The Precinct is one of the more exciting restaurants that have placed itself in the bustling café strip of Victoria Park. With so many new comers to the business, the Precinct is one of the few that have received fairly good reviews for its environment and ambience. Stepping in, the graffiti scribbled wall in an industrial setting definitely gave the place a feel which I can only describe as “roomy with a sense of activity”.
The group sitting area with the colorful and inspiring graffiti. Is that Queen Elizabeth? Definitely not my grandmothers for sure hehe.
For starters the group of us decided to share a Whitebait with Beer Aioli and Chicken Wings with Nam Jim sauce:This is my first time having Whitebaits and it was a little more than what I expected. It was not crispy through as I thought it would be. It still has a meaty texture in the center with a stronger than expected fishiness. More importantly was how well this would have went with drinks instead of the water we had. This was unexpectedly salty. Perhaps Whitebaits are beer foods!
The saving grace for our appetizer was the Chicken Wings with Nam Jim sauce. I enjoyed the sauce a whole lot as it was a smartly played concoction of sweet, sour and saltiness. But at the end, the chicken especially the wing felt a little dry for my liking.The chicken were not cooked to a level which it was meant to be. It felt slightly drier than expected but the sauce gave it the much needed moisture and flavors.
As for our mains we all called what we thought was nice and decided to share it out:The fishman ordered steak frites with slow cooked egg in medium. A picture tells a thousand word and what does it tell you about the beef? At best, the steak was a medium – well-done. The relish gave a refreshing fix to the Potato Gaufrettes which some has described as no more than store bought chips. But it was not that bad. Additionally, fishman complained that the slow cooked egg was overdone as the center was not runny as we had hoped.
Good friend and fellow blogger Glenn ordered the ‘Lancashire hot pot’, lamb, potato, pickled cabbage. When it arrived, it looked like a reinterpretation of its original form. We had expected a homely casserole style dish with root vegetables but this was totally irregular. Perfectly arrange slices of lamb topped with pickled cabbage led the pack. First bite in and I though it was ok as the lamb was soft but tender enough it was not. All the benefits of a hot pot seems rather redundant in this dish. It needed more tenderness or some sort of moisture. Perhaps a hotpot sauce spooned over the beautiful arrangement was all it needed? At least that was what we thought.
For me, I played it safe following the recommendation of another blogger who had eaten there awhile ago. The half roasted chicken, Jerusalem artichokes, jus. Unlike conventional roast, the chicken had a slightly crispy skin and a really tender inside. A tender inside which was so very lacking in all its other dish. The sauce until now remains a mystery. Glenn reckons a marmite mix but I had absolutely no idea. Definitely no ordinary jus or reduction here. My tender chicken pieces were accompanied by a very nice side of what seemed like pureed chestnuts and an assortment of root vegetables. This was by far the highlight of the night.
The girls decided to share a whole fish stuffed with fish herbs and lemon. After the little darling and I had some pretty damn good meals at Nine Fine Food and Fuku in the past fortnight, she was absolutely devastated to be served something like that. For starters, the fish has not been cleaned properly leaving a horrible odor in the stomach. To make matter worse, the fish still had scales on its belly and the tail section. To top it all, the dry fish and quinoa absolutely did not make things any better. In an attempt to get it fixed, I asked for some sauce where none came out until we decided to settle with some beer aioli, for which we were charged an extra $2. I really am surprised that a fish dish can come out so unpredictably. This is clearly a warning sign for anyone who think a serve of fish in a place like this is a good idea.
To finish off our meal, the little darling had to have her dessert after a disappointing main.Between the 5 of us, we shared two desserts. The first was a bread and butter pudding. This to me felt like a very catchy way to serve a bread pudding. But to serve a whole chunk is asking for trouble. The moisture was not well spread making it hard to eat. For me, it would have been heaps better if it was arranged in alternating layers of custard and bread making it a very moist experience. Sigh.. at least the sauce was rather fragrant.
We also called a banofee pie which might seems a little deceptive as we expected a classic English banana and toffee pie. At Precinct, they have reinterpreted the dish with a crumbly layer ontop of a sweetened banana paste followed by a dark chocolate bottom. On my first spoonful, I was thrown of by its extreme sweetness which immediately shut my senses such that the bread pudding had absolutely no taste anymore. But going back for seconds, it was not the chocolate but rather an overly sweet banana layer that was horrible. In fact, the chocolate felt pretty good. It was a dark chocolate bottom that felt somewhat like Koko Black’s Belgian Chocolate Mousse. Nonetheless, a simple English Pie with banana and toffee would have really made the day.
At the end we left slightly disappointed, probably more them than me considering out of the 4 mains we ordered, only mine had a above average quality in it. The starters were mediocre and the desserts were out of touch. A saving grace was that the waitress that served us was really friendly. But her power only goes so far as to serve and in the kitchen, that is where all that quality should have been. Urbanspoon reviews does not seem to be heading in favor of the restaurant as well because customers who have revisited the place since it had opened felt a declining quality too. Did its popularity got the best of it or was it just a busy Friday? Perhaps one or none but either ways, it will take a lot of convincing before we return.