When you wish upon a star

The trouble with the work habits of we thirty and forty-something professional types is that we are too old to assume the insouciance of the generation behind us and too frightened by the rapidly approaching fifties to reduce commitment like those ahead of us.

And so we work. Hard. Trapped by ‘these are the years that count’ thinking, we work from dawn to beyond dusk, billing the fees which will pay for the private school tuition and one day buy us our freedom at the beach house.

Between us, our most common conversation starter is: “I’m buggered”. All of sudden we have become our fathers.

It’s not without reward though. It may be hard work, but mostly enjoyable and highly stimulating. Be that as it may, at the end of some days it’s all one can do to make conversation.

Which is why the soothing embrace of a good restaurant at week’s end is important, not just to sate the more obvious appetites for well-cooked food, good wine and someone else to do the washing up but as a means to slow down, maintain friendships and stay in touch with one’s partner. The days of the dinner party – in all but its simplest guise – are over: life’s too short.

Last Thursday night we did just that; four of us catching up after a brutal week.

Star Bistro is the re-badged Lawless and Chapman. It closed down when L fell out with C, although not in a bad way according to C, and with the help of his parents, C re-opened L & C, but with only one star instead of two (hence the name perhaps) and with a logo uncannily like the Globe at the Hilton. Forks rampant must be the new best thing in restaurant logo design.

Bruce Chapman says he’s trying for a French bistro feel with both menu and service. The menu is comfortable but unchallenging. It’s not French, in either practice or sentiment. However, Star Bistro delivers good food in a cosseting interior, delivering modern café/ bistro favourites with professionalism.

The menu contains modern bistro favourites such as oysters, chargrilled veal cutlet, roasted spatchcock with gratin potatoes, steak chips and bearnaise sauce and Tasmanian salmon on warm potato salad – easy to decipher, diner-friendly comfort food.

The theme of the night was salt, salt and more salt. In order to better explore Bruce Chapman’s claim to French Bistro style, I ordered the moules marinière ($14.50) which is actually Belgian but none the less a fixture on French bistro menus in the

republic. The shellfish was well cooked. In fact some of the mussels were a little under cooked. The sauce, typically made on garlic, white wine, cream and parsley was saltier than a wharfie’s joke. The sauce was a little thin on flavour.

Mrs Broadfield ordered the potato tart with sugar cured salmon and caperberries ($16.50). “Too salty” was the verdict. The salmon was marvellous: fresh, tangy and

sugary, it was the gravlax to beat all gravlaxes. The tart’s pastry was well cooked and timed well and while the saltiness killed much of the enjoyment, the dish was declared a success.

The Thai fish cakes with green paw paw salad and nam jim dressing ($14.50) were unusual and successful. The walnut-sized balls has been deep fried, but rather than the rubbery consistency one so often finds in Thai restaurants, these were fluffy, almost quenelle-like in texture, and redolent with clean Thai flavours. Quite good.

To mains, and the Baldivis duck leg confit, braised red cabbage and port poached pears ($26.50) was a large serving with robust, in-your-face flavours emanating from the slow-cooked duck and its accompanying jus. Duck is to restaurants what IPOs are to the venture capital classes – very fashionable and everyone’s doing it (You’ll probably get better PEs from your duck, though). Star Bistro’s version was good. The pears added a fruity balance.

I ordered the seafood special, grilled swordfish with asparagus, aoli and pomme noisettes ($24.50). The fillet was a little overdone but still moist and highly flavoursome.

The aoli was thick, the asparagus perfectly cooked and the small cubed potato noisettes were excellent.

The linguini with chorizo, olive, tomato and fresh ricotta ($14.50) was, you guessed it, too salty. The tomato-based sauce was fresh. It was not a winner.

For puds we shared an orange and poppyseed crème brulée ($8.50) and vanilla poached peaches on raspberry semifreddo ($9.50). Neither dish would have taxed the kitchen, but they were both pleasant and well presented. The brulée was made on orange juice and peppered with the small black poppy seeds. It was an interesting take on the traditional brulée (if there is such a thing any more). The semifreddo which accompanied the peaches was sublime.

The wine list is economical and to the point, with just enough selections to service the menu. Prices for wines are reasonable.

Prices for food tend toward the top end of the café/bistro range and there remains some room for improvement before the prices provide real value for money.

Star Bistro is still finding its feet – the food is a bit patchy but the service is good and the ‘room feel’ is great. Chapman junior is committed and motivated, and there’s little doubt he will continue to improve Star Bistro in leaps and bounds.

And yes, it did soothe the savage beast.

By the time we left its dark, friendly dining room, the endorphins had taken a holiday and all was well with the world again.

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