One can only presume the decor is designed to raise eyebrows
I am sure it has been said before, but when you decide to call your new venture The Standard you run the risk of people drawing two different conclusions. Firstly, that you are claiming to set a new standard, which is good; or that your place is just standard, which is not.
The Standard is first and foremost a bar – a place to get a drink and meet people. At bars, food is generally an afterthought. That's not to say the food at the Standard isn't any good, some of it is great (especially the desserts). But it probably shouldn't be a dining destination. As a restaurant, it's not ideal.
I couldn't quite figure out if the designers at The Standard were being ironic, or just taking the mickey. It's a strange looking room, with macramé pot plants hanging from the roof, oversized backlit 'polaroid' photos – of the most inane subject matter – hanging on the walls, and the world's ugliest chairs.
You know the plastic chairs they use at school and uni and conferences, the ones with the metal hooks on the side so you can link them all together? Those chairs. And yes, the metal hooks out the side still catch on your clothes and scrape your legs. And what was even more mind-blowing, was that someone had gone to effort to extend the legs on some of these ugly chairs to make them into bar stools. Like I say, it could be the ultimate in ironic design, or it could just be really ugly chairs.
As it is a bar I should mention the drinks first and while they do all the normal liquid refreshments (including 25 wines and 'fizz' by the glass), one of the (slightly) more unique offerings are carafes of cocktails. Priced at $25 they are designed to 'refresh two people.' I think refresh, rather than intoxicate is the correct word, as though they are delicious and very drinkable (try Garden State with Tanqueray gin, basil, lemon, peach and elderflower liqueur and soda) they don't have a lot of kick behind them. Which isn't necessary a bad thing.
The menu is primarily designed to share, as most bar food is these days. I admit that a few of us looked at the menu and thought wistfully of the day when you just order a single meal for yourself, balanced, well thought out, and without the constant back and forth and social preciousness of share plates. My vegetarian and recovering-vegetarian friends were hard pressed to find meals to suit them, and both would up with dishes that were primarily deep-fried.
The rest of us managed to find a number of dishes that were enjoyable. Not blow your mind amazing, but enjoyable.
My personal favourite was (believe it or not) a salad: greens, orange, fennel, labneh cheese and fried bread ($12). The sweetness of the cheese balanced the tartness of the orange and the bite of the fennel. It was nicely presented and went well with the more fatty dishes.
Such as the fava chips with mushroom ketchup and aioli ($9). If you're like me, when you hear the word 'fava' the next thing you think of is Hannibal the Cannibal doing that 'sip sip sip' thing with his lips (it is practically impossible to describe that accurately without sound effects). I don't even know what fava is [Google says it is actually just another name for broad beans!].
These broad bean chips are probably the ugliest things I had ever seen. They were dark brown pillars about the size of a malnourished Mars Bar and about the same colour. They looked burnt. We had three plates of them at the table and they all looked awful. But they tasted amazing, and weren't burnt at all. They were crunchy on the outside and soft and mealy on the inside. Interesting dish.
The pork croquettes with beetroot, horseradish and hazelnut ($16) were liked by some and not by others, who found them too fatty. I quite enjoyed them but would have liked a much more generous serving of the pureed beetroot that was smeared underneath.
Beef carpaccio was nice, with tender fatty pieces of rolled beef sitting amongst a fresh salad and dressed with wasabi and soy ($14). The wasabi wasn't very balanced so it was like playing Russian Roulette with your tastebuds – you never knew which mouthful was going to burn. The same goes for the crispy eggplant salad with grapefruit, caramel, pea tendrils and chilli ($18). The chilli wasn't in every bite, but when you found it, you certainly knew about it.
There are two charcuterie boards: standard ($25) and seafood ($27). We had the standard version which came with grilled sourdough (delicious) and an assortment of meats including jamon serrano (delicious), Wagyu bresaola, spiced chorizo (hot) and salami caslinga. It had various bits and bobs on the tray as well, such as pickles and gherkins. It was fine.
Service was a bit patchy – our table waiter was very friendly, but I didn't see many people behind the bar crack a smile. It was busy though, with a large private function out the back in the garden area (still more of those ugly chairs, but now lit up with fairy lights). Food arrived promptly, but drinks took forever at the bar.
Apart from the concrete clinker bricks and chunky glass blocks that the bar sits on, the rest of the bar is very nice, with a clever open framework to store all the alcohol while affording a view of the busy kitchen (lots of beards and ink).
What are restaurants always trying to kill people with chocolate?
Toward the end of the night, tables were a premium, with hungry drinkers at the bar loitering close to tables near the end of their dessert. You can book a table in advance though, which is always welcome.
Desserts were a highlight. Well, mine was. There are a choice of three. No one tried the bay leaf parfait with mandarin and hazelnut liqueur ($12). Only one braved the chocolate ganache with coconut and spiced rum ($14).
A word of warning: do not attempt this dish on your own. There is a reason that ganache is most commonly used as a form of icing or as tiny little balls in a truffle. A huge slab of pure chocolate and cream is serious overkill, and as pretty as it looked, I had only a tiny mouthful and it was sufficient. The coconut marshmallow blobs were excellent.
The best dessert is the vanilla panna cotta with strawberry and lemonade ($14). Those simple words do nothing to describe this interactive, multi-purpose dish. It's theatre and it was awesome. The waiter first got everyone's attention, and then poured a small jug of strawberry liqueur over the panna cotta. Then he pulled out a soda stream, and fizzed house-made lemonade into the glass.
The aim was to drink the liquid first (it was essentially a fizzy cocktail) with the straws provided, and then you tipped over some horseradish shortbread crumbs and ate the rest as a normal dessert. Hint: don't tip the crumbs in until after your drink the lemonade.
In all, there was some nice dishes that I would happily enjoy again in a different setting. It was really loud (it's a bar, it's allowed to be) and we had to shout rather than talk to each other.
I thought the décor was curious at best, but there is retro and cool, and then there is just plain weird. The enormous polaroid of a man's hand holding a cigarette, with an empty beer can, broken pedestal fan and general rubbish pushed my appreciation of art too far.