Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The New Wine Lounge East Bay St Nassau

With such an enticing name, I was strongly drawn to this establishment. Now open for about a month, The Juggernaut and I went along for a weekend dinner. Amos, the manager greeted us with buckets full of charm and charisma. Inside the sweet little building,  amber lights were dimmed and ochre walls were flanked with sleek racks proudly displaying bottles of all things vineous. The restaurant was almost  full, with a mix of drinkers and diners, from glammed up girls to  grown up families. Lively banter reverberated around the room. Easy listening tunes played in the background at a polite volume.

The wine list offered a selection of familiar grapes Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Merlots, Malbecs , mostly from California, Chile and Argentina. A little restrictive considering the great drops hailing from Western Europe, Australia and South Africa. It would be nice to see some more adventurous wines from further afield. Wines can be tasted in small quantities before committing to a bottle. We ordered a bottle of Californian Tempranillo for $40 and got stuck in.

The eclectic menu had a real mish mash of food from Asian to Italian. There were a long list of tapas, not of Spanish origin, that included lemongrass shrimp skewer and mini beef Wellingtons, from $10. There were also some jazzy sounding pizzas such as the ‘Napastyle’; prosciutto and goats cheese with figs poached in syrah ($22) and the ‘Yukon gold’ potatoes, mushroom in white truffle cream ($24). There was also the mysterious Gluten and Casin free pizza, which mentioned no ingredients at all but had the allergic’s best interests at heart.

We started with a portion of tempura crab cakes ($15) between us. They arrived looking a bit uninspiring, two brown lumps with a pot of sticky stuff, the pineapple salsa. There wasn’t much crab in them at all and I couldn’t distinguish the pineapple. Oh well.
For main course I opted for the Hog snapper with a creamy Vidalia onion and blackcurrant cabernet sauce ($29). J went for the lamb burger ($20); ‘a burger like no burger I’ve tasted before,’ declared Amos. He couldn’t recommend it enough. The main courses arrived before our plates had been cleared, as though we were being rushed through. My fish was surrounded by a thick lumpy sauce and accompanied by a neat pile of lettuce with dainty slivers of tangerine in it.  I have to confess I wasn’t chomping at the bit to eat it. I stared at it whilst we waited for cutlery.
My fish wasn’t terribly fresh. The onion sauce was technically gravy and really would have been much more at home with some really nice roast chicken. I lost interest in hacking at it after a while. The burger, unfortunately, didn’t really taste of lamb . It was lost amongst the cinnamon and other spices. It desperately needed some fries with it too.

I glanced back at the bar. A man was happily yanking cheese strands from a tasty looking pizza. Quite a few of the other diners had ordered pizza. I think this was a wise move. And it soaks up the booze well too. Plenty of room left for dessert, we ordered a chocolate pannacotta with banana caramel and roasted nuts ($9) from a list including guava duff pizza and guava rum cake with homemade coconut ice cream. There was clearly a glut of guavas to be used up! I felt a strong urge for some dessert wine but my desires, alas, could not be sated. The shipment had not arrived at the dock yet. The pannacotta arrived in a martini glass looking irresistible.  A creamy concoction of chocolate, banana, cinnamon and a little bit of crunch from the nuts, it went some way in redeeming the previous courses.

I see the Wine Lounge first and foremost as  a watering hole, despite the ambitious menu. I’d come back to work my way through the wine list and share some pizza but thought the food we tried was inconsistent and overpriced. I hope to be proven wrong. There were definitely a few holes in the service, which could be forgiven as teething problems. However, the central location, welcoming staff, a good choice of wines and the cosy atmosphere will ensure a steady clientele.