradesmen who personified this quip (I don’t think I even made it to the ‘Jack’ bit) and I met mechanics who also seemed to fit this bill. There are a number of food places that seem to fit this bill as well, but scratch underneath the surface and you see that they master in other areas – if not in cuisine, then genre. Maybe it’s a health food bar taking cues from around the world – or maybe it’s a takeaway doing ‘pizza, pasta, and curry’ but they excel at using spices… The Groove Train at Casuarina, to me, is also a Jack of all trades.
I am very aware that I am just a punter, and these reviews are just a punters perspective – but at the end of the day, if I sit down at a menu and scratch my head trying to work out what the place is doing well, then I guarantee that others do too. While there is merit in being all things to all men, a restaurant that tries to cater with something for everyone with over 100 dishes on the menu just starts my head spinning. From Asian to Mediterranean; bistro-style steak dishes to healthy food bar options, I have often struggled to categorise The Groove Train.
I have eaten here several times before, and I have always been impressed by the timeliness of delivery and presentation. I have been less impressed, however, by the taste and the time for an order to be taken. I recently found myself invited to the The Groove Train for a mid-week dinner and took my time in selecting a meal from the extensive menu. I decided it was time to try their pizzas and ordered on this occasion the Capriccio, and a small skinny flat white coffee.
One thing that always strikes me about The Groove Train is the number of flies inside. This is common to most food places within the same vicinity. Why? I have no idea. But it’s certainly not appealing. Soon my coffee arrived.
One reason why I like a small skinny coffee is purely to maximise the taste. On this visit the small cup became a mug – their mistake, no charge – and unfortunately what could have been a great coffee became a milky weak latte. A shame. And soon after that the Cappricio pizza arrived at the table. Piping hot.
And smelled heavenly. So far, so good. Things usually are up to this point. However I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted the first slice and it was perfect. They certainly nailed this item. The crust was not over cooked in any way and had a wonderful smokiness cooked into it. And not soggy at all – some other pizzerias could do well to try this base. On top, the wonderfulness continued with chunky smoked ham, mushrooms, and kalamata olives sitting in a bed of mozzarella on top of a subtle napoli sauce.
One of my pet hates is food that you can eat raw being overcooked in the oven. Here I wasn’t disapointed; the mushrooms were slightly dried but had still retained their shape; the ham had retained a beautiful red / pink blush; and the olives still moist and juicy. Some would argue that the ham, olives, and mozzarella had together created too much saltiness, and certainly the pizza did have a salty headiness to it, but certainly nothing over the top. The sauce was subtle – not oily or greasy at all – and just noticeable over the taste of the mozzarella. As is often the case when a crisp base cools down, it seems to get a little tougher and a steak knife would have been preferred in order to cut through the base (and cleanly through the toppings), rather than an ineffective dinner knife.
Sadly, the table service was a bit… lacking. Typically, you are are greeted promptly and seated and served with a bottle of water and a menu. And then the staff disappear. After an uncomfortably long period, I usually find myself craning my neck trying to get someone’s – anyone’s – attention who might be interested in taking my order. This visit was no different. Then once the meals are served I usually won’t see anyone around me again until the plates are cleared away quite some time after eating. Despite trying to get someone’s attention – and the place wasn’t particularly busy when I visited – I couldn’t get hold of a steak knife. Just a small frustration along with the constant waving away of the flies.
We must have spent another hour at the table after the meal just chatting away; ample opportunities for staff to try and sell us a cold beverage, or perhaps another coffee. But no staff even ventured our way.
At the end of the evening, the pricing was really quite reasonable for what was perhaps my best ever food tasting at The Groove Train. A small tasty cup of coffee and some interaction from the staff would have really made my night. But nonetheless, despite the menu suggesting to me a ‘Jack of all trades’ approach, I think I have finally found The Groove Trains specialty – simple, tasty wood fired pizzas that are cooked just right.