Valentine’s Day at Siren Bar

14 Feb

I’ve previously written positively about my experience(s) at Siren Bar. The following review is anything but positive.

Siren Bar and Restaurant has posted an advertisement on Facebook for a three course Valentine’s Dinner with what I thought was a pretty superb menu at a decent price ($150 for two, including a cocktail each on arrival). After my remarks about how good it looks, Boyfriend does the romantic thing and rings and books us a table. He’s offered an early sitting (6ish) or a late sitting (8.30pm). 8.30 seems extraordinarily late for a late sitting, but we take it. This is our first mistake.

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(Some Canberra trivia: I understand Siren is part of the Adobe Hotel group, and I believe the same company is behind the proposal to build Canberra’s tallest building – 35 storeys – in Belconnen.)

We arrive bang on 8.30 and I’m a bit shocked. The bar part of the restaurant is still humming along, and the Valentine’s Day diners are segregated into a lovely if not odd area to the right of the establishment with a whole heap of coupled up tables. Only one couple arrives after us. Despite quite a lot of waiters, we don’t know where to go to get anyone’s attention, and for ten minutes stand awkwardly near a lectern in the area of the Valentine’s Day part of the restaurant and wait for someone to approach us. Eventually someone says that someone else will be with us, then someone else comes along and asks if we’re served and goes to do something (?), and then someone else comes along and asks how we’d like to pay! Finally, we’re led to a table in the corner and the orders for our cocktails are taken. We’re offered a choice of two – the Siren (a raspberry based cocktail) or a Splice (basically, a Splice as a cocktail). We get one of each.

And then we wait. And wait. And wait. Because the menu was advertised, I had my dishes picked before Boyfriend had even made the booking, so apart from a short dilemma between the entrees I know within seconds that I want the oysters, the sirloin, and the macerated strawberries. In the meantime, we slap away mosquitoes which for some reason are having a party in this corner of the restaurant.

At 9pm, our drinks arrive and we’re asked if we’re ready to order. It’s a resounding YES and we’re told to hang tight while our waiter goes to drop off her drinks tray and come back. She never comes back. She does serve other tables, and even asks other tables if they want more wine while we try to catch her eye.

At 9.10pm another waiter comes along, apologising profusely for the delay and we’re willing to forgive… until she drops the bombshell. There are no oysters left, and there is no sirloin. My heart sinks and I’m pretty disbelieving – it’s not like we’ve arrived late! – but I’m happy enough to get the zucchini flowers, disappointed to get the nile perch (not keen on vegetables), and at least I still get the macerated strawberries and balsamic icecream which sounds interesting.

The rest of the meal moves reasonably swiftly, but that’s one of the few compliments I have. The other is that the zucchini flower is delicious but there’s a problem. There’s just one. One zucchini flower. We’re promised in the promotion and on the menu in front of us (which, trust me, I got half an hour to study) that there would be zucchini flowerS. Plural. There’s plenty of salad and it’s tasty and the flavours are great, but is this the best it’s going to get? Have they run out of zucchini flowers, too? (My guess is yes.)

Zucchini flower (singular)

Zucchini flower (singular)

I order a Gallagher Riesling to get me through the rest of the meal, and it also arrives very quickly ($7.50 for a glass and about $36 for a bottle – a bottle is cheaper at Sanur’s Balinese in Belconnen). (Canberra wines have a very, very poor showing on Siren Bar’s winelist which, if you’ve been reading me for a while, is a big deal for me. We’ve got so many good wines, why not feature a few on your restaurant’s wine list?)

The perch arrives and it’s not until I look at the camera reel that I realise that it’s presented exactly the same as the entree. Was the carrot reprise really necessary?

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

And there’s a bone in the perch. This is why I steer away from ordering fish. If there’s a bone, the meal’s basically over for me. I struggle to eat it for fear that the next time there’s a bone, I won’t feel it until it’s in my throat. I pull the rest of my fish apart and eat the cous cous on its own, but it’s bland without the flavour of the fish. When we’re asked how the meal is, I do mention that there is a bone in the fish, but what can anyone really do? It’s too late. (Boyfriend does devour what he terms overcooked fish and leaves his plate clean – ostensibly because he was starving. It was 9.30pm after all!)

Ah well, at least there’s still the dessert, and I’m glad there’s at least one dish I wanted on its way. But no. As our mains are taken away, we’re given teaspoons. Just when it can’t get any worse, two pannacottas arrive. What? I try to politely point out that there’s a mistake, that I ordered the strawberries, but in return I get a polite smile and am told – you guessed it – they’ve run out of strawberries! Didn’t anyone tell me? No, no they didn’t. Wowee. You’ve got to be joking.

Disappointment in a dish

Disappointment in a dish

The dessert is a disaster. I don’t want pannacotta – I’m not a fan generally – but I’ve been given no choice. The other option was a creme brulee, but given I’m not even offered it, I can only assume they also ran out of it. The pannacotta is well shaped, but bland. There’s a sour halfhearted raspberry coulis, a random sliver of tasteless pastry and toffee dripped onto the plate so it sets hard.

Toffee and burnt pastry

Toffee (cracked by me) and burnt pastry

At risk of sounding #MKR, I can’t work out how this is all supposed to work or how I’m supposed to eat it. So, this is best I could do:

What can I say?

What can I say?

We pay our $157.50 ($150 + glass of wine) and we’re asked how it was. Boyfriend politely says, “It wasn’t great” but I do let them know what I think – try a 30 second summary of the above. The waiter who processes our bill does seem genuinely shocked but it’s too late. If there are two sittings, I’d expect both sittings to be given the same treatment, and the same options. I feel like we are almost punished for both arriving at the 8.30pm sitting (on time!) and for having no control over when our orders are taken. We’re at Siren entirely because of the widely promoted set menu, and yet if I’d known the options I wanted would be ‘subject to availability’, there’s no way I would have risked it. It was a genuine waste of an evening.

It’s going to be a long, long time before anyone will be able to convince me to go back.

Date: 14 February, 2013

Attendees: T1 and Boyfriend

Worthwhile factor: Not worthwhile. At all.

Cost: $157.50 ($150 for two included three random meals and two large cocktails + $7.50 glass of wine)

Want more? Siren’s website.

Siren Bar and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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12 Responses to “Valentine’s Day at Siren Bar”

  1. Gary Lum February 15, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    That is such a poor experience. I hope management has learnt from their Debarcle and either won’t attempt this again or if they do, they do it right.

  2. Liz November 12, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    Unbelievable….the second they said any dish was out of stock, I would have left. For them not to even comp some of your meal is an outrage

    • inthetaratory November 12, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

      It was shocking. I wish we had left – I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t eaten anything!

  3. Not a siren fan either! February 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    Yep, siren isn’t any better on any other night. We took our plates to the kitchen ourselves after being ignored for so long, gave cash to the bar staff and left. Worst place to dine in Canberra.

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