Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Playground Martini & Tapas Bar, Civic

For a recent night out, the usual suspects and I decided to indulge the inner child in all of us and headed out to Playground in Garema Place. Eventhough Playground has been opened for a few months now, it's taken me this long to find the time to go out to play; life as an adult is just so not cool that way.

With the cute white picket fence and the fake grass, Playground has a fun and quirky vibe right from the outset. Once inside the long and narrow space my inner child did a skip and a twirl in approval of the bright pop colour furniture, exposed brick wall, giant blackboard, bright chalk and the hopscotch next to the bar. It's a pretty smart concept; take a few things that were simple and beautiful about your childhood and replicate it with an adult spin. What could be more fun than playing hopscotch wearing stilettos with a martini in hand, right?

It was early evening so we had our pick of where to sit. We found a grassy patch in a corner and settled into peruse the menu and critique the decor. I was rather impressed by the whimsy created by a projector where music notes were flying out of the speakers and birds were fluttering about. However opinions were divided about the rope canopy light installation across the bar; it was unique and interesting but it felt like slight overkill to me, specially in such a small space that had so much going on as it was with all the colours and grass and graffiti and what not.

The drinks menu consisted of about 14 cocktails. Before I go any further I must get this gripe off my chest; Owners of Playgorund, please take note:: A martini is a type of cocktail made with gin or vermouth and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. THAT IS IT. Make friends with Wikipedia if you are not already. Just because something is served in a martini glass that does not make it a martini. Drinks with all sorts of liquers and mixers like Chambord and Tequila and egg white and strawberries are NOT martinis; they are just cocktails. So the point of that vent was to say this "martini bar" did not have a single martini on the menu! What's up with that?!

Anyway, so we ordered the first round of cocktails. Here we have two pomegranate "martinis" (tasted like sugary lolly water), a peach monkey bar "martini" (tasted like Fanta) and an earl grey "martini" (looked like dirty dish water). Also, none of the cocktails tasted like they had any alcohol and the servings sizes were very inconsistent. Hard to tell from this photo but the earl grey filled the glass but one of the pomegranates hardly filled half the glass! Once the rest of the group arrived, a Bronx and a choc martini were also ordered. The Bronx was too bitter and the choc was watery and bitter. Yikes! In a short space of 20 minutes we had tried one third of the cocktail menu and every single drink was a massive disappointment. At $16 a pop this was money very badly spent. 

But fear not, as we are troopers. Now that we had crossed the "martinis" off the list it was time to test out the tapas. Our group of seven ordered seven dishes to share; fried whitebait, braised lamb shoulder and smoked eggplant, beetroot and goats cheese tartlets, paella, garlic prawns, haloumi soldiers, and chicken lollipops. Here we have photo evidence of all but the chicken and the haloumi. 




So the verdict on food: extremely ho-hum. The whitebait and haloumi were nice but how can you go wrong with deep fried skinny fishies and cheese, right? The prawns were resonably big and plump but not garlicy enough. The paella was very oily and had a thick tough crust at the bottom making some of the dish too tough to eat. However for a small dish, they were generous with the amount of seafood in it. The beetroot tartlets weren't that memorable and neither was the chicken. I'm not being dismissive here; if and when I like something I am very generous with my raving reviews but sadly none of the seven dishes I tried deserve any praise in by books. But the braised lamb shoulder did receive a positive response from the rest of the troops; the lamb and smoky egg plant combination worked well but the whole dish was way too cold hence why I'm not rating it.  

Considering both the "martinis" and tapas were a let down, our risk mitigation strategy for the remainder of the night was to stick to things that came in bottles; beers for the boys and a couple of bottles of sparkling for the girls. That was a good plan and a good nights was had by all at the end. The boys were happy with their beer and the over-priced ciders. I was rather taken by the gimmicky jars with handles that they drank beer out of.


So the final verdict: Playground will really need to pull their socks up and polish up the quality of their tapas and cocktails if they want to stay in the game. The cuteness and the novelty factor will wear off sooner rather than later as us Canberrans are notorious for moving on rather hastily from one newbie to the next due to an inherent case of FOMO. Personally I'm not in a major hurry to go back to Playground; if I'm in the mood for a good cocktail I'd go to The Vinyl Room in Manuka or Knightsbridge in Braddon where the cocktails are infinitely better than those at Playground. And if I want the hipster factor and a buzzing vibe I would rather go two doors up to Honkeytonks where drinks are much cheaper. Go out to play and decide for yourselves I say!

Playground Martini and Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this great article, I really enjoyed the insign you bring to the topic, awesome stuff!

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