Recollections of Ribs & Rumps

Right after work today I asked the family if they felt like eating out and what they felt like having. My teenage daughter pipes up instantly with, “Italian!” closely followed by my young son with, “What the heck is Italian?”. An education session (i.e., fighting between kids) followed whereupon he advised that the only flavour of Italian he likes is Ham & Pineapple. Or perhaps anything with bacon.

I briefly considered the new Pacinos, but the sounds of the still-squabbling kids in the background motivated me to keep thinking. Keep in mind that I love Pacinos, but I typically save it for special dinners – like when I’ve done something wrong.

The boy then suggested Chinese and I caught myself daydreaming of Malaysia Hut, with bowls of steaming hot oriental wonders, delectable sauces and some of the best spring rolls for two towns over. However my wife immediately vetoed the idea. Crap.

I suggested Ribs & Rumps (R&R from now on) and as far as I recall everyone was in agreement. Possibly they weren’t, but my memory is funny that way.

As a long time believer that salad is just what food eats, I was pleased to hear that R&R was opening up locally. I have driven past the one in Gladstone during early evening and seen the place packed out – so you might say I was really keen to give it a go. My cunning plan was coming together!

The early reviews from foodie pages on Facebook have not been comforting I admit, although I’ve also seen quite a few positives also. The only way to be sure was to check it out myself.

We pulled up out the front at about 6:00PM. Tonnes of parking along the river bank at that time of evening. Externally, the building is just beautiful – it’s so great to see these kinds of developments coming to the river bank. Inside has a fair bit of wow factor too. Thankfully they’ve forgone the typical Aussie rustic steakhouse theme of number plates and tin junk nailed to the walls – and instead decorated in a nice modern timber and wrought iron style. The dining areas are offered both indoors and outdoors, with indoors divided between traditional seating and more intimate style tables with 3 or 4 tall stools around them. We speculated that some people might just gather around those for drinks (close to the bar) or for light dinners. A lot of tables outside too although the chairs are made of some kind of brightly coloured plastic stuff which seemed out of place, and a couple of couches. If it rained, you wouldn’t want to be outside as there didn’t seem to be a lot of protection against the elements. Fortunately the weather was absolutely perfect for us.

We were seated quickly and efficiently, a bottle of water and glasses was brought out and served to all automatically. Nice touch. It occurred to me how many staff were in the place, I think 16 were visible to me and quite probably more.

Menus appeared (they’re quite fancy, but I guess they need to do something with the leftover skins from all the cows). Perusing the menu there’s a decent selection or ribs, steaks, burgers and “other things”. One item stood out to me, and as I write this I’m screaming to myself, DON’T DO IT! But alas I did. I ordered the “Meat your Match Challenge” which consists of a 1kg rump steak, a full rack of ribs and a double serve of fries. INSANE. I knew it was ridiculous. Over the top. Maybe even impossible. But goddam there was a free knife on the line and apparently 10% cash back forever and some kind of elite club to recognise your awesomeness (or gluttony).

I went for it – ordering my steak medium and selecting a mushroom sauce. We also ordered one kids fish and chips, along with a Parmigiania and a Wagyu Steak Sandwich.

Right after the order was placed and my certain doom was ensured the waitress mentioned that only 5 people had attempted it in Rockhampton, and that only 3 of them had completed it successfully. I didn’t want to openly weep in front of the kids.

I passed the next 20 minutes or so nervous. To fill in time I asked the kids how their day went and they both just looked at me with pity in their eyes. I asked the boy if he thought I could beat the steak challenge and he said, “Yeah dad, you sure can eat a lot of dinner!”. I didn’t know whether that was a compliment or not.

My poor wife. I should point out that most ordinary wives would not put up with their husbands betting steak houses that they can eat anything they send out. Only my wife would put up with a grown man putting themselves through torture for a FREE STEAK KNIFE (hey, remember those Demtel ads?).

Pondering the feat before me we discussed my general tactics. From previous research (watching American reality tv shows) I knew that the best strategy is to eat as fast as you can and to save the starches for last. The general plan then was to knock over the kilo rump, attack the rack (I am aware that sounds a little rude) and to then make a run for the finishing line with the chips. The crowd will cheer etc.

