31 December 2009

Sugar Train Townsville - From Woeful to Wonderful

Have you ever had such a bad meal at a Restaurant that you felt compelled to write to them and tell them about it?

Have you ever wondered, at a later date, whether they did anything about it?

While I highly doubt that this had anything to do with my feedback – a few months ago when I stayed at the Grand Mercure Apartments in Townsville, I ordered Room Service. It was one of those odd set ups where the Restaurant was on the Ground Floor of the Hotel, but was run independently and provided Room Service as another facet of their business.

Anyhow, I digress. I got in late, I was starving and decided to sample their menu. I hate to say it - but the entire meal was a complete and utter disaster. I was impressed when I read the menu… but any compliments ended there.

The soup was a Chicken Consomm√© with Fried Dumplings. I assumed that because they were fried – they would be served on the side to preserve the texture. I was wrong. I also assumed that the consomm√© would actually taste like the chicken it was named after. Again - I was wrong. It was little more than tepid water with the oil from the dumplings floating on top. Completely tasteless and gross.

Next up was the Parmesan and Thyme Crusted Chicken Breast on Mushroom Risotto. Another Epic Fail. The crust was soggy and salty, and the thyme was the dried variety instead of fresh… the actual chicken breast was fine – once you scraped the "crust" off – but the risotto was cold, gluey and although the grey colouring gave hint of the mushroom presence – I couldn’t actually taste any… weird.

Last but not least – Raspberry Semifreddo... that had melted into a pool – I can only guess it was left under the heat lamps while the waiter got the Room Service tray ready… while tasty, the definition of Semifreddo is “Semi Frozen” – this was more semi liquid… when you have to drink your dessert off the plate like some kind of feral cat, this too is an epic fail.

So yes. I was starving and by this hour of the night, out of options. I ate what I could of my disaster meal and then called my mother to complain. The very next day, I emailed the Hotel and the Restaurant to give them my feedback.

While I was honestly unsure if the meal would have been any better had it been served in the Restaurant – regardless, they needed to provide a menu that was both suitable for their clientele and would survive the trip from the Kitchen to the Guests Room. I never heard back from them so just assumed that it was filed under D for “Delete”.

On my next visit I was thrilled (and relieved) to discover that they had done a complete menu overhaul. The new menu was filled with tasty, Sales Rep friendly meals (you don’t always feel like Duck a la Orange you know) that had the potential to arrive at your room in edible condition.

I am delighted to tell you that my next meal from Sugar Train was wonderful. I was skeptical without trying to be too judgemental – but I was completely won over. Don’t worry – these meals were over the course of 2 days – I’m not that much of a pig!!

Mushroom Gnocchi with Spinach –
Lovely, bouncy parcels of gnocchi with a nice variety of mushrooms and super fresh spinach. Very simple but very nicely done. My only suggestion was that it needed more of a sauce (even just a splash of cream?) to tie the ingredients together – make them more of a dish rather than an ensemble of ingredients.

Pancetta rolled Pork Loin with Root Vegetables and Chutney –
Pork was perfectly cooked, sweet and tender with the Pancetta giving it a lovely salty balance. The root vegetables were divine – roasted until just slightly caramelized and topped with the sweet and tart chutney. The surprise of this dish was the parsnip smear. The parsnip was earthy and sweet as you would expect but this had been pureed with a gorgeous blend of curry spices. Completely unexpected, but highly enjoyable – and funnily enough, paired with the chutney – it rounded out the dish well.

Lemon Curd Parfait –
I actually groaned when I saw this. When I ordered it I imagined a tall glass of frozen lemon curd ice cream with some delicious little citrus segments… or something similar at the very least. What I got was an orange dome. “Ah crap” I thought, well 2 out of 3 aint bad. Just a pity that dessert is my favorite meal of the day… but I ate my words – and my dessert – quite happily. It was a parfait – just in dome form. It wasn’t too cheek-suckingly tart, it was creamy enough to feel naughty (like any good dessert should) and the segments of grapefruit had just enough bite to cut through the delicious cream.

So Suga Train, while I don't think your changes have anything to do with me - congratulations on being adaptive and I'm really looking forward to eating with you again!

So dear Reader, what's the worst Restaurant meal you have ever had?
Suga Train  Restaurant and Bar
Palmer Street

*They don't have a website, a listing in Yellow Pages or even in the local Townsville Business Directory - if you want to go here... you'll have to do it the old fashioned, hunting way.
Get in a car and find it. Sorry. 

SugarTrain on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. It's great you gave them a second chance - maybe they are under new management?