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!
Note: This article originally appeared on the Rockhampton Food Rater Facebook page, and was written by me on 7 January, 2015.