However, my plans were apparently buggered when a plate of ribs and chips came out. We immediately thought, “Dang, it’s coming as two separate meals which kind of ruins the plans.” However, an eagle-eyed waitress (a manager I think) spotted the mistake and pointed out that it was actually a different meal altogether and it was quickly transported away. Obviously no beatings were administered as our food delivery person soon after arrived with our correct meals (the food delivery waitress was different to our actual waitress, which were distinct from the other waitresses that seemed to serve as overlords making sure the others delivered all the things correctly). I’m sure a PhD could be done on the waitressing structure here.

The food arrived at the table and all that was missing were guys with trumpets and a ticker tape parade. It was set down and my plate consisted of approximately 18 bags of chips, obscured mostly with a full rack of pork ribs (I was asked which sort of ribs I wanted by the way). The lot was then topped with a kilo steak. Aesthetically it resembled a buffalo turned inside out by a UFO with just it’s horns cut off. SWEET JESUS. Other diners gawked, I felt embarrassed. My wife could have killed me. The kids were impressed.

I set upon the kilo rump and I have to say it’s just about the best damned rump I’d ever had. Absolutely perfectly medium, seasoned well and moist inside. No need for any sauce on this baby. If this is the general quality of a steak out of R&R then I fully endorse its consumption. I managed to make it through in double time and even fancied that I might have broken some kind of record (in reality, it is not timed at all). I was pleased with myself – I was now just left with massive chips and ribs so passers-by stopped double-taking at least.

Unfortunately R&R were out of bibs but they did issue me with a bowl and a moist towelette in a packet. Turns out that the lack of bib was not a problem.

I found the pork ribs to be extremely dry and I’m still uncertain what kind of sauce was on them. I was expecting (assuming?) some kind of BBQ flavour but it was maybe something weakly resembling honey and soy. It was borderline unpleasant and I thought at the time that perhaps it was made wrong, or the chef that devised the master recipe should seek a CAT scan to look for tumours. Other explanations seem far-fetched. I gave up trying to eat the meat from the ribs and ended up “shaving” it off with my knife. My wife observed that it wasn’t even close to falling away from the bone by itself. I don’t know if R&R claim to cook their ribs daily or not but I’m quite certain these were from the past, and reheated.

After the ribs were done I opened up the towelette and covered my hands in smelly chemicals. I had a flashback to baby wipes – that’s what you need ruing a meal.

Our excellent waitress dropped by to see how things were going (she was excited that some chump at one of her tables was trying the challenge I think). I mentioned that it was probably time to give it up. There were a LOT of chips left… I would estimate several serves worth and at this point they were mostly very mushy and squishy and covered in meat and rib juice. Fortunately (or so I thought) I had been saving the mushroom sauce and I dumped it over the chips.

Unfortunately I hated the mushroom gravy and now all my chips were covered in it. DAMN. I really struggled through. I was far past any point of comfort and obviously way beyond what anyone eats (you know, I don’t go eating kilo steaks and whole sides of ribs with any regularity). The taste of the gravy was getting to me and I found that it was actually making me nauseous and sick. This was now beyond cute or interesting, I wanted to just give up.

But then the chips were only half remaining. Can you give up when you’re 90% there? Suddenly this was about more. It was greater than just a guy, and just a plate full of chips. It was about my ability to finish the thing I said I would do, and to not be one of those people that fail at chips. Did my wife and kids, and my waitress deserve for me to give up? HELL NO.

I ate one chip at a time and was actually to the point where I couldn’t swallow anymore. I was food drunk, irritated at the sounds in the background (like an old man, you kids get off my lawn now you hear!). At one point I started resenting the last dozen chips for not falling off the plate on the trip over from the kitchen. I wondered why my cook couldn’t have had smaller hands (I know they probably use a scoop but give me a break, I was not rational), or accidentally cut my steak 1mm thinner. Such a small amount left to go and I was floundering.

As the waitress passed I asked if I could have a little bit of pepper sauce. $3 later (seriously?) it arrived, and tasted pretty damned average too. Honestly, I am not a professional chef but I rate my home cooking skills above R&R as far as mushroom and pepper sauces go.

Nonetheless I added about half the sauce to the stagnant, cold, mushy pond of ex-chips pining for better days on my plate and if anything made it even worse. I thought about asking to swap my chips out for fresh ones but assumed it would be against the rules and/or would require taking out a personal loan.

