One of the upsides of being known as “that couple that really likes food”, is the fact that any gift we receive is inevitably food-related! From cooking classes to restaurant vouchers and dinners out, our friends and family always know what to give K and I for Christmases, birthdays, and undoubtedly for our upcoming wedding as well.
One of the presents that we received for Christmas last year was a Red Balloon gift certificate from K’s uncle for a “Hot Rock Tapas” meal at Bistro Balmain at the Exchange Hotel (no longer available on the Red Balloon website). Having never had a hot rock tapas experience before, I was super excited to try it!
We decided to go for a quiet leisurely Sunday lunch, rather than the busier dinner sessions. Luckily, we booked for a weekend with beautiful weather and opted to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the sunshine.
We started off with a jug of Pimms cocktail – my favourite! We had the choice of sangria or Pimms, but I never pass up the opportunity to have my favourite English-style cocktail. The cocktail was extremely refreshing, without being too sweet. The serving of cut cucumber and fruits was very generous as well, ensuring we always had something to nibble on every time we poured out another glass of Pimms.
Without much delay, our waiter comes back out with our meal for the day – a selection of meats, seafood, vegetables and cheese that we’re to cook ourselves on hot stones, and a large salad to have with all the protein that we’re cooking.
The produce is exceedingly fresh – as I pick each portion up to place on the grill, I (embarrassingly) give it a bit of a sniff and test with my fingers. Everything passes the sniff and squeeze test, and I can’t stop myself from nibbling on some of the raw zucchini.
Before long, K and I are patiently cooking our meal on the hot rocks, after a warning from our waiter to not touch either the rocks or the dish they sit in because of the heat. The rocks hold the heat for a surprisingly long time, and was still slowly cooking our food a half hour after they were brought to our table. It’s a slow and leisurely way of eating, and counter-intuitive to our usual method of gobbling our meals down quickly – and probably better for us as a result!
The side salad of rocket and fennel was not something that I would have normally ordered. I’m not a big fan of the aniseed taste of fennel, nor the peppery taste of rocket. When combined with a drizzle of dressing however, the salad was actually a nice counterpart to the heavier proteins that we cooked. The crunch of the salad and the stronger flavours worked well with the simpler meats.
While the Hot Rock Tapas meal option doesn’t seem to be available anymore either through RedBalloon or on the Bistro Balmain menu, I think the quality and freshness of the produce still speaks highly of the quality of the food you would normally order here. I’m keen to return and try some of the dishes off their regular menu!