Winter in Brisbane is a beautiful time. T-shirt weather during the day and crisp, clear evenings make it a great time to get out and explore the city. So it was that we ventured to Woolloongabba to the Logan Road antiques/restaurant precinct for a weekend lunch. With street scaping and gentrification of this once shabby strip now complete, you’ll find 1889 Enoteca, Bistrot Bistro, Pearl Cafe and Crosstown Eating House all within walking distance of the Woolloongabba bus terminal and the Gabba itself.
After several laps to check out our options and duck into one of the antiques dealers to get a closer look at a set of samurai kikou (Japanese armour) we decided to try out Crosstown Eating House. Now, I’d heard good things about this place, rave reviews even. Fabulous food in funky casual surroundings was the common theme. Someone really liked the olives. Others liked the share plates. So I’d been curious, and hated to think I was missing out on a good thing. Plenty of patrons were headed through the double door entry so in we went.
Things were a little off from the minute we crossed the transom. Staff were of the awkwardly cool variety and we are just regular 30 somethings. Somewhat reluctantly, a young waitress greeted us and seated us in a corridor at a highish table on what seemed to be science lab stools. Perfectly good tables with actual chairs remained empty. The decor shrieks ‘whimsy’ but doesn’t quite pull it all together. A nautically themed collection of faded & wrinkled prints, long stitch and even a hologram of a cutter ship decorate the walls. The bar is lined with limed pressed metal and the staff are all lumberjack checks, small florals, thick rimmed glasses, combed down haircuts, beards and cardigans.
I love a menu where every dish sounds amazing and you change your mind about what to order a dozen times before a waiter arrives and finally puts you out of your misery by asking you to make a decision. This did not happen at Crosstown. The menu is divided into ‘Tasty Bites’, shared starters, mains and sides. There are just 5 mains with very minimalist descriptions. Given that the chefs are attempting some less than obvious combinations of ingredients, this style of menu doesn’t really work.
Feeling a little unwelcome and uninspired by the menu we skipped the starters and chose a main each – chicken mini roast with baby carrots, potato balls, cauliflower and peas and snapper fillet with oxtail potsticker, sugarloaf and lardons, each $29. Neither of these mains were bad, however the chicken mini roast was in reality part of a small chicken maryland that would appear to have been pan fried then possibly finished off with a short burst in an oven. The peas were like bullets and the cauliflower was a puree sitting in a puddle of chicken juices. It could have been a great example of classic comfort food with better ingredients and technique. The snapper was better, a nice succulent flavoursome fillet atop sautéed sugarloaf cabbage and bacon lardons, but again would have been elevated by a little more attention to detail. The oxtail potsticker had a few dried out shreds of meat encased in something like a dried out ravioli. The cabbage was just on the wrong side of cooked and a little limp and the lardons needed a bit more heat to caramelise and really bring out the sweetness that would have tied all the ingredients together. I am never one to complain about serving sizes, however these were really too small to be called mains.
We found the service and tone of this place confused. For example, there is a thoughtful if somewhat pedestrian wine list with lovely little tasting notes written in an approachable style that makes them really useful to the diner. However, the bottle of Monte Antico 2006 Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot we ordered was plonked down on the table unopened along with two glasses. Apparently cracking a screw cap and pouring a couple of glasses is not part of the job description. Rather disappointingly, this wine was actually described as Sangiovese on the wine list, quite different to the blend they actually served us. The wine was nice enough, but if you are going to go to the trouble of writing tasting notes then really this is Wine List 101.
The staff don’t seem at all engaged with the patrons and our plates were cleared without even a simple enquiry about how we enjoyed our meals. Dessert and coffee weren’t offered and it turns out they don’t even have a coffee machine.
Crosstown Eating House has such promise, but seems to lack the warm welcome and attention to detail that could make it a real winner.