I made it through, and I was bloody dying inside. The waitress quickly issued me with my free steak knife, photographed me for posterity and then brought us the bill.

I realised later that the menu promised some kind of VIP Challenger card for future discounts (which is different to the normal rewards card) but I didn’t seem to get that. May follow up at a future date.

In other business, the boy enjoyed his fish and chips, my daughter said her parmigiana was really good, but my wife was not so happy with the steak sandwich. It was meant to be on a toasted turkish bun but was actually a different type of bread altogether it seemed, and the overall quality was apparently less than expected.

So, overall I was quite happy and positive. Staff and atmosphere are top notch, a beautiful location that’s very accessible and handy. Absolutely first rate steak in my experience.

A few things to improve. The sauces should be free. Charge me as much as you want for a steak and even charge me for sides if you must but $3 for a tiny pot of (what is probably) bottled catering sauce is a bit poor. The ribs can use improvement. I think the menu said something along the lines of them being famous for their ribs. umm yeah. Even the ones from Sizzler are 3 times better. Perhaps I got the dodgy ribs reserved for the challenge, I would bet that 9/10 times the ribs are left until last and not finished. Pure speculation, but I’m grasping at straws to find a reason for them being as they were.

I also think they should be able to do better than a “wet wipe” for cleaning up after the ribs and I’m still boggling at the idea that you don’t get any sides at all with a steak – they’re all $7 each. Not even a little salad. Or a couple of chips. As a consumer it doesn’t sit well with me. I just bought the most expensive thing on the menu but the thing that sticks in my mind is being charged $3 for a thimble of sauce. Please change this.

We will go again and I will order a normal meal and enjoy it properly.

Do not under any circumstances undertake the challenge unless you’re as stupid as me!

Finding Gold in Mount Morgan

Based on positive reviews seen here I managed to peel the kids off the computers this morning and load them along with my significant other into the car and head on up to the Grand Hotel in Mount Morgan.

We had a little trouble working out which entrance to use as we were looking for a blackboard or something with specials on or maybe a sign along the lines of, “Hey stupid, there’s food inside this door”.

No biggie though, as we soon located the entrance to the restaurant and went inside and found a table. The table had an upright menu offering pizzas and a few other items but after looking around we spotted a menu on an adjacent table that seemed to be the full faire so we nicked it.

Now, being the caring parent that I am the first thing I noticed was that there was no kids’ meal section on the menu. Not a huge issue I thought, the meals were fairly priced and guess who gets leftovers anyway? 🙂

Once we interrogated the kids and forced a decision out of them we went up to the ordering area and discovered that there was a full menu displayed there, with kids meals. My wife quickly scaled down one of the kids’ meals in size and I felt a brief moment of sadness.

Our lunches arrived in only 10 minutes or so. Possibly 5 minutes either side to be honest as one of my kids was informing me about his latest Minecraft activities which involved blowing up some chickens or thereabouts. Either way my beer hadn’t run out so it was fast enough.

I had the chicken parmie which was served with a good amount of chips and a nice salad. I would say it was a generous serving without being the ridiculous proportions that these things sometimes arrive in.

The other half had the Reef and Beef which looked spectacular and she was extremely happy with. The prawns and calamari were plentiful. The steak was probably a little over the requested medium although the overall was an emphatic thumbs up. For the $20 it must represent the most astounding value of any meal in CQ that I’ve seen.

My daughter had the twice-cooked pork belly and it was served on a nice bed of vegetables – and what I think were cranberries. It was just spectacular in my view. One comment from her was that the crackling was a little burnt although to put this in total perspective this kid thinks that browned toast is burnt. Indeed there were some blackish areas but I can’t imagine any carnivore passing it up nonetheless.

The younger boy orders a plain and vanilla fish and chips and I didn’t try any but it looked pretty good and zero complaints could be heard (and he’s a fussy eater, so hearing nothing is like hearing THS IS THE BEST EVER). A lot of establishments basically treat kids’ meals like crap, although this appeared to be something I would have been very happy with myself so kudos there guys.

Overall we were all happy with the experience and will go back. My wife (who is not a foodie, but does know what she doesn’t like) is not easily impressed is already planning what to have next time. Possibly this was aided by one of the chefs coming out and mentioning his deep fried chocolate which is new to the menu.

