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You would be forgiven for thinking you were in Sydney as opposed to the bookend of Stanley’s main dining district as this old Bayside Brasserie space has been treated to a fresh lick of paint and a new Aussie attitude. While we applaud the Chiram Strategic Group for taking their existing restaurant portfolio and giving each one a makeover, its latest project, Rocksalt, is sadly another case of style over substance. The sea view floor-to-ceiling windows, the silky bossa nova tracks, the shaded area and the Bloody Marys all give off an air of laidback serenity - and since its opening in February it has become the new spot for Stanley’s long-lunch brigade - but that’s sadly not the whole story.
It may have been because they were understaffed, or maybe it was because we visited on a busy Sunday, but the service was snail-paced and forgetful. We had to ask for our drinks three times before they were brought to the table. Our bread basket never arrived and the main reason for our visit, to sample their variety of rocksalts, came only after a second request. There was also a rumour doing the rounds that a list of specials existed, but it failed to materialise.
Though the service has to work out its teething problems, the back-to-the-basics menu was a fun read. Composed by Aussie executive chef Timothy Maudson, the menu is filled with no-fuss items that are easy on the eye, such as an all-day breakfast selection, burgers, grilled steaks, pizzas by the foot and a whole variety of pastas. Cuisines from the Old and New Worlds, as well as Japan, appear here in one form or other, while seafood, from crustaceans to river fish, dominates the better part of the menu.
To be fair, despite the rocky service our first course of tomato tart ($68) was a fine choice. It was a simple flakey tart encasing sweet roasted baby tomatoes. The sugar from the tomatoes and the butter from the pastry shell offered the perfect morsel. The main course was a different story, however. The blue-eyed cod with olive and rosemary oil ($208) was just a massive hunk of fish sitting on bed of potato hash, and was nothing to write home about. The fish skin was not crispy enough, perhaps having been left to sit in a steamy kitchen for so long that it gone soggy. It was accented with salt flakes, perhaps to make up for its lack of crackle. The meat itself was dry and tasteless, even for a fatty fish like cod. The Rocksalt fish (snapper) and chips ($148) fared slightly better. The plump meat was sweet and full of juice, while the batter was light and not overly salted (the natural white rock salt was paired with this dish). The chips were double-fried and were complemented by tartar sauce and ketchup. To be fair, this dish fit perfectly with the atmosphere: simple and laidback.
Running a restaurant is never easy, but customers should never be made aware of that. If they are trying to present a down-tempo diner, then they should help the frontline staff lose their furrowed brows, and wipe away the sweat beads streaming off their heads. They try to do good stuff here, and with a little fine tuning they might just pull it off.
25 Stanley Market Rd, Stanley, 2899 0818. Mon-Fri noon-11pm, Sat & Sun11am-11.30pm. Meal for two: $500.