The latest time I visited Surreal for a meal there was still a pool table upstairs and the food was an Asian fusion. I was surprised to find things had changed.
The first difference I noticed was with the menu. Gone were the satays and stir fries, replaced with more traditional Europeanstyle menu choices – lots of them. The long list of starts and tapas were tempting and included a bit of everything including pork sliders, chicken wings, calamari, prawn dumplings and grilled chorizo. Perfect for a lingering drink and meal with friends, but not for us this night. However, we were all hungry and thought a garlic bread straight out of the oven ($12) might be a good way to start things. It arrived warm and springy, half white, half wholemeal with an array of toppings including family favourites sesame and poppy seeds.
I was surprised to learn there was a children’s menu and, while it was brief in options, it covered all the bases. Our darlings picked the ham and cheese pasta ($8) and, predictably, fish and chips ($9). The pasta was great and filling to the point that the six-year-old with a very healthy appetite couldn’t finish her serving. The chip helping was substantial, though the fish was, a little disappointingly, of the frozen Hoki variety.
Karl’s fish on the other hand, the panfried blue cod served with chorizo sausage, gourmet potatoes, red pepper, Spanish onion and baby spinach ($29) looked fabulous. Not too heavy but a generoussized meal. I had major food envy. Karl wasn’t as enthusiastic as I.
He felt there was too much chorizo and not enough fish, but overall it was good flavours and cooked well.
After it became clear Karl was not going to be moved from his fish order, I chose the braised pork belly served with kumara and coriander mash and pork crackling ($27). It was as simple as it sounds and surrounded by a rich, flavoursome gravy. The mash had a tang in complete contrast to the pork and the mix of textures with the meat, mash and kumara shavings on top gave the meal a nice balance. I missed having some greens and while I could have ordered a side of salad or lemon butter and almond greens, I would never have had enough room to fit anything else in.
We briefly considered desserts for the children as chocolate and strawberry ice cream sundaes were only $4, but decided it was time to head home.
We were early in for the night so I suppose it was excusable that the waitress had to find the specials before she was able to fill us in on the details.
We also had to ask for them. Service was otherwise smart and everything was produced as requested. It was appreciated that Madam-4’s request for a new candle on the table after ours burned out was met with good humour.
Given the children’s menu, and we weren’t the only family dining at the time, I was a little surprised that there was no offer of children’s colouring-in or other activities. Surreal is a bar/restaurant and easily sits between the two before the witching hour sets in.
We were there for an early tea, but a turntable set up in the corner is a reminder of the transformation to the DJ dance party of the evenings.
There is a really relaxed vibe in the main bar and restaurant downstairs and we found great chill-out zones and friendly staff on the second floor (now a bar sans the pool table) and a fabulous rooftop bar.
However, on arrival we struggled to decide on a table as those nearest the warm fireplace were also affected by the wide open front doors on a frosty night.
Extreme heat was coming from one side while a polar blast rushed us from the front.
I would not have picked Surreal as a suitable family venue, but it worked well for us.
I was impressed by the menu and the food.
The mix of extreme temperature controls was not very comfortable, but the overall atmosphere was very relaxed.