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