Riley Street Garage55 Riley St Woolloomooloo 9th November 2013 By The Active Agent
Menu and prices correct as at date of review.
The Active Agent never identifies themselves and always pays their way!
Crispy Pork Knuckle to share $44
Truffled Mash $ 9
Bodega Amaylaya (Wine) $50
Lessey’s Beef n Blue Burger $20
Chocolate Brownie $17
Chocolate Pannacotta $14
Franklin Est. Poison Hill Riesling $58
In recent times, Woolloomooloo has seriously been lagging behind as a cool place to go. You can discount the Finger Wharf, with its very own strange set of alien visitors, as a land unto itself. In a city that is forever changing, and currently home to some of the landmark small bars of the world, Woolloomooloo for the most part, despite its proximity to the city, feels like the suburb that Sydney forgot.
Frantic, recent apartment building and a major new supermarket suggest this is all about to change and you can rubber stamp that change by the arrival of a new destination place -The Riley Street Garage (RSG). After an immense fit-out the transformation of this once inner city garage has created an enticing big new space, though one I suspect that hasn’t come cheap at all.
We initially visited at around 9pm on a Saturday night and it was full to bursting. There were no tables to be had. However we were so hungry we ordered and ate in the waiting area. As a contrast we also visited on a Wednesday evening at 6pm, which was much quieter. Getting a table in this after work timeslot was a relative breeze.
I don’t think there is any point in reviewing the food as we don’t profess to be experts in that field. It’s likely the space, service, value for money and the overall experience (which of course will include the food experience) will drive the success or failure of any business, so we will stay focused on those aspects.
The space itself is clearly luxurious and on a busy Saturday night it felt like somewhere to be. However, as a recent Woolloomooloo resident, I deducted from the queue of cabs outside that the clients were not local. Indeed it’s likely that most of the eastern suburbs were deserted on this particular evening.
Good points – Value for moneywise the food is excellent and the Pork Knuckle a popular standout. The burger on our second visit was good. I’d order it again and the experience is interesting. The service, for such a large and busy place, was incredibly attentive and desserts although somewhat pricey, can easily be shared. It also has one huge positive, the $5 bottomless sparkling mineral water, great and practical if you’re the designated driver
Not so good points – Whilst the food is great value, its not interesting in a way that would draw me back over and over. That said I did visit twice as I wanted to be sure and, as noted above, the Pork Knuckle is a great share plate.
Regarding the portion of fries with the burger on the second visit, well this is where comparison with even the MacDonald’s small fries portion disappeared too. Tiny doesn’t even come close, and the attentive service, although beautifully undertaken, was clearly the compensating wine up-sell.
The staff uniforms…? Oh dear! Sorry but these made me realise that the RSG is only a salad bar away from a Sizzler and given its scale, a plasma TV or two away from being an upmarket huge pub. I thought this generic approach to business is something that we all have been trying to get away from? To my mind it presents a familiar though somewhat disappointing new take on the successful small bar model and begs for further consideration in a follow-up story. Stay tuned.
Overall I’d say to anyone from anywhere to give the RSG a go and make up your own mind. Some people will love it. Personally…? Although the food is reasonably interesting and well priced, I have to walk past Pocketbar, The Commons and The Owl House to get here. Given that, I’d say that I’m more likely to enjoy a more interesting food experience somewhere along that walk.
The Space Flash and comfortable, but not a unique style 7
The Experience Pleasant enough, but memorable? 7
Value for money – Food This will bring you back 8
Value for money – Wine This is where they sting you 6
Decision? Your call.
Everyone will walk away with a different take on the RSG. If nothing else the owners have given new life to an old garage building and for Woolloomooloo, that’s a HUGE positive.