Sunday lunch at Graze
Finally got round to checking out Graze with some girlfriends on Sunday. Just in time too, as that same day's paper had a review of the various Rochester Park establishments and rated Graze as pretty solidly disappointing. A quick search of local food blogs also unearthed no small amount of criticism - unexciting food and dubious service, despite the gorgeous setting seemed to be a recurring theme. Ah well, reservations had been made, and the company would be enjoyable, and so I cheerily trotted off to brunch in morbid anticipation of the meal to come. Just how bad could it be... ooh... images of incompetent waitstaff and bland, overpriced food starting filling my mind. Deep down inside, I began secretly hoping, silently imploring Graze to set new standards of awful.
Feed me with rotten food!
Ask me silly questions!
Refuse me ice water!
Be as pretentious as humanly possible!
Sado-masochistic perhaps, but after all the positive expectations surrounding the opening of Graze, surely epic disastrous would at least make for a more memorable dining experience than just plain mediocre?
Alas, it is with mixed feelings that I report:
It's not that bad lah. It's nothing fabulous, but it could've been worse.
From what I gather, the Sunday brunch menu differs quite significantly from the dinner one. The crispy pork hock and soy lacquered ox cheek that I'd heard much about were nowhere to be found. Instead there was a page of breakfast items such as pancakes, eggs benedict, muesli and scones (served till 2.30pm), followed by a couple of pages of barbecue items - a range of red meat, poultry and seafood - a page of salads and that's more or less it. Really nothing to get you excited when compared to other brunch options in the city.
I ended up with grilled lamb chops in an Asian inspired house marinade, served with a shiraz reduction and a house salad ($30). The portion of lamb was thick cut and generous. The shiraz sauce could've used a lot more flavour but was passable. The house salad, on the other hand, was liberally doused with vinaigrette and tasted fine but looked terribly tacky at 90% chopped green lettuce, 10% onion and cucumber and 10% others. You've probably seen the same salad at the Pizza Hut buffet bar or on economy in SQ.
We shared a dessert (well, technically a breakfast item, as Graze doesn't serve desserts at brunch) of banana pancakes with ice cream. No picture unfortunately but you know the drill... 3 pancakes in a stack, covered in caramel and dried mystery berries, vanilla ice cream on the side ($13). The pancakes were generally alright, although chances were every bite in four you'd end up with a lump of flour that must've been bobbing around in the batter, and the mystery berries were surprisingly inedible with seeds that could easily take a tooth or two out. I know that sounds dreadful, but really aside from that it was fine. Think IHOP. Didn't kill us in college, wouldn't kill us now.
Adding to the list of things that were fine but not outstanding, looks like the (former?) manager of P.S. Cafe is at the helm of the service team, which is now fairly capable. No special charms, no outstanding training, but recommendations were made, orders were taken and served, and the bill came all with minimal fuss.
The setting was, as to be expected, gorgeous. The Rochester Park estate was glistening from the morning's rain, the crisp black and white bungalow shone invitingly out from dense foliage, and by the time you've descended down the driveway and seated yourself in a large cushioned armchair, you do feel like you've plonked yourself in some posh friend's home. I can imagine the al fresco area looking quite charming in the evening, but it does seem made for lazy Sunday brunches. And if neighbouring diners were having any issues with the food, they definitely didn't show it. Our group of giggling gossiping girlfriends was surrounded by a couple more tables of the same, while the far side of the room was dominated by expat families with kids hyperactive from jam, syrup and ice cream.
Summary is thus, as far as Sunday brunches go, Graze is definitely a notch below established brunch locales such as Marmalade Pantry, Whitebait & Kale, Blood Bros Cafe and Sebastien's, in terms of both quality and variety. Try Graze if you've got good company - no-one picky about food, everyone at leisure - and you'll probably have a good time soaking up the ambience and (at the very least) filling your stomach without breaking the bank or bursting a blood vessel. Can't begin to predict what dinner might be like though, am still open to trying it another day. Armed with a healthy dose of morbid curiousity of course...
4 Rochester Park
Tel: 6775 9000