I think all meals and a round of drinks were around $60 which is less than a trip to Sizzler or a couple of pizzas.

TL;DR Pretty darn impressed – I suggest you go for a drive up and try it out.

Note: I originally posted this review on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page on August 16, 2014.

Miss India versus Indian Brothers in Rockhampton

A review, and natural comparison.

After a little bit of late night shopping it was brought to my attention that my wife and kids were hungry, and we were still 20 minutes from home. My thoughts first went to what was in the freezer to cook, but that was quickly put on hold once I found out that my eldest child was starving and that if we waited for 20 more minutes she would probably die.

After some quick re-consideration it was announced that we shall be having indian tonight, and being fans of Miss India we decided to go to Indian Brothers. I wanted to debunk this place and prove that it couldn’t possibly be as good as my beloved competing eating establishment. Stay with me, I’m not completely insane.

So we head off to the South Rockhampton store. On the way I regaled the kids with tales of Naan breads the size of trampolines but they were not impressed. I told them stories from my youth of Vindaloos so deadly that one needed welding gloves to ladle it out. The trip was otherwise uneventful, except the youngest boy somehow “accidentally” opened his door mid-turn down Fitzroy Street. If anyone saw a silver Dualis with a child’s head peeking out and a parent shrieking like a deranged banshee then I apologise. My parent of the year award is clearly safe once again.

Arriving at the destination with both kids still with their heads on we entered the store. The smell was amazing. My brain went into some kind of primal haze and my higher order functions disappeared. All I could do was marvel at the smells of awesomeness. As women are aware there is only one other thing that causes men to go stupid like this but as far as I’m aware there are no shops in Rockhampton that sell it for $9.95.

We were immediately greeted and offered sample food which was appreciated. If they had also offered me a beer I probably would have moved in. I wonder if they would adopt?

Some tables and chairs were neatly set with dinnerware slightly fancier than I was expecting for a retail shop with a tiled floor. Not exactly the classiest place to go on a first date or an anniversary, but perfectly serviceable to visit with a bunch of mates or a horde of kids.

We selected a family meal deal that included two curries, two naan, some papadums, raita and a couple of other bits and pieces and headed off home. Songs have been sung about love, death and loss. More than just a few country singers have sung about floods, drought and sick horses, but I think there should be more songs about how damned long the drive home is when you have nice smelling food in the car.

Sampling the first curry – a Mango chicken – I had to admit that it was pretty damned good. A very distinct mango flavour of course and a velvety creaminess. Plenty of chicken which I had to battle the kids for. The second curry was a Lamb Rogan Josh which I have to admit I would pass on given the choice again. It had a LOT of Garam Masala spice in it, and maybe that’s traditional, or maybe the guy put 20 times too much in. It was also a little watery and that seemed to separate out on my plate from the rest of the sauce – just a little bit visually unappealing. The lamb was tasty though.

The naan was just Fricken’ Amazing. Miss India does a good naan but I’m awarding the prize to Indian brothers. Each one is a meal in itself and I found the Garlic and Cheese one to be just a small notch above the chef’s special (I forget, but it featured spinach).

Rice is just rice to me, although my wonderful bride said that she probably preferred the shorter grain rice at Miss India. I enquired with her regarding the actual difference. She may have interpreted my question as sarcasm and unfortunately I cannot report back what she said due to the language used.

Overall, we were happy. Good value for forty bucks. Sadly I cannot judge which is best between Miss India and Indian Brothers as I would still happily shop at either. If I had to be nudged in one direction I might go in favour of the latter due to the terrific naan. But I still think maybe somebody fell into the lamb curry pot with the wrong spice bottle.

Cheers!

Note: This was originally written for the Rockhampton Food Rater page on Facebook, and was published there on October 2, 2014.

Outback Jacks in Rockhampton – a revisit

I know that Outback Jacks has copped a bit of flack in the past, and of the couple of times I’d been there in the past for both lunch and dinner I hadn’t been impressed with the food or the service. Seriously, what’s worse than being parked in a restaurant with a mouth as dry as the Sahara Desert and nobody can be found to serve another round. Assuming that restaurants like to make money it seems to me that flogging alcohol must have an awesome profit margin and therefore waiters should stand next to your elbow in case you need another. I don’t think it would even be offensive to ask, “You look thirsty, would you like two?” But I digress because my blood pressure’s now increasing just thinking about it.

