Usually when we go to a Good Food Guide Hat awarded restaurant I will nit pick one thing or another or complain about the price but on the whole they, the hatted restaurants, are usually pretty bloody good. I am sad to say that our experience at Donovans House was very ordinary. Unfortunately it wasn't up to the standard of 2 Hat restaurant of which it has been awarded. The meal wasn't as good as a cheap pub meal in which the reviewers for the Good Food Guide would only give 12 out of 20 (a score of 15 out of 20 will get you a hat, the Aussie equivalent of a Michelin Star). A restaurant needs a score of 12 to even make the Good Food Guide book.
Donovans has much going for it. The location, the casual dining, a menu that looks good on paper with fairly reasonable prices. A little bit high for lunch but that is a nit pick. What it didn't have going for it on the day we visited was the execution. Maybe we visited on an off day. Hatted restaurants shouldn't have off days though. Many reviewers rave about this place. After our visit I just don't get it. Maybe it is political.
We all had the Rich crab bisque with a crispy soft shell crab for $19.50. The bisque was okay but I expected to have crispy soft shell crab in the soup not battered on the side and most definitely not with an ordinary softish batter. It wasn't as crispy and tempura like as I would expect. But it was okay - not horrible but really not up to GFG 2 Hat standard.
Next I had the Black Angus T-bone of beef from the Western District with served with house chips, tossed cos leaves and homemade condiments for $45.00. I'll be buggered why an Angus t-bone would be 45 bucks. McDonalds serves Angus burgers these days for god's sake. I was prepared to be wowed. I asked for medium rare. What I got was, well check out the photo below. See the black steak. Black Angus is the breed of cow. It isn't the colour after you burn it. I love char grilled steaks where the outside is slightly burned or seared. This steak was burnt and overly well done. Any more we would have needed an urn. The garnish of leaves were like a wreath placed on charred corpse. RIP cow. It was tough and had a flavour, apart from charcoal, that was slightly unpleasant. This was a rookie mistake. A first week apprentice should know how to cook steak. The house chips were basically unpeeled potato wedges. Nothing wrong with that but I prefer chips or fries. The problem with the chips was they were overcooked too. The potato was flowery and yucky. The home made condiments, I had the mustard, tasted like store bought mustard. I couldn't tell the difference.
Why I didn't send the steak back I don't know. Actually I do. Service was slow. Really slow. We had to wait for some time for our meals. I wasn't going to wait again.
Moira and Michelle had Linguine with seafood and Western Australian scampi in an entree size for $29.50. According to the waitress the difference between a main and an entree is the amount of pasta. As a main it cost $39 so apparently that means a little bit more pasta costs 10 bucks more because apparently you get the same amount of seafood in the entree and the main. Again that is nit picking but according to Michelle and Moira the seafood was overcooked. The scampi, which was the centre piece, was flowery. When shellfish go flowery they've been way over cooked. Scampi should be sweet and delicate and juicy. This was most definitely not. As I said a rookie should know better than to send this out of the kitchen.
Grilled asparagus, herb crumbs, brown butter and Italian prosciutto with a poached egg for $23.00. No complaints about this one. It wasn't too bad at all.
A few times we've had an average meal but it has been saved by the dessert. We had hope. They sounded good. Michelle wasn't going to risk it though, so it was down to Moira and myself.
I had Donovans 'golden gaytime' with buttermilk and caramel ice creams and oat crumble for $19.50. It wasn't too bad. I quite liked it. As advertised it did taste like a 'Golden Gaytime'. I love Gaytimes but as Michelle said I can usually get one from any old shop for 3 bucks.
Moira had the Hot chocolate soufflé with espresso ice cream for $19.50. Okay, this is where there was something seriously wrong. Even Guy Grossi's chocolate soufflé we had on Friday night was at least a soufflé. To remind you what a souffle looks like click here to see one Michelle made and here to see Guy Grossi's. Donovans' soufflé was not a soufflé. I've re-checked their menu and they definitely call this thing a soufflé. What I think they served Moira was a self saucing chocolate pudding or fondant and a poorly executed fondant at that. It was overcooked and it was in fact burnt on the base. It wasn't served in a small pot or ramekin. You can't extract a soufflé from the dish it is cooked in without it collapsing. There was no way this thing was going to collapse, dish or no. Not good at all.
I really don't mind spending lots of money on good food. But to serve this stuff up in a hatted restaurant is unforgivable. We should have voiced our displeasure on the day but by then we were over it. Michelle is thinking of writing a letter but in the meantime she wrote a review on Eatabilty. Click here to read her review.
Donovans House is at 40 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda, Victoria and for some reason has been awarded 2 Hats by the Good Food Guide.