The Conservatory looks and feels decidedly posh. The entrance creates the impression of a magical gateway to a food lover's garden of eden. As you enter, you are greeted by friendly, professional staff who show you to your spacious tables complete with big, cushiony seats and candles for a touch of romance. Within seconds, a basket of enticing gourmet bread rolls appear at the centre. This is definitely no tacky buffet.
A quick glance at the food on offer sparks excitement. There's your usual prawns, oysters, crab and mussels. Nothing to get too over the moon about, you expected those. The hot food station is what surprises you. Pan fried swordfish, steamed barramundi and grilled wallaby…what? This reads more like a decent a la carte menu than dishes you'd find at a buffet. You're impressed. You see a selection of Phillipa's breads next to the cheeses and four flavours of Movenpick ice cream hiding behind the glorious display of varied, well crafted cakes and pastries. With expectations now high, you can't wait to get stuck into the task at hand.
Perhaps you got a bit too excited. When you taste the food, it's mostly one dimensional and some of the flavours just don't gel. The swordfish is tender, rich and well cooked, but the accompanying chutney is overpoweringly sweet. The meats, be they beef, lamb or the adventurous wallaby, are tough and dry and not very pleasant at all. The dumplings are horrid, soft and mushy, leaving a terrible aftertaste in your mouth. You breathe a sigh of relief that at least the scalloped potatoes taste good.
Things look on the up when you bite into one of the fresh, juicy prawns. You underestimated their quality, their bouncy texture and sweet freshness catching you off guard. The oysters look a little dishevelled, but they taste ok. You question their freshness as the water seems to be leaving them. You go back for more but there are only shells left and staff take ages to replenish them, dissapointing. The mussels and crab are pretty plain and ordinary. The sushi is just plain bad and you promise that you won't subject yourself to any more of that mushy rice. After two rounds, you go back for more but wonder what's left to try. At least the salad isn't bad.
You hope that dessert will save the day. Those petite cakes and pastries look fantastic. It's a shame they taste so generic and plasticy, like something you would find at Coles or Woolworths. The cheesecake is ok, but you've definitely had better. Walnut ice cream from Movenpick, that's encouraging. But something is wrong with the freezer and all four flavours are melted, you're saddened that they just let all that quality ice cream go to waste. Even the chocolate fountain fails to get your taste buds going. The chocolate tastes so…uninspiring and generic, which seems to be the theme of the night.
Would you go back to the Conservatory? Only if someone else was paying. And you certainly wouldn't bother skipping lunch.