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Sage in 2012, a restaurant review

By johnboy - 20 February 2012 40

sage

Sage in Gorman House has gone through a lot of evolutions but eating there on Friday night it became clear that it is now the best restaurant in Canberra, with a price tag to match.

So let’s not kid ourselves here; dinner for two, with wine, bread, pre dinner drink, and tip, was $400.

If you’re going to spend that kind of money you’ll be wanting to dress up for the occasion.

The effect is somewhat spoiled when you end up parking in Braddon’s ABC flats.

Bidding the car a fond farewell we made a short walk up Batman Street, through the raucus Friday night after work crowd in the Mint Garden Bar, and into Sage.

Fortunately we had booked, because it was packed the whole time we were there.

(Booking is a tricky process in itself. If you want to order from the menu there are limited windows in which to sit down. Otherwise you’re on the tasting menu. The tasting menu was fine with me, so at least I didn’t have to reschedule my date to fit the restaurant’s booking windows.)

The tasting menu (with matching wines of course) is a wild seven course ride through modern cuisine.

Staff re-arrange cutlery between every course, new wineglasses and wine herald the impending arrival of another dish.

The portions are delicate, small even, but we certainly weren’t hungry by the end of the meal.

Make no mistake, they’re big on the molecular gastronomy. Everyday ingredients transformed into foams, soils, sponges, gels.

And through that they really do open up new horizons of flavours and textures.

This is not food you want to eat every day, not that most of us could afford to.

As for the cost?

It helped that I’d been given a $200 voucher for christmas. But to get a dinner bill for $370, to not flinch or make faces, to not even tell my date how much it was, to just pay it and still leave a $30 tip (under 10% I know but at that price they can pay their staff properly), made me feel like a real man.

So in a way the price is part of the experience.

And the experience is sensational.

For my troubles I got a kiss on the cheek. Which, in a way, makes it an even better story.

What’s Your opinion?


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40 Responses to
Sage in 2012, a restaurant review
1
madamcholet 2:41 pm
20 Feb 12
#

It’s really nice that your date was worth it. Thaks for the review, been wondering about whether to go back there again – been a while. Will have to get saving.

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2
jsm2090 2:54 pm
20 Feb 12
#

Couldn’t agree more- we went here on Valentine’s Day, and were really wowed by the whole experience. We both agreed it was almost equal to our experience at Quay; our meal there was a technical and textural triumph, whereas Sage was a triumph of flavour.

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3
BuzzwordBingo 2:56 pm
20 Feb 12
#

Nice work holding in the flinch … smooth even :-)

Have wanted to go for ages … thanks for the update :-)

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4
Mrshmellowman 3:00 pm
20 Feb 12
#

I took Mrs Mrshmellow to Sage for her Birthday in December and I will agree with the OP that the price is extremely steep, booking is tricky, the servings a small and it’s busy, cramped and noisy – but I disagree with the conclusion.
Mrs Mrsmellow is an aqua-tarian and when asked if it was possible to substitute the meaty bits of the menu for veggie or fish we were told that “no, the chef has prepared this menu – no substitutions.”
Now, we have eaten at most of the fine dining option in Canberra and have travelled to Melbourne and Sydney to eat at specific places and Sage is the only one who would not swap out the meat dishes for the Mrs.
The portions are beautiful and tasty, but are very small and we did leave hungry.
The staff is pretentious and far too condescending when answering questions (at least our waiter and food deliverer on the night were) and stepping out of the noisy but cosy dining room into the fairly grotty Gormon House toilets really knocks the ambiance.

And it is pricy – very, very pricey

Overall I was very disappointed and would not recommend anyone bother when there are better options for a better price around town or in the ‘region’.

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5
XO_VSOP 3:04 pm
20 Feb 12
#

I doubt these guys will ever make a $10 lunch cover story. Nor should they they have worked very hard to position themselves as a fine dining destination, they’ve come along way.

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6
johnboy 3:04 pm
20 Feb 12
#

Mrshmellowman said :

I took Mrs Mrshmellow to Sage for her Birthday in December and I will agree with the OP that the price is extremely steep, booking is tricky, the servings a small and it’s busy, cramped and noisy – but I disagree with the conclusion.
Mrs Mrsmellow is an aqua-tarian and when asked if it was possible to substitute the meaty bits of the menu for veggie or fish we were told that “no, the chef has prepared this menu – no substitutions.”
Now, we have eaten at most of the fine dining option in Canberra and have travelled to Melbourne and Sydney to eat at specific places and Sage is the only one who would not swap out the meat dishes for the Mrs.
The portions are beautiful and tasty, but are very small and we did leave hungry.
The staff is pretentious and far too condescending when answering questions (at least our waiter and food deliverer on the night were) and stepping out of the noisy but cosy dining room into the fairly grotty Gormon House toilets really knocks the ambiance.

And it is pricy – very, very pricey

Overall I was very disappointed and would not recommend anyone bother when there are better options for a better price around town or in the ‘region’.

