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Maddies Bistro at the Kingo – What a Pleasant Surprise!

By deezagood - 19 May 2009 12

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.

What’s Your opinion?


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12 Responses to
Maddies Bistro at the Kingo – What a Pleasant Surprise!
ant 3:48 pm 04 Jun 09

The food was OK… no massive faults, although the wedges were a weird dark brown colour that looked like really bad oil, but the chips were OK so it must have been their covering. The kiev was unusual, stuffed with some kind of garlic stuffing rather than garlic butter. I’ll have to interogate the rest of the party properly to find out their food experience in detail. The service stuffed up so many things that kind-of overshadowed the rest of it.

They seem to have aspirations, there was a roo dish on the specials board. And there were a lot of meals being carried out to the BBQ area, which was interesting. Might have been the “we cook” stuff on the menu out there, perhaps.

They need to get more bums on seats in there though, they have a lot of space and tables. Signage is badly needed. I do want them to do well, as it’s really handy for us, and the prices were better than the average club.

deezagood 10:42 am 04 Jun 09

ant said :

It’s weird that a small place would bother paying the bucks for this contraption. And the ordering counter/bar area was right in front of the doorway to the kitchen, it’s not like the kitchen was miles away. Writing out a docket takes no time, and you can put those little messages to the chef that customers invariably want.

Cannot see why replacing veggies with chips and vice-versa would be such a big issue!

Also, reckon they need better signage to show there’s a separate eatery behind the BBQ thing. When we arrived, we assumed the cook it yourself place was “it”, but then investigated further. I didn’t see a sign at all, just a small printed menu stuck on the door.

I agree about the signage Ant; we actually went to the Kingo for the cook-your-own steaks and found Maddies quite by accident. What did you think of the food Ant (apart from the order muck-up)? I thought it was really, really good for the price – nicely cooked and well presented – keen to hear your thoughts (we didn’t have the kiev – worth having?)?

ant 9:39 am 04 Jun 09

It’s weird that a small place would bother paying the bucks for this contraption. And the ordering counter/bar area was right in front of the doorway to the kitchen, it’s not like the kitchen was miles away. Writing out a docket takes no time, and you can put those little messages to the chef that customers invariably want.

Cannot see why replacing veggies with chips and vice-versa would be such a big issue!

Also, reckon they need better signage to show there’s a separate eatery behind the BBQ thing. When we arrived, we assumed the cook it yourself place was “it”, but then investigated further. I didn’t see a sign at all, just a small printed menu stuck on the door.

Danman 8:49 am 04 Jun 09

In my 8 years exp in a kitchen, Nothing can replace hand written food dockets for the kitchen – esp with variations like this.

However, I have worked places where they order and the docket gets spat out in the kitchen, waiters would then come in and hand write changes on the docket..

Seemed to work, but yeah I agree those docket machines are anti productive, especially when the computers crash and floor staff struggle with pen and pad, which woul dnot happen if they knew how to use an order docket 🙂

Plus a hand written order docket was easier to stab on a nail when the order was complete :).

I guess an advantage of the electronic version is negating the need for chefs to be distracted by wait staff – and the wait staff can keep ordering table to table without the need to return to the kitchen.

deezagood 10:21 pm 03 Jun 09

Nice to hear a different perspective Ant; I don’t think they even had the electronic ordering thingy when we were there (and no stuff-ups for our meal). Am going there again on Saturday night for dinner, so will report back! Value for money is exceptional … mmmm steaks.

ant 10:15 pm 03 Jun 09

ON the strength of this report, we tried Maddies tonight for our cheap family feed.

The report was entirely accurate, I have to say. Spot-on.

Maddies is hidden behind the “cook your own steak” thingy, through some glass doors with the menu stuck on them. It’s spacious and quiet. The carpet and paint pong faintly of when it was a smoky pub, but you stop smelling that pretty quick. Perfect place for a winter meal, it’s carpeted and cosy, and not noisy. Outside the doors in the steak area though the joint was jumping.

The food was OK, the prices were excellent… but they really need to work on the service. That sounds awful I know… the people were actually really nice, so I’ll explain.

We ordered 4 things as entree, I made it very clear these were the entrees, and then what were the mains. But sadly, the member of the party who was really hungry had his wedges appear with the main course (it was your classic wedges, with a pot of sour cream and a pot of chilli sauce, why would you have a snacky dippy thing with the main meal?).

Also, another member of teh party ordered half a dozen oysters… they got the full dozen! Nice oysters, apparently, but um…

The mains was all kinds of headaches. We had 4 things, and actually only two really, as it was the beer battered fish n chips, and chicken kiev. Times 2 each.

However, we wanted one fish n chips sans chips and with veggies, due to allergies. And wanted one chicen kiev sans veggies and with chips, due to great love of chips.

They had one of those ordering systems, with the press-keys, and this variation to the menu caused great problems and they had to go ask the chef. Chef apparently said OK but we had to pay extra for having veggies with the fish. In hindsight, if I’d realised the problems, we should have just stayed with the main script and swapped veggies and chips at the table.

I really hate those press-key ordering things. People often want to vary things a bit, and these things prevent servers from doing so. It’s very McDonalds and must be expensive. And they don’t bloody work.

anyway. what we ended up with was 2 chicken kievs with veggies. no chips. The fish orders were OK and I stole the chips and palmed off my veggies and that person got the wedges that came at the same time. Good chips. The kievs were different, the insides were some kind of garlicky stuffing, not runny butter. I thought it worked quite well. Fish was those long bits of puffy-batter objects that you often see, and the fish-eaters seemed very pleased with it.

also, a nice touch was the woman patrolling the dining room, checking on things. She was very pro-active on allergies, which was great to see. Very friendly. Top marks.

I think we’ll be back, it really ticked all the boxes, except they stuffed our order up! But not on purpose. I blame the electronic ordering thing. Cannot fathom why small places use them. But really, it was OK, great value, great location, and as we left people were happily yapping and eating out on the smoking verandah, the rain dripping around them. Kind-of nice.

deezagood 4:36 pm 19 May 09

Ceej1973 said :

“The food was really, really good – upmarket presentation, suburb quality and given the presentation and food-quality bloody cheap!”

Should that read “suburb quality”, or “supurb quality”. If it is of the quality of some of the “suburb quality footy club” venues down my neck of the Tuggies woods, then I may have to give it a miss, however, if it is of “supurb quality” to that of other upmarket venues of Manuka/Kingston, then I will be there too.

LOL

Blame the spell-checker (and my tiredness) – not suburb – SUPERB!

ant 4:32 pm 19 May 09

Well, I’m drooling. Another place to try, for sure. Hungry now.

deezagood 3:33 pm 19 May 09

Guys – I hadn’t finished or edited this post – please read the proper version when it pops up! I’m pretty sure I didn’t tick the ‘ready for posting box …..!

Nambucco Deliria 2:49 pm 19 May 09

A career in restaurant PR awaits you, deezagood. Very slick review.

Ceej1973 2:38 pm 19 May 09

“The food was really, really good – upmarket presentation, suburb quality and given the presentation and food-quality bloody cheap!”

Should that read “suburb quality”, or “supurb quality”. If it is of the quality of some of the “suburb quality footy club” venues down my neck of the Tuggies woods, then I may have to give it a miss, however, if it is of “supurb quality” to that of other upmarket venues of Manuka/Kingston, then I will be there too.

LOL

Clown Killer 2:29 pm 19 May 09

I’m going to take up your recommendation and give this a try as soon as I get back to Canberra. Do you know if they do lunch?

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