“I scored a great deal!” exclaimed Mysaucepan holding up a voucher from one of so many on-line group buying deals now offering fantastic value from restaurants to massages, manicures and car wash. Being a foodie that she is, it must be another deal for a restaurant and my guess is right, as it usually is
“Three courses for two people for only $69, plus you get a free bottle of wine!!!” I frown and wonder what is the catch to this seemingly amazing offer. “Nothing is free in this world, my sweetness!” is my response. She goes on to explain the deal is for Pink Salt, the restaurant where owners Evan Hansimikali and Bella Serventi found fame in the reality TV series My Restaurant Rules some years ago. They launched the restaurant in beautiful Manly north of Sydney but has since relaunched it in swanky Double Bay, an upmarket neighbourhood in the eastern part of the city.
The deal is offered by livingsocial.com and on the day we were going for dinner, I go online to do some research on the restaurant. I am sceptical after reading some ghastly reviews on Urbanspoon by some customers who were obviously very unhappy with their experience from this $69 on-line offer. The grievances are mainly on the quality of the food and service standards.
I show Mysaucepan the reviews which have a mix of good and really bad ones but we decide to keep an open mind to give the restaurant a chance. But in an attempt to avoid disappointment, we also significantly lower our expectations of a great meal.
We arrive at the restaurant for a booking at 8pm on a Thursday night. A waiter informs us that our table is not ready despite a half full restaurant but I am happy to settle down at the fabulously pink martini bar for some pre-dinner drinks. We have a choice of a 2010 Wild Oats pinot grigio or cabernet merlot. Mysaucepan opts for the white to accompany the scallops she has been eyeing on the on-line menu.
The wine is crisp and dry, just as I like my whites and we sipped while watching diners and the eclectic decor which has a pink tiled wall on one side, modern chandeliers and of course, the groovy pink martini bar.
We are eventually given a table after fifteen minutes and seated at the front of the restaurant. We are greeted by a wall of 42 Below pink vodka from New Zealand as we browse the menu.
Mysaucepan orders the ricotta and chive filled tempura zucchini flower which come with a tomato vinaigrette. The batter is light and crispy and the gooey ricotta always a prized bite in the flower. We both agree this popular dish is a good entree.
I order the grain-fed beef carpaccio with horseradish, cherry tomato and green beans. My first impression when it arrives is that it will make a beautiful summer dish though we are now getting into the thick of winter. Nevertheless, this entree is beautifully put together because of one ingredient which was not mentioned on the menu.
Even though the thinly sliced beef is a little bland, the tangy and acidity of small wedges of caperberries bring the sweetness of the cherry tomato and salad leaves to live. The horseradish dressing marries everything together and we both agree this could be an interesting entree for our next dinner party.
So far, our apprehension has been met with beautiful entrees although service can be a little more attentive.
For my main, I order the grain-fed scotch fillet with triple cooked chips, watercress salad and dianne sauce. The meat is cooked to medium-rare as request and whilst it’s not the thickest of cuts and a little chewy, flavours are good with the dianne sauce. I wonder about the triple cooked chips because it is far from crispy. If at all, they are a little undercooked and I find myself in an unusual struggle to finish them.
Mysaucepan has the twice cooked pork belly with pumpkin puree, baby bok choy and calvados jus. Flavours are really good and the meat well cooked and yielding to a soft touch of the knife. What let this dish down is the prized pork crackling which is leathery tough and unedible.
There is a long wait for our desserts and the waiter recommends a special fruit trifle with strawberries jelly, blue berries and meringue topping.
Mysaucepan finds the jelly a little too firm although I think it is fine.
I’m not big on desserts as I don’t have a sweet tooth perhaps to my own detriment. I did enquire at the beginning if I could have two entrees instead to substitute for the dessert but was told it cannot be accommodated. Nevertheless, I find my baked lemon and lime tart with raspberry sorbet and merigue biscuit to be nice and refreshing and I almost finish it before Mysaucepan is half way through her dessert.
Overall, we find Pink Salt to have offered a great value meal. The food and service can be improved somewhat but for $69 with a half decent bottle of wine thrown in, I just cannot fault this meal. The regular menu prices for entree, main and dessert are $19, $34 and $14 respectively and the bottle of Wild Oats pinot grigio is $40 on the wine list. Therefore, we would have paid $176 for the meal without the deal, a massive savings of $107!
Would we have paid the regular price of $176 for this meal? Probably not.
Are we glad we experienced this deal? Definitely, because it tells us how competitive Sydney dining can be.
Would we come back again for this $69 deal? Maybe.
From our experience buying on-line restaurant deals, there are obviously hit and misses. I commend Pink Salt for this effort because they have given value and the food is relatively good despite some bad on-line reviews. Maybe it was an off night some customers experienced, but not for us tonight. Perhaps Pink Salt has simply stepped up a gear and polished their act.
Tips on buying on-line restaurant deals
Here are a couple of tips or rather Mysaucepan’s advice about on-line restaurant deals as she has bought a few more of these deals months ago.
1. Before buying the deal, do a little research about the restaurant by reading some of the reviews on say Urbanspoon and Eatability. Whilst these sources are by no means authoritative, they do give you a general idea from the views of a broad spectrum of customers who have dined at the establishment. Check if the restaurant has been listed in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide as this is one of the more credible eating guides of the city.
2. Once you have bought the deal, try and book a time immediately as good deals may mean very busy and booked out times.
One of our other restaurant deals for a one-hatted restaurant has been booked out for six months if you want to dine on a Friday or Saturday night. However, we are really looking forward to the experience and hopefully a good one to write and share with you in due course.
Therefore, if a one-hatted restaurant is offering these deals, it just goes to show how competitive Sydney dining and how discerning we customers have become. The restaurant business can be tough and ruthless, but as paying customers, we also have the right to seek out value and quality. One of the responsibilities of food bloggers is to give a balance and objective view of this equation.
So dear readers, have you had any great restaurant deals recently that you can share with us?
53 Cross street
Double Bay, Sydney
New South Wales 2028
+612 9328 1664