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Published December 9th 2012
Get on the groove train but you decide where to get off
Groove Train in Westfield Doncaster is supposed to be a big whoop and I naturally assumed the one in Plenty Valley would make the same sound. A couple of things caught my reviewer's eye though that left me wondering. One was a group of women leaving with pissed off expressions and the waiter muttering sorry beneath his breath. Now that sort of half-assed apology would have done nothing to soothe me if I were part of that group.
I reached for my phone and checked reviews for the place and was hit by an avalanche of negative opinions. Chewy risotto, tasteless tom yum, rubbery pancakes, rude service; there was no light at the end of this tunnel. As all hopes for a good meal went belly up I looked for the nearest exit. My feeble efforts at let's go some place else was met with disdain. The comfortable booth, the eclectic menu, the friendly waiter, and the warm ambience had them hooked and I figured it would be easier to move a large dog from the couch than move this lot to another restaurant. Be it on your own stupid heads I thought and left it at that.
The pleasant young bloke who was to be our waiter made short work of wiping the table clean before sitting us down with the menu. Stir-fried hokkien noodles, satay chicken, Asian platter for starters, and so on went the list filled with optimism and wishful thinking. I settled for a warm beef salad instead of the risotto that I'd earlier planned to have.
The platter came just as complaints were beginning to form in my head but then I was already prejudiced and in no mood to be generous. The samosas, spring rolls, dim sims, and prawn packets looked good but the bed of lettuce they rested on looked dazed and beyond their prime. The rest of the platter passed muster except for the spring rolls which were tasteless and had no filling to speak of.
I relaxed a bit and sat back clutching my Shiraz for comfort. Maybe it won't be that bad after all. But the burden of keeping the bad reviews a secret from a crowd that was bent on self-destruction was beginning to take its toll on my nerves and I was starting to act like Scrooge. It took all I had to dissuade them from going for the mains and to stick to the entrees. The only dessert on the menu was Nutella crepes with ice-cream and strawberries. But being ridiculously expensive for a dish whose ingredients could be found in almost any pantry and freezer, that one was easy to pass.
As the platter was emptied, the noodles and satay were brought in followed by the beef salad. The noodles and the satay did look good and were certified "nice" and "great" but my warm salad was not warm in terms of temperature. It arrived in a chaotic mix of sun dried tomatoes, chilli peppers, onion rings, lettuce, olives, and bits of beef all soaked in some indescribable sauce. But it wasn't as bad as I'd feared. The beef was succulent and not stringy and chewy. If it wasn't for the bucket of sauce at the bottom and had indeed been as warm as the menu had promised, this salad would've been a hit.
I heaved a sigh of relief as we came to the end of the meal with no untoward incidence of rudeness or incredibly bad food. We weren't left unattended for long periods of time, used plates were cleared, although not lightning fast, and as I'd mentioned earlier, the young chap who waited on us was friendly and nice. He warned us about the size of the servings and came up to ask if we were ready for the next dish to be brought out and so on making us feel like he'd never forgotten us for one minute.
As we went elsewhere for coffee, I whipped out the online reviews and passed it around. There was a stunned silence that soon gave way to name-calling (aimed at me) and a general feeling of what a close shave that was. The general consensus was that it wasn't as bad as all that. But we were all flabbergasted at how consistently negative all those reviews had been. Maybe they have a new manager or they've taken pointers on self-improvement or turned to Buddhism, or we are a lucky bunch who got away unscathed. We left it at that.
I've actually dined a few times at Groove train and other places in the area. I have to say everytime i've been there i didn't really like the food. I think Deganis is a much better place. The food there is fresh compared to Groove Train. I've also ordered a salmon salad at Groove Train and it wasn't fresh.
I think you guys were too, tough and have high expectations. Too much inner city cafe dining for you, you have been spoilt. I have gone a couple of times to Groove Train in Westfield South Morang. and it has been fine. I have also had some awful meals in brunswick street fitzroy. Sometimes, you don't know how it is going to go. Also I think that your review, was very biased. And not based on sound judgement. Reading other peoples reviews to make us your mind on your own experience is not a good thing. You should take a leaf out of the reviewers from Epicure - Age Tuesdays for a few pointers. Criticize but be polite. Have fun with your reviews, a bit of humour, and some light heartiness would not go a stray either. Rosemary