Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: Andiamo

I had a very pleasant evening out over the weekend. Having owed my schoolmate Rich a decent dinner for a number of months now, I spent quite some time on Saturday looking for a restaurant that would feel sufficiently upmarket, without him feeling like I was going to place my hand tenderly on his knee between courses and tell him how much our relationship meant to me. Andiamo was the answer.

The restaurant has been in the wars a bit recently, what with missing out on this year's Metro Top 50 and getting one star out of five in some glossy publication (Canvas I think). The main thrust of that latter review was that the waitstaff acted like you were extremely privileged even to be allowed into the building, with the food acting as a further deterrent to sticking around for long.

Historically I have experienced a hint of this sullenness myself, usually when popping in between meal times for a coffee or a drink, but on Saturday there was none of it – everyone was most eager to please. I'd agreed on the phone that we would vacate our 6.30 table at 8pm, and when this time rolled around a little faster than expected the only person who really seemed worried was me.

“Would you like me to finish this pasta at the bar?” I asked our attractive Chilean waitress about a dozen times.

“Is okay”, she kept assuring me in broken English. “Is very exciting for us to have such a handsome and gifted wine expert sitting in our restaurant.”

She didn't actually say that last part but I could tell she meant it. You see earlier in the night I'd told her I was torn between two different wine choices, and would it be possible for me to try them both? That was when she decided to conduct an impromptu blind tasting at our table, encouraging me to tell her which wine was which, and which I liked the best. I picked correctly, and although Rich quite unkindly suggested that she would have told me I was right even if I wasn't, I'm still clinging to the infinitely more exciting conclusion that I can tell the difference between Spanish and Italian reds in a highly pressurised environment.

I love almost any departure from the script in a restaurant, and that was just the sort of cool little glimpse of personality that you wouldn't expect to occur at a Herne Bay fine dining institution resting on its laurels.

The food was really really good too. Delicious scallops served with a herby, chorizo-ish, apple jelly-type scenario for entree and oxtail rigatoni for my main. It's a mostly Italian menu, except for the last option under 'Mains', almost $10 cheaper than anything else on the list, which is a Thai Chicken Curry. So maybe they downloaded a restaurant menu template from the internet and forgot to remove the example dish. I did that with the work experience section of a CV template once and ended up getting a job interview for a midwife position, so stranger things have happened.