I wrote this review for my Food Writing class.
Review of The Bank Bar and Brasserie
Corner of Victoria and Hood St., Hamilton
Ph (07) 839 4740
Rating out of 10
Our meal: Approximately $150 for six mains, six drinks (one free), and a dessert. (With the Two for Tuesday deal.)
Verdict: Inconsistent service and food quality. Many things were delicious and done to high standards; others were uncooked or done unprofessionally. Tuesday is the night to go (if you have an even number of people in your party) to get the most for your money.
A seemingly upscale restaurant with pub-like meal deals, The Bank seemed to be one huge contradiction. The inconsistencies didn't stop only with pricing: different standards in quality and cleanliness ranged from item to item. The Bank's website makes claim that they "take pride in catering for all of [their] guests with great food, a relaxing modern environment and fantastic service." At times this statement was accurate. At times it was far from true.
We decided to eat at The Bank because of its economically reasonable deals: $4.50 happy hour drinks on weekdays, and two main dishes for the price of one on Tuesdays. Walking into the high ceilinged entryway, you have a choice to go left into the restaurant or right into the bar. The two sections are connected through a walkway, which could cause noise problems on a particularly busy night at the bar. Fortunately, the bar was not rowdy early Tuesday evening, and we were able to hold a quiet conversation.
We arrived with a group of six and were seated in a comfortable booth on the outskirts of the intimate dining room. The high ceiling and lavish lighting was not intimidating, but rather, welcoming. The bar runs the length of both the restaurant and pub sections. An outdoor area with a fireplace and elegant tea lights was left nearly unoccupied outside the bar.
We took our time looking at the menu which includes salads, pizza, steak, light meals, and mains, all of which could go towards the buy one get one deal. We sat with our quickly-arriving drinks and decided on what to order as my dining companion realized her wine glass was extremely dirty.
When our meals arrived, one of my friends who requested the onions be left out of his dish was surprised to see onions covering his Angus sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce and potatoes, a dish named "the Kiwi Bloke." The maitre d' came over to apologize and explain that two orders got mixed up, and he could just switch the plates. While my friend admitted he had already taken a bite of his meal, the maitre d' came up with a plan to switch the meat on the two plates so that each person would get what they ordered, something that seemed slapdash and crude. My friend politely declined the offer and ate his meal, onions and all.
The lamb shanks braised in tomato and rosemary came with mashed potatoes, expertly seasoned, and peas. The tomato and red wine sauce, although drizzled over all aspects of the meal, was not overpowering. The meal blended nicely together. The lamb shank seemed to have been simmering for hours, as the meat was extremely tender and fell off the bone. The dish is topped with a small pile of raw green onion curls, which add a fresh aspect to the otherwise heavy meal.
The main rib dish came looking very appealing. A huge tower of ribs stacked expertly over a pool of mashed potatoes. The rib meat was extremely tender and the barbeque sauce was unobtrusive, a complex mixture of sweet and spicy.
The oven roasted chicken breast with mashed potatoes and mystery "seasonal greens" is filled with a stuffing mixture. The only problem was, when my poultry-eating friend reached the inside of the bird, she realized the ring of chicken closest to the stuffing was raw. She called the waitress over to inform her of the issue, and the waitress apologized and went to get the manager. The manager came over apologizing coyly, "well… this is embarrassing." He then told us he would take an order of chicken already half cooked from another table so it would be out within five minutes. We were pleased with the quick replacement, but I wouldn't have wanted to be on the other side of the equation waiting an extra twenty minutes for the questionably cooked food. The manger gave my friend a drink on the house and that was the end of any apology or compensation. The chicken came out the second time being two smaller pieces of breast instead of one large one, and was, indeed, cooked completely.
Desert was perfectly inconsistent as well. We ended the night with a shared chocolate mud cake, warm and drizzled with chocolate and raspberry sauces. It would have been perfect but for a strange kind of fluffy cream on the side in place of the promised ice cream. The Bank does some things very well, but some elements of the service and food are contradictory to the quality you might be expecting from a historical landmark.