A new de­vel­op­ment in Prospect of­fers the flex­i­bil­ity of a food hall with the ser­vice, wine and other trap­pings of res­tau­rant din­ing

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UPFRONT - WORDS SI­MON WILKIN­SON SI­MON.WILKIN­[email protected]

We don’t nor­mally re­view food halls, but Rose­mont in Prospect is worth it.

Asian food halls. You know the drill. Long queues, plas­tic trays, flu­oro glare, ve­neer table­tops splat­tered with rem­nants of curry sauce and rice from the three pre­vi­ous oc­cu­pants. Clat­ter and chat­ter. Fast and fu­ri­ous. All done and dusted in 20 min­utes flat.

Places like these, while they can of­fer ter­rific eat­ing if you know where to look, have never fea­tured on this page. Rose­mont Hall, how­ever, is a dif­fer­ent story.

A few doors down from the cin­ema com­plex in blos­som­ing Prospect Rd, Rose­mont is a cap­ti­vat­ing blend of old and new. The in­te­rior of an Art Deco build­ing has been stripped to the bones – red brick, hefty tim­ber beams and joists, sky­light, stained glass – and then lov­ingly re­fit­ted in a style that is part Chi­nese tea house, part hawker stall, part Raf­fles Ho­tel.

The two food ven­dors – one South-East Asian, the other Chi­nese – are clad in tim­ber pan­elling. Huge woks filled with cas­cad­ing green­ery hang over­head, along­side both gaudy lanterns and iron can­de­labra. Dis­play cab­i­nets and shelv­ing are filled with old crock­ery, uten­sils and other knick-knacks.

The decor isn’t all that makes Rose­mont stand out. Or­ders are taken and de­liv­ered to the ta­ble, so there is no lin­ing up and the gusto of the wait­ing staff brings the ex­pe­ri­ence to life. A more-than-ser­vice­able wine list, in­clud­ing la­bels such as Yan­garra and Ochota Bar­rels, has been com­piled with the style of eat­ing in mind. And a cock­tail bar of­fer­ing a mix of clas­sics and creations takes the edge off wait­ing for a ta­ble – not that it should be nec­es­sary, with book­ings avail­able.

For youngish en­tre­pre­neur Aaron Ratana­tray, Rose­mont is the cen­tre­piece of a project that be­gan last year with the open­ing next door of Sun­nys Shop, a com­pact South­East Asian diner with a Thai shanty feel.

Sun­nys is now one of two stalls in this much larger en­ter­prise. It splits space on a sin­gle-page menu with Mr Chan, best ap­proached as a play­ful trib­ute to old-school Chi­nese, com­plete with honey chicken, sweet-and-sour and deep-fried ice cream.

At the wacky end of this spec­trum you will find “Cheese­burger spring rolls”, a fast-food Franken­stein that the waiter in­sists has a cult fol­low­ing. Af­ter a ten­ta­tive first bite, the com­bi­na­tion of minced meat and pick­led bits in a crisp cylin­der wrap does in­deed have a cu­ri­ous recog­ni­tion fac­tor, even be­fore it is dunked into a pot of mayo.

A stack of Pek­ing-duck-style pan­cakes are served, not with crisp-skinned bird, but with a bowl of “Shang­hai style” pulled pork that is moist enough but a bit anaemic in flavour. Wrap it up with a salad of shred­ded cab­bage and a blob of hoisin and it will keep the taco lovers happy. Part of the fun here is to mixand-match from both sides. Sun­nys’ take on the Thai “Sea Star” has what seems to be Chi­nese prawn dumplings (har gow) in a thick, doughy cas­ing, doused in a mea­gre amount of red curry sauce.

Larger serves fare much bet­ter. A salad of shred­ded green pa­paya, while gen­tler in acid and heat than more au­then­tic, eye-pop­ping ver­sions, is nonethe­less full of fresh­ness and crunch, with green beans, tomato and plenty of roasted peanuts on board.

Beef cheeks braised in a sweet, soy-based mas­ter­stock dis­in­te­grate into lus­cious seg­ments at the mer­est provo­ca­tion. Bok choy and co­rian­der add some bal­ance. Bet­ter still is the sweet and sour pork hock, the slow­cooked meat chunks com­ple­mented by slices of grilled pineap­ple and a sharply bal­anced sauce that bears no re­sem­blance to the lurid gloop nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with this dish.

And a cross­breed sauce of pep­per and black bean that coats ex­cep­tion­ally tender slices of pink-cen­tred steak is a ripper, with just a tickle of chilli in the back­ground.

Dessert? A golden orb of fried ice cream is dressed up with co­conut and but­ter­scotch sauce but its cen­tre is frozen so hard it seems at one stage to need a jack­ham­mer rather than a spoon to break it open. And “banana frit­ter” is in re­al­ity a mash stuffed into a chunky fried wrap­per.

Rose­mont’s prices are rea­son­able, in a res­tau­rant con­text, with most mains un­der $25 and, while it doesn’t rank among the best Thai or Chi­nese in town, the choice of both makes it easy to please a crowd. All the ap­peal of a food hall — and not a plas­tic tray in sight.

Dumplings at Rose­mont Hall, Prospect (main pic­ture); the din­ing room and slow braised beef cheek with bok choy and co­rian­der

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