Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jacksons in Highgate

A couple of years ago my husband and I went to Jacksons for dinner. We had heard so many 'amazing' things about this place that we thought it was about time we checked it out.
We booked in for a degustation (with matched wines for my husband - I was pregnant at the time so no booze for me).
I was extrememly disapointed with the experience and absolutely disgusted with the email response I got from the owner when I complained.

Anyway, I typed several reviews for EatingWA being as neutral as I could about the experience whilst including all the facts. I even posted a copy of my husbands review that he did for one of his wanky wine sites. Funnily enough, EatingWA would not post the review at all. So, I will with hold my opinions on why that may be, but I have never bothered reading an EatingWA review since then (or even going to their site to be honest).

My very basic summary is that there are many superior restaurants in Perth. This one is well over rated. It wasn't until we started talking about our awful experience that we found out that many other people had, in fact, also had awful experiences there.

Sooooo .... as my own review is lost in the annals of time somewhere (translation - I didn't save a copy), I have dug out my husbands review. He writes so much better than I ever could anyway.
Here is his thoughts on the night (sans the wine comments)

Jacksons, Ask any Perthy about Jacksons and you will hear about how its pretty much our best restaurant (ok ok some will say Star Anise with good reason) so it was with some high expectations that we booked the 7 course degustation menu for our anniversary on wednesday night.

The place.
Jacksons is kinda a hole in the wall on Beaufort Street in Highgate, on the outskirts of the popular cafes/bars and nestled between a newsagents and more florists that you can poke a stick at. The dining room is 3 tiered with the main dining area at the very front of the building then a couple of steps up to a smaller level of tables and finally more steps up to the banquet seating at the back of the restaurant adjacent to the bar and the kitchen itself.
Up the back where we were was nice and semi-quiet, no shouting needed, but others have mentioned that down the front it can get a bit raucous.
No torch needed to see your dining partners over the table cloths and comfortable seating.

The meal.
We have become a bit hooked on the whole degustation dining, lots of smaller plates with a chance to try things that we might never order from a menu.

Amuse Bouche
A sweet waffle cone filled with smoked salmon and topped with a basil and green pea 'icecream'
Novel and a great staging of flavours from the earthy peas to the sweet crunch of the waffle cone.

1st course - yabby, chicken and jellyfish cocktail
Problem number 1, first bite my wife encounters a hunk of gristle from the chicken (it was about the size of a 10cent coin), this was not the start we wanted. (nb: being pregnant, they had organised chicken only for her instead of with jellyfish in the dish)
Overall it was OK, the jellyfish was stewed in soy sauce and ginger and served on a bed of micro greens (read shredded iceberg lettuce) OK wasnt quite good enough though.

2nd course seared scallop, orange and duck cannelloni
Problem number 2, after the first dish was cleared and the second wine poured we sat at the table waiting for the next course. We sat at the table for nearly 45 minutes... When a row of dishes went past our table, clearly the dish we were waiting on, and delivered to a table that arrived 20 minutes later than us, we got worried, another set of dishes went sailing past us for some other diners and my wife saw red. We enquired where our dishes were and were promptly told that 'you have already had that course, and you wont be getting it again'
Some firm words at this point had the waitress counting forks and coming up with 1 short of a happy customer, 10 minutes later still, we get the course.
Scallop cooked exactly as it should be, some nice sauces to accompany it but the duck, while fine and tasty on its own, when paired with the orange cannelloni it was just overpowered. Expensive orange pasta then.

3rd course - suzuki seabass, oyster and champagne sauce
Great fish seabass, pity all taste in your mouth is obliterated by pungent chanterelle mushrooms that swim about in the sauce. Whole ones that make you shudder just a bit when you chew through them.
Problem number 3, first bite ended with a fish bone stuck in my mouth, my wife copped the same treatment except hers got lodged in her throat for a bit.
It's about now that we are really wondering if we should stick it out.

4th course - rabbit in prosciutto, carrot and thyme
Rabbit like duck is one of those things that when I see it on a menu, I have to try it out.
It was nice enough, the sauces once more were overwhelming the meat, but the inclusion of almost raw carrot cubes was somewhat offputting, especially when you get one on the fork at the same time as the soft meat.

5th course - main - surf n turf braised beef fingers, citrus tiger prawns
Good presentation, glossy syrupy beef strips with a single juicy prawn up top. The beef is slow braised in sweet rice wine and ginger and soy, which while it left the beef beautiful and fall apart on the plate, it cooked all the flavour of what good cuts of meat should taste like. The glaze to the beef tasted as it looked, syrupy and sticky and sharp, but once you chewed and lost that initial flavour hit, you were left with something that tasted of nothing. Could have been tofu, could have been chicken could have been lean cuisine. The prawn was nice but disappeared pretty quickly.

6th course - 1st dessert - roast peach with curried sabayon
Not bad, I am not a fruit person but this was nice to taste (2 slithers of peach only), even with the icecream dusted with indian 5 spice.

7th course - 2nd dessert - rich chocolate tart raspberry and orange sorbet
I know it was probably good chocolate, but it's a tart, like you see at coffee club. The sorbets had a great flavour , nice and citrusy - but as a dish they didn't help. The high cocoa content of the tart made for a very dry mouth feel. The sorbets came in with a good flavour burst but didn't help with your mouth feeling dryer than a nun's funcooker (30 Rock anyone?) I am sure the matched wine was meant to do this, but my wife wasnt drinking and I couldn't stand it (not being into dessert wines), so we were both left reaching for the water glass.

We had been really looking forward to this meal, an affirmation that Perth has some truly good chefs doing creative food, but this really left us flat. $420 flat to be exact.

A follow up email to the restaurant yielded a reply that spoke of how no one else had that experience but they would strive so that other diners would have a good time. They didnt address any of the issues we had directly.

Now I know others have been there and raved about their experience, my brother in-law loves the place, admittedly they have all had the a la carte and not the degustation menu.

I wanted to love this place, in the end I wish we had of booked a table back at Restaurant Amuse, or even Nine instead.
I actually wished we had of been dining with others so that I could confirm that it wasnt 'just us' I wondered if I wasnt 'getting it', too many KFC burgers in a past life etc.

No BYO, extensive wine list, decent glasses from a range of manufacturers.

Oh, the house made bread rolls were nice.

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