The fussy eater

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 12:00am


20 Staunton Street, Central.

Tel: 2526 8850.

Open: noon-2.30pm, 6pm-11pm


WE WERE enthusiastically explained the idea behind Indigo, 'a delicacy restaurant' specialising in oysters, caviar, wild mushrooms, foie gras and Kobe beef. We were told to graze through the menu, dipping into an oyster here, a blob of foie gras there.

Hey, I loved it already, all my favourite things at one seating. But it turned out to be disappointing. To open a restaurant specialising in the most luxurious and expensive of foods, the establishment should offer the guest a sense of occasion. The decor, service and cooking skills should at least try to match the style of food being offered, which in this case was the most legendary of gourmet delights. The restaurant didn't need to be grand in the formal Escoffieresque sense, although that was an obvious possibility. On the contrary, the idea of serving luxurious foods with a casual, throwaway style was pleasing.

The trouble with Indigo is you don't get any sense of occasion, style, or, for that matter, professionalism. You walk in, sit down, and just wish you had booked elsewhere. The restaurant decor is slapdash and thrown together. The untidy, computer-generated menu is splattered with grammatical and spelling errors. The clutter on the glass tabletops is tacky - mean-spirited flowers, three lots of wine promotional material, silly little candles that are neither attractive nor functional. The staff are pleasant and eager but lack snap and polish. This place serves Belon oysters at $60 a pop and beluga by the gram, not hamburgers and fries, so the customer is entitled to a bit more style and a bit less tack.

The two of us started with a pair each of Colchesters, Belons, Sunset Beach and Fines de Claire. The oysters ranged in price from $26 to $60 and there was a pleasingly large selection. The shucker rinsed the oysters, washing away the taste of the sea which was part of the point of eating an oyster. All were satisfactorily fresh except for the Belons which were the wrong side of borderline.

We dipped into the menu for foie gras. First came shaved fresh sashimi of foie gras on arugula salad with raspberry and walnut dressing ($126). The sashimi turned out to be little soft shavings of poached foie gras - at least it seemed poached. We weren't totally sure, but then neither was the waitress, and she worked there. But it really didn't matter how it was cooked because the dressing was so acidic that it overpowered everything near it.

Much better was the foie gras pan-fried on creamy celeriac puree with piquent (sic) truffle sauce ($138). We loved the celeriac puree which went very well with the foie gras.

We moved on to mixed mushrooms pan-fried in slivers of garlic with organic herbs under a puff pastry case ($76). This was a pile of local mushrooms covered with a vast puff pastry circle. The mushrooms were dull and bland. We ate them because we were hungry.

A few dried cepes or even fresh field mushrooms might have jazzed things up a bit. And as for the 'organic herbs', who knew what had happened to them. The pastry circle tasted as if it had been brushed with old lard.

We refused dessert and coffee and departed, with no more energy to face amateurishly cooked and presented food. Do some restaurants think all their customers are total mugs, or are they under the misguided conception that this is what parting with $1,051 for two (including a bottle of Macon for $280) should be like?