Thursday, April 13, 2006

Border Inn Hotel - Moama, Australia

Border Inn Hotel

The Border Inn Hotel advertises its food services as a cafe bar, but I think it underestimates itself. In the UK it would be proudly promoting itself as a gastropub or something of similar quality. The “cafe bar” occupies one half of the Border Inn Hotel in Moama on the New South Wales-Victoria border and it is neat, tidy and well laid out with polished wooden tables. It has an extensive menu including meat, pasta and fish dishes. There are a couple of options on the menu which are marked as vegetarian, which is nice to see. There was also a mushroom and red wine risotto which is made with vegetable stock and is vegetarian, despite not being marked as so, which with the salads gives a reasonable veggie selection.

We started with cheese and chive foccacia bread. This turned out to be a huge slab of foccacia, which was extremely light, soaked through with butter and then seasoned with chives. Sound good? It was, and it would be easy to munch your way through loads of it and not leave any room for a main course. However I resisted this and left room for a main course.

For the main course, I had home made pumpkin gnocci with spinach and pine nuts. It was good to have my faith in gnocci restored after the last couple of examples I've had. This was firm, fairly light and served in a cheesy sauce. I'm pleased to say that the amount of spinach in the dish didn't overwhelm it – for me at least, as I'm not a huge spinach lover – and the toasted pine nuts gave the dish the occasional crunchy interlude.

I was pretty full, but forced myself to have the golden syrup pudding. The top part was really syrupy and sweet (just the way I like it) where the golden syrup had soaked through but the bottom was a bit dry. The dish was served with ice cream and this helped to counteract it.

All the dishes were presented very nicely, the sort of presentation I would expect to see in a top UK restaurant, the service very friendly and the prices (especially when compared to the UK) are very reasonable. You ordered your own drinks at the bar, on which was a jug of iced water for you to help yourself – which I think is a great idea and one that should be universally adopted.

We made a second visit to the Border Inn a few days later. It was good to see that a vegetarian dish had made it onto the specials board, although this may well have been because I knew the chef. This time I had pumpkin, pesto, pinenut and blue cheese lasagne. It was very tasty, and the pumpkin was very sweet. The blue cheese was not overly prevalent, which was nice as it was a pleasant surprise when you came across it.

The other diners said their food was just as tasty. The only downside on this occasion was the service. After a promising start, we ended up having to clear the plates ourselves from the table and had to get up to order our desserts and find our own cutlery. At one point we even had to summon a waitress for a couple on an adjoining table who had yet to have their order taken! However, I am assured by regular visitors to this establishment that this is the exception rather than the rule and that the normal service in this restaurant is usually very good.

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