I have much affection for the Kingston Hotel (aka ‘The Kingo’), and have many fond memories of singlies Thursdays (when our large group of Kingston-dwelling buddies would meet for steaks) and the numerous Summer Sunday arvo sessions on the beer veranda. Some twenty years later I still occasionally get to the Kingo for a ‘cook your own steak’, because damn they are good. Although located smack-bang amidst the posher Canberra shopping/dining districts of Kingston and Manuka, the Kingo has steadfastly refused to succumb to yuppie influences.
The main dining area of the Kingo today still has the same tired decor, dodgy furniture and ‘cook-your-own’ menu that it did 20 years ago, and the main bar area remains a dingy paradise amidst the sleeker, funkier bars of the neighboring areas. Management has always grappled with exactly what to do with the large area next to the beer garden/steak area and at various times in recent history this room has been converted to a pool hall, night club, bar etc… seemingly without much success. But I think they have finally hit the jackpot.
When we wandered into the Kingo last night to have steaks with our friends, we were surprised to find that the big room has been recently converted into a Bistro called ‘Maddies’ and we decided to give it a try. I am pleased to report that Maddies was absolutely terrific on all accounts and would have no hesitation in highly recommending the bistro to all those who are devotees of good food, but are on a tight budget.
The decor designers have managed to pull off the extremely difficult feat of creating an ambiance that is up-market and yet still in keeping with the overall aura of the Kingo; not too hip/modern, but tasteful, a bit old-fashioned and with well-polished glasses, nice table settings and a homey, relaxed atmosphere. I think the food deserves more than paper tablecloths, but perhaps this is how they keep the prices so reasonable. The staff were unfailingly helpful and polite; I honestly couldn’t fault any aspect of the service that we received last night. The meals arrived at the same time and any unusual requests were easily accommodated.
The food itself was really, really good by bistro standards – great presentation (ie. lots of artful drizzling), suburb quality and given the presentation/quality factors, bloody cheap! Most mains were around the $14.00 mark and entrees between $6.00 and $9.00. The menu wasn’t hugely extensive, but there was something for everyone (meat, fish, chicken and vego choices) with some excellent specials that we took full advantage of. The steaks were cooked to perfection, beautifully seared, cooked as they had been requested and they filled half the plate. All of the food portions were very generous, the meals were flavorsome, the veggies were perfect (not too crisp, not overcooked), and the food was presented stylishly.
I had the lamb rack ($19.00 and the most expensive meal on the menu), which was served on bed of pea puree and it was one of the nicest meals I’ve had in ages. I can also highly recommend the seafood linguine ($14.00, big chunks of seared fish, assorted seafood, gorgeous flavours), the salt and pepper calamari (lots of artful drizzling here), BBQ pork ribs ($13.50), Thai fishcakes and bangers and mash. The meals were about $10.00 cheaper than comparable meals at middle-end restaurants and all of us felt that the value for money was exceptional. We couldn’t help but compare the meals to those that we experienced at First Floor in Kingston just a few weeks ago, and Maddies’ food quality won hands-down at a much lower price.
We took our kids and they were made most welcome, although the lack of a children’s menu may deter some parents (fortunately our kids eat everything, so we just split an entree and main course between the two of them). As stated, the service was excellent, although it was a quiet Monday night and they weren’t very busy – I’d be interested to see how they fare during a much busier period. In summary, Maddies was a very pleasant surprise and I suspect that the Kingo’s management have finally resolved the issue of what to do with the big room. Highly recommended.