Sounds like you got off on the wrong foot with wanting to mess with the menu.

Certainly agree that if you have specific dietary needs this is not the place to go.

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7
Holden Caulfield 3:07 pm
20 Feb 12
#

Mrshmellowman said :

I took Mrs Mrshmellow to Sage for her Birthday in December and I will agree with the OP that the price is extremely steep, booking is tricky, the servings a small and it’s busy, cramped and noisy – but I disagree with the conclusion.
Mrs Mrsmellow is an aqua-tarian and when asked if it was possible to substitute the meaty bits of the menu for veggie or fish we were told that “no, the chef has prepared this menu – no substitutions.”
Now, we have eaten at most of the fine dining option in Canberra and have travelled to Melbourne and Sydney to eat at specific places and Sage is the only one who would not swap out the meat dishes for the Mrs.
The portions are beautiful and tasty, but are very small and we did leave hungry.
The staff is pretentious and far too condescending when answering questions (at least our waiter and food deliverer on the night were) and stepping out of the noisy but cosy dining room into the fairly grotty Gormon House toilets really knocks the ambiance.

And it is pricy – very, very pricey

Overall I was very disappointed and would not recommend anyone bother when there are better options for a better price around town or in the ‘region’.

Here’s a tip. If you’re going to ask a restaurant to alter their menu to suit dietary requirements (a perfectly legit thing to do in the right context), try doing it before you’ve sat down. I find it’s best to do so when making the booking.

Aside from that I’ve been to Sage a couple of times since the new owners took over (most recently in November) and would agree with JB’s review.

I got more than a kiss on the cheek too! But I’m married, so it probably doesn’t count, haha.

Oh, I do agree that the surroundings and toilets are sub-par for this ilk of restaurant.

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8
Kerryhemsley 3:08 pm
20 Feb 12
#

Sounds like she was worth it. A $370 kiss on the cheek is not cheap. Can you expand on that a bit?

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9
Me no fry 3:14 pm
20 Feb 12
#

Hmmmm…..

$400. Molecular gastronomy.

Reminds me a bit of of nouvelle cuisine. You went home ravenously hungry, with the feeling that things hadn’t gone quite as they were supposed to.

But yeah, if I had a lazy $400 I’d go there for an experience.

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10
devils_advocate 3:15 pm
20 Feb 12
#

Well, this is a restaurant review in the truest sense of the word, as it focusses very much on the restaurant and very little on the food. I am intrigued, but would like to know:

a) what was one or two of the standout dishes that were served, and why?

b) I take it there’s a wine served with each course – was it well matched?

c) if you had to stump up the full price in cash (no voucher) would you consider it worthwhile?

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11
Ben_Dover 3:17 pm
20 Feb 12
#

Mrshmellowman said :

Mrs Mrsmellow is an aqua-tarian and when asked if it was possible to substitute the meaty bits of the menu for veggie or fish we were told that “no, the chef has prepared this menu – no substitutions.”
Now, we have eaten at most of the fine dining option in Canberra and have travelled to Melbourne and Sydney to eat at specific places and Sage is the only one who would not swap out the meat dishes for the Mrs.
.

We ate at the Fat Duck in Bray in January, THE restauarant for innovate cooking, and which charges prices which make Sage’s look like a bag of chips from Hawker chippy. I was offered a choice of vegetarian or piscatarian versions of the tasting menu.

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12
johnboy 3:28 pm
20 Feb 12
#

devils_advocate said :

Well, this is a restaurant review in the truest sense of the word, as it focusses very much on the restaurant and very little on the food. I am intrigued, but would like to know:

a) what was one or two of the standout dishes that were served, and why?

b) I take it there’s a wine served with each course – was it well matched?

c) if you had to stump up the full price in cash (no voucher) would you consider it worthwhile?

The wine was excellently matched.

I avoided discussing specific dishes because

a) the descriptions are as immensely convoluted as the dishes
b) the dinner as a whole was the highlight

As for the last I look forward to going back and paying with all my own money.

Just not too soon.

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13
devils_advocate 3:45 pm
20 Feb 12
#

johnboy said :

I avoided discussing specific dishes because

a) the descriptions are as immensely convoluted as the dishes
b) the dinner as a whole was the highlight

Fair enough – but could we have some basic food groups (fish, lamb, beef, rice, etc)? Alternatively if the tasting menu is relatively stable I presume it’s online somewhere?

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14
pajs 3:47 pm
20 Feb 12
#

Good stuff. Good to see you writing like this, Johnboy. Haven’t had that kind of experience eating out for a while and what you wrote reminded me of how good that kind of thing can be.

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15
johnboy 3:55 pm
20 Feb 12
#

devils_advocate said :

Fair enough – but could we have some basic food groups (fish, lamb, beef, rice, etc)? Alternatively if the tasting menu is relatively stable I presume it’s online somewhere?

Indeed, in the link I opened the story with.

But the menu we had on friday is here:

http://sagerestaurant.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Sage-Main-Menu-Feb-2012.pdf

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