Hazara Indian Restaurant Norwood


date of visit: Monday 17 September 2012

Heading out after ‘work’ (which, in this case, was a Pinot Noir tasting) for a meal and movie is not something that happens too often. I have a tendency to fall asleep in the cinema (I have been doing this for years – it’s because it’s warm and dark) and have you seen the price of a movie ticket? I’d rather just eat dinner!

However, I’d been given some movie tickets, Kath and Kimderella was showing and it was time to do something noice, different and unusual. Andy was not interested (surprise) so a friend and I left our other halves at home with toddlers and headed out with a couple of hours to spare to eat before the film.

The Parade is a bit weird in that it’s one of those places that seems to have tons of restaurants/eateries but, when I think about it, there’s not that many places I’m desperate to try. We’d both done Grace and I’m always keen to try somewhere new. I asked Twitter and, being a Monday night, our choices were a bit limited, so we ended up at Hazara.

Hazara bills itself as an Indian and Singaporean restaurant but we were both there for curry – and, honestly, Singaporean dishes are few and far between on the menu.

We began with pappadums and shared vegetable samosas, which we followed with Hazara chicken curry (me – I figured this was the house specialty*) and rogan josh (my mate). The Hazara chicken curry is described vaguely as being cooked in “a flavoursome gravy with freshly ground spices”. That could pretty much describe a random mid-week curry by me.

I’d describe all the food as above average. The samosas were definitely good – if I wanted to be picky I’d complain that the pastry was a little thick, but it certainly wasn’t stodgy or pasty.

The main courses were very good. The lamb was really tender and had obviously had a long, slow cook. The chicken was still moist. While the sauces were tasty you could argue they were a little homogenous in texture. We ordered some coconut rice and dahl makhani to go with our main courses. Dahl makhani is one of my favourite things to eat so I’m quite picky about it. This dahl makhani was made exclusively with black lentils which is definitely a good thing – some have kidney beans which I don’t rate at all. It wasn’t as spicy as it could have been but I also appreciate the need to keep accompaniments more universally appealing.

At some points service was a little intrusive. If, as a waiter, you’re going to apologise for interrupting (to ask if the food is OK) then don’t interrupt. It was a Monday night and the restaurant was nearly empty so the waiting staff weren’t pushed for time – they could have waited. I guess had they done that I’d be complaining they asked me when my mouth was full …

The real sting in the tail at Hazara is the cost. Our dinner, including an alcoholic drink each and a small tip, came to $40 a head. Whichever way I look at it, that’s quite a lot of money for a curry. I feel like I am always saying this about curries – but they are something that is easy to cook well, and in bulk, at home.

While I’d definitely go back to Hazara, I would also be mindful of the cost. In a group, or if I were hungry – I’d expect to spend $50 a head easily. You have to chalk some of that money up to a pleasant environment and friendly, efficient service.

* Hazara is both a place in Pakistan and a Persian speaking people of Afghanistan (the third largest ethnic group after Pasthuns and Tajiks) and central Pakistan. I have no idea whether the name of the restaurant (and this dish) refers to either of these or something else.

Hazara on Urbanspoon

Grace Est

photos by Damien Seidel*

date of visit: Sunday 1 April 2012

It’s taken me a very long time to get to Grace, which I think is excusable since I live a reasonable distance from Norwood. So I know this review is about a year off being cutting edge …

When I booked (for midday, on the dot of opening) I was told that the restaurant was hosting a function at 1:30pm and we’d need to be finished lunch by then. Not a problem – I only take issue with this kind of thing if the venue waits until I turn up to tell me I need to clear my table at a certain time.

On arrival, it turned out that due to the function we were the ONLY table in the restaurant so our experience is probably not representative.

Grace is divided into three areas: a bar, the very black and white restaurant and the beer garden. In the restaurant you can quite comfortably spy on what is going on in other parts of the venue, so it’s optimal for people watching.

