About a month or so ago I was introduced to The Hermitage, off Civic Square, across from the Legislative Assembly, next to the Canberra Museum. Being impressed with my $30 lunch special that day (i.e. an imaginative antipasto entree, a scotch fillet main, and a glass of wine from a bottle that sells for $17 or so in supermarkets) I returned again last week with a couple of colleagues.
A lot can change in a month it would seem, starting with the blackboards outside announcing a return to ‘Old Management’. In contrast with my previous visit we arrived to an empty restaurant.
After being sat down, we first had to sit through a 5-10 minute monologue from the owner/waiter alleging various foolishnesses by his predecessors. Much was explained in his mind by their being 30 years old and thinking they knew it all, of course, in contrast to astuteness of his previous tenure. We were asked to understand that the emptiness of the restaurant was therefore due to their supposed driving away of his customers and dangerous innovations.
When we finally saw menus, it was all somewhat 2006 (salt and pepper calamari anyone?). The drinks order was accompanied by the owner/waiter confusing my two (older) colleagues with my parents.
The food, when it arrived, was pub food rather than finer dining (although served in fine dining rather than pub-sized portions). Both my entree and main differed from what had been advertised on the menu and involved unfortunate cooking shortcuts (my Barramundi was served on french fries that were almost certainly from a frozen bag from a factory).
Often empty restaurants are a function of human herd mentality rather than any objective flaw. In this case though, Generation Y (and possibly X) diners may well feel uncomfortable with the casual condescension, and the food offer could certainly be improved upon as the incumbent’s recent predecessors were able to demonstrate.