Restaurant review: White Rabbit on the Park, Freemans Bay

By Kim Knight

2 comments
Address: 37 Drake St, Freemans Bay
Phone: (09) 929 2790
Cost: We spent: $341 for three.
Rating out of 10: Food: 6 Service: 7 Value: 6 Ambience: 8

White Rabbit on the Park. Photo / Guy Coombes
White Rabbit on the Park. Photo / Guy Coombes

The thing with calling a restaurant White Rabbit is that it sets the diner up for a bit of magic. Fluffy bunnies pulled from hats. Coins plucked out of ears. Your card from that deck of 52 every single time.

And if not magic, then, at least, quirk. Alice chased a white rabbit down the hole to Wonderland. She ate cake that shrunk her and drank a drink that grew her. The Queen of Hearts made excellent tarts, and well, you're probably getting the picture. When you invoke the white rabbit, weird and wonderful things happen.

Unless you're at the restaurant of the same name.

In the moody, exposed brick-and-timber space that used to be Matterhorn is the eatery that used to be in Fort St. That version garnered excellent reviews and I was excited about visiting the "on the park" reboot.

On a Saturday night, the adjoining bar was noisy with rugby. Thank goodness.

It drowned out the 20 Greatest Elevator Hits blaring through the virtually empty restaurant. The music was, eventually, swapped for jazz, but when that stopped, silence reigned. Soon all you could hear was the desperate bashing of my sister's spoon against a chocolate brownie only marginally softer than the walls.

I'm starting with dessert, but if you visit this restaurant, you should definitely not finish with it. A coffee creme brulee was inexplicably piled high with overly-aerated, overly-sweetened whipped cream. I dumped it on James' plate (there was plenty of room, his almond sponge was tiny) and raised an eyebrow at a passing waitperson. "It's a work in progress," she said.

I had, by now, found the brulee. Incredibly, the caramelised top had retained its crack, but the tiny calculator in my head was doing overtime - $51 for three desserts nobody wanted to eat?

The evening had begun promisingly enough. There is, apparently, a beef wellington option you can choose when you book, but it wasn't on the website then, and still wasn't at the time of writing. Complimentary bread, with butter in a marrowbone, was a nice touch. Sticky pig's cheek ($20) was beautifully cut with apple matchsticks and paired with steamed shellfish; the garlic milk marinated chicken skin that adorned the slightly dry ballotine ($22) was incredible, and an enormous bowl of crayfish bisque was to soup as Louboutin is to shoes. Divine luxury (but only $18).

There is an oddly heavy formality to the food. Lots of cream, lots of butter. James had ordered the wild mushroom ravioli. It came with pancetta, and were those mushrooms on top? Er, no. Those were three completely unadvertised scallops. And the sauce that was supposed to be beurre noisette (brown butter) was loaded with cream, on a plate that was just too cold to cope.

A rib eye steak with an onion and fennel tart and smoked crayfish butter ($42) was lip-smackingly great, but my lamb was ordinary and the accompanying sweetbreads flavourless and chewy.

No magic. Unless you count the disappearing cash.

- Canvas

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