The scenic hills in Sydney’s south-west, including Camden and its Macarthur surrounds, were once a sleepy hollow. A gentrified rural county and coincidently, the place of my birth. The last decade has seen a residential explosion, taking the country town of Camden and its villages towards a burgeoning, bustling municipality. It’s lost a little of its country appeal and the booming subdivisions are a telling mark in the unfolding story of urban sprawl.
On the way to Cobbitty is the newest gated-ungated community, Harrington Grove. Formerly the rural retreat of the Fairfax family, the estate is now home to an enclave of the well to do, a mix of Boomers and Gen-Xers whose stylish homes grace the roads of this residential estate. Within the estate is the Harrington Grove Country Club, complete with everything you expect of a country club, including a restaurant. The location is fantastic, with lovely architecture and positioning. This is a real country club – exactly how Hollywood movies depict a country club to be and it has all the makings of success – From the views over the district towards the blue mountains, to the tennis courts and lap pools, and of course, the restaurant & bar.
Harrington’s Bar & Grill has had a couple of transformations in the last few years, and that includes a turn in chefs. As a regular to the area and repeat visitor, I’ve had many chances to observe the operations here. Time and again, I have given them the benefit of the doubt, but there just seems to be something missing from making this place a roaring local success.
The staff are congenial. However, there are never enough of them. They seem to run ragged with barely a third of the house occupied and I wonder whether they double as kitchen hands as they seem so scarce on the floor. The menu looks good and the food comes out well presented, though a genuine woodfire grill would work a treat for the meats that are listed on the menu. It would go a long way too, in justifying city prices.
1. The bottles housing the tap water have been mouldy.
2. Whilst the presentation of food is really very good and the portions ample, the prices are not inline with the output. I’m talking nearly $40 for a main. I expect that the food will be out of this world fantastic. Not a pork chop I could grill on the webber and achieve an equal or most likely, better flavour. It was, well, porky. I know that sounds ironic, but there are times when pork really shouldn’t taste piggy.
3. Bar service. Someone needs to teach these people the art of pouring a beer. There was no tilt of the glass, no slowly, slowly she goes. Nope. A straight pour down, like pouring Draino down the sink. No waiting for the head to form. This was a glass full of foam. The waitress could see that there was a problem with the beer, but assumed it was the beer, not the pour, so rushed off before you could say ‘rumplestiltskin’, with the glass and bottle, only to come back five minutes later with a new bottle and glass to repeat the performance. This time, realising the same thing was going to happen, stopped pouring and announced to the beer drinker that he could have the extra left in the bottle. Gee, thanks.
Drinks were ordered well before the meals were and did not arrive until enquired after for a second time, post service of the meals. Any smart restauranteur would be teaching their staff the art of a heavy handed, regular pour into the glasses to sell another bottle to thirsty diners, who would remark amongst themselves that “you don’t get much in a bottle these days”, and happily agree to order another. I saw other diners walk up from their tables to the bar, because they could not capture the attention of staff.
4. Timing is everything. Meals here consistently do not arrive together. At a recent breakfast visit, we were a table of six and the meals were delivered over a 50 minute time frame. Two were delivered within 15 minutes of ordering, the next three were delivered 15 minutes after that (at the 30 minute mark), and the final one 50 minutes after the original order was placed. So much for sharing a meal.
There are some fundamental basics that if fine tuned, would turn this place into a great neighbourhood local. The sophistication is there. The clientele is there, with cash to spend and discerning taste. There is something a little Fawlty Towers at times with Harrington’s Bar & Grill, but I really do want to see this place do well.
- Australian Wool Pioneers John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth, settled in the area in 1805. Their convict built farm, Belgenny, is considered the birthplace of Australian agriculture.