Thursday, 19 April 2012

Stone Grill Restaurant Toowoomba

The Cube Hotel's Stone Grill Restaurant on Margaret Street has a good reputation if you ask around in Toowoomba.  And I did.  Friends and colleagues said it was supposed to be a marvellous night out and famous for top quality steaks.  Sounded terrific, although none of them had actually been there yet.  Food Trek were looking for somewhere fun to take a couple of teenagers for dinner to celebrate success with the learner drivers test and the official start of an apprenticeship.  So I made reservations and off we went.

The decor is modern "sports bar" and the booth we were seated in was comfortable, but the atmosphere was noisy and dark.  Most of the light was provided by three tea light candles in the middle of the table and the background music and bar noise made it difficult to hold a conversation.   My internal foodie alarm was in full alert but I kept up a brave face for our guests sake.  After all, this was supposed to be fun, not a night to get picky.

The waitress took our order and then went to great lengths to explain that the stones that our meals are served on were at 300 degrees and very dangerous to touch.  Bloody hell, this was going to be exciting because I couldn't even see the table properly.  Maybe we get a pair of asbestos gloves.  Anyway we all went for the three course selection ($55 each).  First course was six Tasmanian scallops (without the roe that I find delicious and no scallop should be without) on a hot slab of stone.  Because it was so dark, we all had trouble telling when they were cooked.  With persistence and a lot of luck we managed to eat them with varying levels of satisfaction.  At least no one had third degree burns. Yet.

While we were cooking our first course, two different waitresses approached us every couple of minutes to ask if everything was satisfactory.  I didn't know how to answer.  Again I didn't want to bring the night down for our guests.  Maybe I could use ESP to let them know how I really felt. Eventually, after quite a long wait, our main course arrived.  Superb looking eye fillet steaks on sizzling hot stones.  What a shame a trained chef isn't going to prepare them for us.  Instead we all had a go at searing our meat on the scorching rocks, in the dark, avoiding serious injury and embarrassment. 

Our teenage friends were having a good time holding bits of meat up to the reflected light from the bar to see if that piece was ready to go down the hatch.  I know I ate my steak fairly rare as I think this is the best way to treat such a nice piece of meat rather than to over cook it.  Once again the waitresses were tag teaming each other to see who could annoy us the most. 

On completion of the main course, we all sat back with a drink to savour in the fact that we had accomplished a zero casualty rate, and to comment on what lovely steaks they were.  What a pity we had to cook them ourselves.  At least we wouldn't have to see the red hot stones again, unless they serve sizzling Creme Brulee.  That's when my Food Trek partner pointed out the troop of German cockroaches goose stepping up the wall beside her.  Once the manager was made aware of these freeloaders, he removed us from our booth, jumped up on the seat with a napkin and squashed them.  "There you go, sorry about that."  Then he gestured for us to retake our seats. 

Maybe it was the strong ESP signal I was emitting or the fact that we all just stood there shaking our heads that he got the idea something was wrong.  He then ushered us to a formica table near the kitchen and announced that desert will be served shortly before he disappeared.  A quick Food Trek conference took place and it was decided that photos were called for.  The old trusty Nikon made an appearance and some glamour shots of the food scraps and cockroach nest down the side of the booth were taken.  When the manager reappeared, we showed him the photos and shared our feelings on the cleanliness of his establishment.  Would you believe he offered us a complimentary round of drinks.  His generous offer wasn't necessary because we weren't going to put another thing from that restaurant near our mouths.

Needless to say our time at the famous Stone Grill had come to a ridiculous end.  We soon there after departed as the manager continued to catch cockroaches in a napkin before he could seat more unwitting diners in our booth, the waitresses without receiving a tip and our bill rightfully not paid.

Our experience was truly memorable for all the wrong reasons.  Our teenage guests thought it was a hoot and the best night out in a long time.  Food Trek partner was feeling a bit sick, and hopefully I have saved some of you from wasting valuable dining time and money on a similar fate. 

To me it seems the whole stone grill concept is a way for a restaurant not to have a chef.  Raw food is offered up on a slab of stone that is simply heated to the right temperature.  You do all the work.  Good pub food is a great tradition in our country and the stone grill concept gives pub food a bad name.

For a positive experience example of wonderfully traditional Pub Food, see our up coming review of Rudds Pub in the town of Nobby Queensland.

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