When it comes to restaurants, there are two things we struggle to forgive: overpricing and bad service. Unfortunately, relocated Jordanian eatery Al Petra was guilty of both on our visit.
Formerly on Kimberley Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Al Petra moved to its new location in Central at the end of last year. The new Noho space is surprisingly large, with a small bar area on the ground floor aimed at the cocktails-and-shisha crowd, and a spacious dining room downstairs. We must confess at this point that we’ve never actually been to Jordan, but the theme-park-esque faux rock walls didn’t strike us as hugely authentic. Once seated, however, we were impressed by the extensive menu of thoughtfully described Jordanian dishes, and a wine list that included tipples from Lebanon and Morocco. Indeed, it’s lucky we had lots to read as it was a further ten minutes before anyone came to take our order. Perhaps it was our bad luck to be there on a night when a table of 12 (the only other diners in the place) was commanding all the attention of the staff, but that didn’t make it any less infuriating, and it continued throughout our meal.
When the waitress finally wandered in our direction, we opted to start with the ‘hommos belhama’ ($95), a smooth chickpea puree served with minced lamb, pine nuts and pita bread, and a tabbouleh salad ($90) of parsley, bulgur wheat, tomatoes, onion and mint. We’d been accustomed to a slightly thicker, rougher consistency of hummus, but this smoother version offered reasonable dipping fodder, while the tabbouleh offered a welcome and refreshing counterpoint. The rosé we ordered to drink wasn’t available, but the barman’s recommendation of a 2006 Halana merlot ($450) from Morocco was a decent, if rather pricier, replacement. It was to prove a rare highlight.
Of our two mains, the first to arrive was the Jordanian national dish of mensaf ($250). Now, presentation isn’t everything, but for $250 we expect something better than a dish that looks like the pictures you wonder why they bother to put above the counter in kebab shops. Three medium-sized chunks of braised lamb on the bone had been plonked on a plate with some Arabic rice topped with pine nuts and almonds, along with a bowl of jameed (goat’s milk yogurt) sauce. Taste-wise, it was an enjoyable mix of typical Middle Eastern flavours, but how they can charge $250 for this dish (and several of their menu items) was beyond us. The ‘samake fele’ ($250), a lightly spiced fish filet drowned in a thick and tangy sauce of tomato, onion and peppers, left us with much the same impression. With so many other Middle Eastern spots in Central offering similar fare at far better value (Habibi, Kasbah, Sahara and Olive to name a few) we wondered who other than desperately homesick Jordanians would opt for this place.
And dessert? The one choice (baklava) was unavailable due to ‘shipping problems’. We were glad of the excuse to linger here no longer.
G/F, 97 Wellington Street, Central, 2736 6041. Daily noon-2.30pm & 5pm-midnight. Meal for two without wine: around $800.
|Venue name:||Al Petra (Closed)|