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Review - El Circo *UPDATED*



The burlesque revival is clanging its way out into middle Australia. They’re here for hens’ nights, birthday parties, wife swapping parties and romantic renewals on the quieter couple’s balcony. You too can  “repair your relationship on the rocky road of a burlesque performance.

Frankly,I looked around and found it hard to relate to the people now dine at El Circo which in some ways means I am not really whom the food and entertainment is aimed at, so keep that in mind. Patrons have changed a lot in the year and eight months since I last dined here.


First and foremost, this is a theatre restaurant and not molecular gastronomy’s finest moment. However, if you want to see molecular gastronomy as a wank, this is the place to do it. I never thought I’d call a pea soufflé a soothing balm, but after the textual horror of a liquid pea ravioli then equally shocking pea pop-rocks, it certainly was in the dish they call Peas on Earth. I suspect this dish takes parody a step further into piss-take.



The Boxed Mexican Crab was the most pleasurable dish to eat; nice spicing.



My prime table on the couple's terrace did give me a bird's eye view of the restaurant floor below, and I did notice some inconsistencies in plating, portion size and indeed tables being half served and waiting while the wait staff took care of the next table.



But of course you’re here to see girls (Suzie Q) dangle from the ceiling; the dangling appendages of statuesque dancers (The Aussie Pole Stars) and the odd flash of flames. I liked the fire performer, Finhead.



In case you were interested, the wife swappers are to the right of the performer. Note all the wives sit on one side of the table, and the husbands sit on the other. They all wore sexy baby-doll type dresses, for easy conversion to the bedroom. They played camera games with 'stacks on wives' as the night grew long, and they all got drunker. Watching them and the hen's group was actually at times more entertaining than the shows. The hen and party used the toilets as a drunken counseling zone. I think I heard the hen vomit.



You’ve come to suck a virtual course from an unusual receptacle; laugh to a well-known Hitchcock movie scene (still running from my first visit over a year ago) and drink like a fish.



Here I am (also a bit drunker) taking a shot of the ceiling which I liked. I also like the bits of the bank that are left, like the safe. I guess it'd be rather hard to remove. I chose a Cinnamon Appletini ($16) to begin, which was quite enjoyable. Don’t expect the first drink fast – as Sheridan pointed out, “some nights we make sixty cocktails.



Since my last visit, wine has also reduced in price. We chose to drink the 2008 Six Foot Six Pinot Gris ($8.50/glass, $41/bottle) which was a nice drop. The list is also better than my previous visit.



The Easter Egg - a goat's cheese brulee with tomato paddle pop, crispy basil and proscuitto - was all about appearance. Taste seemed to have been lost. The tomato paddle pop was a carry over from the earlier chef, and the deep fried basil was about the tastiest thing on the plate.



By this stage, Suzie Q's number was a welcome relief.



She looked very picturesque through the beaded curtains.



The Moroccan Lamb Pie 'with tomato sauce' was again a carry-over from my previous visit over eighteen months ago. The new chef does not cook these as well as the previous chef. It was bland and the sauce did nothing to help the lamb. If there was any Moroccan spicing anywhere in this dish, I clearly missed it. Luckily it came with an accompanying Vegetable Potpourri which meant crisp vegetable chips, which we ate, despite the extreme salt levels. I couldn't help but wonder if this was designed to increase your drinking, which may have worked had there been more effective drink service.

My dining companion mentioned Hungry Jacks was just up the road around this point in the meal - it was perhaps an indication that you don't actually get a lot of food for your ninety dollars.



As for dessert, I would bring back the Lab Rat I had last time (see HERE) because I really wasn't very fussed about anything on this plate. The texture of the Saffron Vanilla Bean Risotto was gluggy, the Lavender Caviar was okay, and probably interesting to all those who haven't seen spherification before, the Affogato Desconstructed seemed to taste like tiramisu to me, but the Chocolate Profiterole was fine.

The place would improve with a table captain to direct oblivious waiters to ensure all diners at a table slurp, suck and swallow in unison. The dishes need some refining to get it back into the realm of parody and away from piss-take. It would probably appeal more to non-urban types, hen's nights and other slightly sexy occasions for people who need scripted experiences and want a bit more class than Tharen's or Wild Boys Afloat.

El Circo
Every Sunday at Slide, 41 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
$90/ head (does not include alcohol)
Ph: (02) 8915 1899

Slide Lounge on Urbanspoon

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
doctornurse
May. 10th, 2009 06:23 am (UTC)
God, this is the funniest review I've ever read! Hens night meets wife-swappers; fuelled by appletinis, drag shows & molecular gastronomy = Baz Luhrmann's next film.

Nicole Kidman will play Suzie.
felix_femme
May. 10th, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)
hey, take it down to what it really is
a theatre restaurant - venue of choice for hen's nights and under-age girlie drinking of my teens. Luckily the kind of show there is waaay above what I used to see. The addition of the 'swappers' only makes it more adult.
We got to see Suzie Q last night on the trapeze ring for the entry price of $20 plus 2 cocktails drunk until she came on.

- any idea who to talk to to discover how they set the rig for the trapeze?
missdissent
May. 10th, 2009 10:42 am (UTC)
Yes, it is really a theatre restaurant with a better than average show. I would speak to James Taylor from Aussie Pole boys. I have a number so if you need it, sms me.
boundcanary
May. 10th, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC)
I loved the review, this is one you wish people who run the place will read and understand they need to make amendments, instead of just missing the point.

By the way, wifey was reading over my shoulder here, and mentioned some restaurants have the odd habit of serving different sized meals to "the husband" in couples. As in, giving a bigger serving to the males. I don't know why, it beats me, as we're lesbian, I wonder we'll both get small ones, and if we go with gay friends, we'd be in for an interesting question of "Why are theirs bigger than ours?", but maybe that's why you get to see those portion size differences.
missdissent
May. 10th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)
The shortened version will appear in this week's City News and Bondi View.

If you look at the table I photographed, the smaller dishes are just as likely to be for men or women. Overall they lack consistency both in how they plate and in how they get the plates onto each table.

Welcome, by the way!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )