What a night! I was asked to review a restaurant in Brisbane tonight – arriving at 6:30. Because we don’t have daylight savings in Queensland it starts getting dark at 6:30, so I wanted to arrive early enough to take photos outside. We arrived at 6:10 and I explained to the person behind the counter who I was and she said it was fine for me to take as many photos as I wished. She also said she had no idea that I was coming. Not a good sign but not every staff member knows everything and I wasn’t concerned.
6:30 came and nothing happened other than 3 coffees. At 6:45 I asked if the person who’d invited me was on the reservation list – “Ummm, let me check.”
A few minutes later I was given a sticky note with the PR person’s phone number and she said, “We tried calling her but there’s no answer.” At 7pm we left.
Brisbane is an hour and a half drive so it’s not like going down the street to meet someone and I’ll admit that I wasn’t too pleased. We could have stayed to eat there but I had no idea if all the tables were booked and they were squeezing us in and John felt uncomfortable so off we went.
As we were driving home I saw a very familiar sign and casually mentioned, “Wow, it’s been years since I’ve had a blooming onion, I wonder if they have them.” In an instant John whipped the car into the turning lane and then into the driveway of the Outback Steakhouse.
There’s a family story about this restaurant. When John and I first met, I was living in Orlando and he was living in Australia. One day I told him I was going to get my Australian on by going to the Outback Steakhouse and he told me he was eager for me to tell him what was on the menu. When I came back and said, “I had prime rib,” he said, “We don’t have prime rib in Australia – not like the Americans cook it.”
I went on down the menu and each one was, “No, we don’t have that, nor that…” Then he said, “Maureen, that’s an American restaurant with an Australian decor.” That IS what it is.
So for this yank, I got to eat my blooming onion $9.95 (which by the way is not a Vidalia or Walla Walla Sweet, those wonderful big onions that cover the plate – it’s a regular brown onion) but it tasted exactly as I remembered right down to the horseradish sauce. Rob doesn’t eat onions OR spicy food but he had his fingers on quite a few petals.
John ordered the rack of lamb for $25.95 and it looked just like the photo. I thought, “Uh oh… that looks overcooked,” and I wanted his to be good because he’d been so nice to give me an American cuddle through food. He cut into it and said, “It’s perfectly cooked; pink through and through and very well seasoned.” Win!
Rob ordered the fish of the day for $21 which is easy to eat. His arthritis makes eating difficult sometimes. I’ll admit that his didn’t look all that crash hot either but the first bite came and went with him saying, “This is delicious. The flesh is firm and there’s a pleasant, slightly nutty flavour to it.” Win. I tried to explain chain restaurants but it seemed an odd concept to him.
Because I’d ordered the blooming onion thinking it was going to overwhelm the plate, I ordered a loaded baked potato at $5.95 with bacon, cheese and sour cream plus a garden salad for another $5.95. It was just the right amount and when I was finished I was full.
About the prices: Australian don’t tip because by law they have to pay a decent wage and most servers start at $15 an hour. The Australian dollar today is 93% of the US dollar so imagine if wait staff there got $15 an hour and didn’t have to rely on tips. The service was definitely American style and we were well looked after.
This Outback Restaurant has only been open for about 6 months and is the first of their restaurants outside of Sydney. Our server answered every question without hesitation, and even explained how the salads would come out first. This is not how salads are served here in Australia – salads come with the meal, often without dressing. The salad course is one of the things that drive John nuts when he visits the states – he thinks salad should be on the plate.
They had very few empty tables so it appears that Brisbane people like to get their American on too. Do you eat at chain restaurants? Have you gone to a restaurant to re-live memories like I did?