In this edition:
- Festive Glamour: When the festive season throws you an occasion, you need to glam it up.
- Andrew McUtchen looks for fun in cricket with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming.
- Take a look at our Christmas Gift Guide.
Id like to say this wasnt my experience at Jack & Jill Restaurant. But I cant. Almost four years ago Jack & Jill Restaurant emerged high on the hill (hence the catchy name) in the digs that once housed late-night pit stop Joes Café. A much-needed modern facelift has given the space sparkle, with dark wooden tables and leather chairs adding a sophisticated edge alongside those youthful coloured light fittings and playful prints. The kitchen is partially open and, given its proximity to the tables, does a remarkable job keeping the noise at a minimum. The same cant be said of the live acoustic music played in the rustic beer bar upstairs. It charges down the flight of stairs in fits and bursts that make even the feature fur wall appear tame.
The fantastic beer list diverts my attention. It reads like a whos who of the Australian craft beer industry with flavour descriptors accompanying each of the nearly 40 craft beers and ciders on offer. The wine list isnt so compelling; its more about function than fanfare, but it works.
What doesnt work is the service. Admittedly the restaurant is double booked and I arrive 10 minutes late to the first sitting, but after showing myself to the table where my companions await, a waitress abruptly demands not only my drink order but our meal order too. My seat is still cold. My tentative request for help with the menu is met with a bothersome hand-on-hip stance and a response thats more of a statement: Well, what do you want to know? I understand the need for swift service during a double sitting, but curt service bordered on insolent as the rush hour loomed.
The menu promises Swordfish taco, Mexican street food. I envisage zesty, bright flavours full of heat and liveliness, but what arrives is a swordfish fillet crowned with smoky, thick tomato sugo and a lick of yoghurt. It rests on a cold, doughy taco that requires a quick sizzle in a hot pan to make it edible.
A golden filo parcel hits the mark. Its a lesson in stylish simplicity, stuffed with heady braised forest mushrooms and couscous for added texture. It arrives resting on a strip of garlicky aïoli with two balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes.
Baked polenta is a winner, too. The square of creamy polenta proved the perfect base for a teepee of asparagus spears, quartered juicy figs, and gorgonzola chunks.
Rockmelon yoghurt is an interesting accompaniment to a tomato stuffed with eggplant curry and rice. The spiciness of the curry allows little room for other flavours to shine. I like the mini pappadum, even if it had lost its crunch by the time I got to it.
For dessert I tackled a peach and baked-ricotta tart. It wasnt constructed with care. The baked ricotta carelessly spooned into a precooked shell and scattered with juicy baked peaches. Decorative toffee and a spiral of Persian fairy floss attempted but failed to conceal the mess.
Jack & Jill would have served more than 90 covers that Friday evening and, aside from my table, I didnt see anyone else looking forlorn. Id like to put my experience down to Mills having taken a night off and try it next time with her at the helm.
Jack & Jill Restaurant, 247 Moorabool Street, Geelong
Chef/owner Leonie Mills
Prices Focaccia $12.50-$15.50; mains $30.50-$35.50; desserts $12.50-$14.50
Open Saturday to Wednesday 6-10pm; Thursday-Friday noon-2.30pm, 6-10pm
Phone 5229 9935
Score Worth a look