One of the great downsides to globalisation is that were you to be abducted, chloroform-over-the-mouth spy-movie-thriller style, and came to a hotel room or lobby, you could quite literally be anywhere in the world. The uniformity of style, amenity and furnishing has taken the arduous edge off travelling - you know what to expect if you pick a certain class of hotel - but it does lend the experience a creeping blandness.
I don't blame hoteliers alone for this abandonment of local variance. I place greater blame at the feet of the people who can afford to stay in places of this kind. This is what life on the beaten track looks like. This is the life they choose.
The Deco Hotel, on Northbourne Avenue, could be located anywhere in the world. Its name, and a touch of minor brass-coloured facadism, are about the only nods to the Art Deco period I could see. I figure the name was picked because it sounded better than the more accurate Hotel Besser Block.
Inside is Two14, a compact restaurant that serves dishes from an Italian-inspired menu, along with a section of classics: a schnitzel, burger, fish and chips, that kind of thing. The dining room is a tad gloomy - I'm sure it's pitched as mood lighting - but otherwise respectable, if a little battle worn. No doubt daily buffet breakfast service is hard on any interior.
Hotel restaurants are at a great risk of falling into a trap of complete predictability, trying to be all things to all people, leaving it without its own sense of self.
We begin with a shared entree of Costolette di maiale ($20), which is a couple of slow-cooked pork ribs each, served with roasted capsicum and 'Nduja mayonnaise. The dish was executed with care and technical precision, but it lacked an assured sense of its own flavour.
Between courses, the staff were faultlessly attentive. The overbearing heat of the dining room forced the waitstaff to maintain a near constant procession to fill up our water glasses. I was almost at the point of asking for a jug to stay on the table so we could manage our own hydration. Later, the escape into a crisp evening would bring some relief.
For my main, I picked the lamb rack ($55), served with roast potatoes, cherry tomatoes roasted on the vine and red-wine jus. Despite what I've said about side salads in the past, the radicchio and fennel salad ($12), with pieces of orange and chunks of gorgonzola, was a good addition. Again, the lamb was cooked beautifully, tender and well portioned, but the dish felt like a blank canvas onto which some flavour needed to be urgently Jackson Pollocked. A generous helping of table salt got it some of the way there.
The menu at Two14 contains a feature which I'm sure the purists would dislike but which I, perhaps outing myself as a philistine, find quite helpful. Under each of the pasta and main dishes, in small italics, is a wine suggestion. The lamb rack's suggested pairing was Allegrini's Valpolicella Classico ($17 a glass; $72 a bottle), which went down very finely. Would it be nicer for the staff to make these suggestions? Sure, but I'm a happy subscriber to the view a menu should guide you towards an enjoyable meal rather than bamboozle you and test your prior culinary knowledge.
An odd thing about the drinks list: it only had alcoholic options. Is a selection of soft drinks too much to ask? I have no doubt they had them - the kids' menu mentioned them, thank goodness - but we were unsure what they were.
Across the table was a Pappardelle ai Funghi ($27), a generous serving of pasta entwined with mushrooms and a white-wine and porcini butter sauce. Again, the theme of the night: technically accomplished dish - the pasta was really spot on - but overall it was bereft of a flavoursome heart. I don't mean in a way that left it inedible or unedifying. It was just unmemorable. The table salt helped the cause here, too.
When it came to dessert, I went for the hazelnut millefoglie ($15), served with strawberry fairy floss (it looked a bit like pink asbestos; forget that, it was delicious) and gelato. Overall, it was quite biscuity with a lightness that sat well after a red meat and red wine meal. The chocolate fondant ($15), with raspberry coulis and coconut gelato, but missing the fairy floss mentioned in the menu, was very pleasant indeed. No tricks, no gimmicks, just a lovely bit of chocolate cake.
On the Monday night we dined at Two14, there was a mix of people in. An older couple reading up on the tourist sites, some men I assumed belonged to the orange-lanyard brigade who hang around Parliament House, a family with children (the kids' menu is well appointed). We might have been the only diners who were not staying in rooms above.
And that's the trouble for hotel restaurants. Why go if you're not staying there? Especially when this one is so close to many of this city's top options. Still, Two14 does a very good schnitzel ($26) and a near excellent chicken parmigiana ($30). They even have a schnitzel night: $25 with a drink included. There are pubs where you pay more.
If you find yourself in the area, stick to their classics menu. Try the schnitzel. Go on the specials night. Leave the fancier stuff to others.
Address: 214 Northbourne Avenue, Braddon
Phone: 6246 7700
Hours: Monday to Friday, 7am to 10 am, 12pm to 2pm and 6 to 9pm. Saturday and Sunday, 7am to 10.30am and 6 to 9pm.
Chef: Federico Pitasi
Noise: No issue
Dietary: Some options
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