Due to the new management I had been thinking about going back for awhile, but at the same rate I like my friends and family and wasn’t sure if I should experiment at their expense in case it was still bad.

Lo, in my inbox came an email about “All you can eat” ribs and wings. $29.95. A work colleague doesn’t mind some ribs or wings either, and even though I explained in advance that he might want to bring his own esky if he likes to receive drinks we decided we’d give it a go.

I made a quick trip past my wife’s work area (we work at the same place). It’s an informal thing but I feel the need to ask for some kind of permission before embarking on anything that is “unlimited”. I guess it’s kind of like the last reality check before doing something dumb, like jumping off a cliff, drinking a yard glass of beer, or eating ribs until you burst.

Approval was granted and off we drove to Outback Jacks. The drive took longer than the walk would have and there was some momentary wonder at how lazy we were, but I asserted that the walk back would be uncomfortable once we ate the place out of ribs. We’d probably have to send a boy off to the shops to buy some more.

We fronted up and suddenly felt a bit sheepish. The infinite ribs (I decided I like infinite better that unlimited) deal wasn’t on the menu apparently as its a promo thing. I was hoping I could just point at it and grunt rather than saying out loud that we’d quite like to take out a bet that we can eat more than the conventional amount of ribs that could be gotten for $29.95. Nonetheless the waiter was quite good and didn’t show any apparent surprise at our undertaking. He arrived fairly quickly with some drinks which was extremely welcome after the 2 minute drive and 10 metre walk.

The place wasn’t very busy, but it was also a Thursday and for some reason it seems reasonable that steak meals would be more popular on other days, and even moreso at nights. Also, we kind of had our own waiter which I suggest you try sometime.

After about 10 minutes the meals arrived and I believe it was a fairly generous helping of ribs and a couple of chicken wings. We had both opted for “mild” and not the optional “hot”. Having been to the Yeppoon Chilli festival just weeks ago I thought my wife would not be happy with me if I hurt myself in that manner again.

The ribs seemed to be primarily beef and were absolutely spectacular. The meat was delicious, attached the bone but happily willing to spring free and give up it’s BBQ’y goodness.

I think there were three chicken wings that were incased in some kind of “southern” batter, with copious amounts of sauce. Now, one thing struck me – all the bones in the wings were broken which made them annoying to pull to bits. I nearly abandoned them except that you had to eat everything on the plate to get another serve. The wings themselves tasted – well – just bad. If you imagine the worst cook you know who has recently been to one of those home party plan events where they sell herbs and spices. And this guy, he has bought a whole bunch of different spices and decides to make some wings. This is just like what they would turn out like. If I made these at home and served them, I would preface dinner with an apology.

I ate them, but I would skip them in a heartbeat.

So, back to this unlimited thing. I mentioned a rule a minute ago about eating the whole plate. One thing that isn’t terribly obvious is that underneath the ribs and wings is a bed of thick cut chips about equal in weight to the meat. I would estimate 200 grams of chips at least. I don’t eat potato so I was in a tough place! I really wanted more ribs but I suddenly felt a little scammed. Upon closer inspection of the photograph of the meal on the wall with a telescope as powerful as the Hubble I was able to notice that it indeed showed some chips.

The waiter (bless his heart, he was great) understood my predicament and rushed off to bring back more ribs anyway whilst I poked at the chips wondering if they could be exchanged for, well, anything else.

Our second drinks came quickly and even though we had to ask for them I was pleased that they came with a fresh glass of ice.

Arriving back 10 minutes later with more ribs it occurred to me that it would basically be unlikely for anyone to go much beyond that due to the sheer amount of wait time between serves. I took out the remaining ribs which were somehow better than the first – and they were fricking, awesomely piping hot and wonderful. I will think about them for some time. The wings – I kind of sidelined those. I would have jettisoned them if I could have.

Overall, it was enjoyable and I would go back. The unlimited ribs feel like a bit of a dodgy offering overall though – there’s so many chips to get through, the wings aren’t that good, and the wait is long enough to limit the damage you could do.

Edit: We drove back!

Note: This article originally appeared on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page, and was written by me on 11 September, 2014.