At first, service was reasonably attentive but that definitely dropped off as our lunch went on. One of my friends described the staff as having a ‘morning after’ feel and either they had indeed had a big night on Saturday or they were woefully understaffed. Let’s be charitable and say understaffed.

We started with a bottle of Oliver’s Taranga Fiano and should have got straight to work on the menu except that one person discovered some suspect floaty bits in her glass of wine. As the wine is under screwcap cork couldn’t be the culprit and, as the Fiano wasn’t available by the glass, she ended up having it replaced (on the house) with a glass of Riesling. This was all handled well enough but I do think that making the effort to check glassware is clean should be a really basic part of keeping a restaurant …

Food wise, our entrées were two lots of steak tartare, one kingfish ceviche and one chorizo and chilli. The entrées were generally well received – the steak tartare was excellent. Hand chopped steak, not too fine, beautifully presented – although with a decent piece of meat this should be a dish which is relatively difficult to stuff up! The kingfish ceviche got a big thumbs up (and was even more pretty on the plate) although the comment was made that it would have been nice to know whether or not the kingfish is local. The chorizo and peppers was less of a hit: the peppers apparently were mostly underwhelming and a rather large number were left on the plate. The waitress informed us that about 1 in 20 is really hot: probably not the surprise you’re after if you don’t like hot food …

For main course we showed a great lack of imagination with THREE people ordering the salmon with pea puree and heirloom tomato salad. Comments on this different wildly: bland, salmon perfectly cooked, salmon overcooked. Make of this what you will! I ordered the slow cooked pork belly with daikon, heirloom carrots and Japanese mayonnaise. The pork was excellent (with a lovely expanse of crackling) and the daikon made an excellent counterfoil to the meat’s richnesss and fattiness. However, the carrots were utterly undercooked. To the point that they were almost, but not quite, raw. I can only imagine that someone forgot to the put the carrots on and there was a mad rush to get them on the plate – in which case I would have just preferred them raw! The final main was the jerk chicken which got the seal of approval. Two cuts of meat: one on, one off the bone, served with white beans and tomato. Apparently this was beautiful.

Some of us wrapped up with desserts where the hit of the day was the peanut butter and jelly icecream sandwich. That actually sounds pretty horrible to me, but apparently it was good enough to warrant a trip back just to eat that one dish alone. The apple pies didn’t quite receive such accolades but there were no complaints.

So food wise, Grace ticks some boxes – I’d go back and eat there, as would at least a couple of my dining companions. Some people may find that they require two courses: portions aren’t massive but I’d describe them as sufficient (I had entrée and main and only needed a cheese toastie for my dinner).

But service wise – they really need to get some more staff on and get some MUCH better communicating happening. When our entrées arrived, we waited a good 5 minutes for the final dish (the chorizo) to arrive – we actually had to ask after it. Taking of our dessert and coffee orders was slow – although nowhere near as slow as getting hold of the bill!

The real disappointment was the way in which the whole function thing was handled. We knew we had to clear the table by 1:30pm and, aware of the time, I actually asked a staff member if she would like us to move to the bar or garden for dessert and coffees. She insisted that wasn’t necessary but it was subsequently quite obvious that other staff members were getting grief from the function (which is reasonable – if you’re paying for use of an area you don’t wand random lunchers hanging around!) and all starting to look a bit harried.

So – while Grace serves up some good, and beautifully presented food, it can be a touch uneven. But where it really needs to pull its socks up is its service and attention to detail. Clean plates, cutlery and glasses should be de rigueur and communication between sufficient staff makes for a stress free experience for everyone.

While I would be happy to go back, I’d be cautious about a blanket recommendation of the restaurant – especially if you are a pedant when it comes to service. Caveat emptor.

* I don’t normally take photographs of food in restaurants – I think it’s inconsiderate to both my companions and other diners.  Because we were the only people in the restaurant, and the food was so pretty, these are very much the exception to that rule.

Grace The Establishment on Urbanspoon