Miss Kitty’s Saloon – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Miss Kitty’s Saloon is a recent addition to the ever-expanding restaurant scene in Inglewood. Offering American and Canadian food in a saloon setting, it intrigued me from the moment I heard about it. I’m always looking to try something new, so it wasn’t long after it opened that Amie and I ventured down to Beaufort Street to check it out.
All the promotional material available on the web presents Miss Kitty’s as a modern take on an old-style western saloon. At first glance on entering, you certainly do get this feeling – rough wooden benches and tables, far wall laden with old pallets, old wooden chests and barrels around the floor. We were greeted warmly on entry on both of our visits. The first, on a Friday night, was a short wait for a table to open up.
As we waited for a table and took in more of the atmosphere, it became apparent that the overall layout seemed very hap-hazard. Small tables are interspersed with long dining benches and not arranged in a way that particularly makes best use of the space. There is also a couch area at the immediate right of entry that seems a waste of that limited space and at a bit at odds with the main theme.
The main floor area is an L-shape around the bar and, as such, needs to be utilised not only to make it easier for the customers but also the staff to negotiate. Obstructions seem to be everywhere. We were shown to a small table that was placed at the end of an area of two long tables, right next to the exit to the outside dining area. This made it very hard for any sort of privacy, but it has to be said that intimate dining is not really what this place is all about, so was not a major issue.
On glancing at our menus, we hit our first major hurdle. The lighting is so low that the text is almost impossible to read without the helpful glow of our phones. Low lighting is expected in an establishment such as this, but you still need to be able to read what’s on offer, don’t you? Candles on the tables had no effect.
The cocktail list is minimal and most of the spirits are whiskey, or a variant of, in keeping with the main theme. There is a decent wine list as well. They have a range of beers and I stuck with the local Feral Brewery Hop Hog, while Amie went for the signature Kitty’s cocktail. As we waited for our drinks, the uneven nature of the interior design became more apparent. It’s just feels a little all over the place. The area around the bar sticks to the theme with the roughed up chairs and wood panel walls, but elsewhere are maroon-painted plaster walls and 1950’s style op-shop paraphernalia, not what you’d expect to find in a self-styled western saloon.
Our drinks took quite some time to arrive but were welcome when they did. The food menu is the seemingly ever-popular tapas style – small dishes that are brought out in no particular order when they are ready and are to be shared. The strength of tapas in my mind is that the food is cheap and comes out quick or, at least, regularly. The menu at Miss Kitty’s is not at the cheap end of the scale, but there were definitely enough interesting items apparent that I thought could be worth the money if made from quality ingredients and done right.
It took a while for our order to be taken and we were offered a bowl of peanuts in the meantime (although no bowl to place the empty shells). Once our food did start to arrive, one thing became abundantly clear – the kitchen can do texture, but they seem to have trouble with taste. The servings are also smaller than I would expect for the prices and quality of food offered, tapas or no.
The steamed buttermilk buns were light, but bland and uninteresting. The kitchen’s take on the humble prawn cocktail was interesting in presentation, but lacked either a zesty kick from the sauce or a juicy burst from the prawns. I enjoyed the charcoal pork tamarind ribs, but I have had better, and bigger, serves of the same dish, and they were hardly as charred as they should have been.
I was looking forward to the fried chicken – nothing says U.S.A. to me more than this simple comfort food. Unfortunately, it missed the mark. There was enough crunch there, certainly, but no spice or tasty kick of any kind. I’d also suggest the quality of the chicken used is not the best. The mashed potato it was served with was smooth and creamy, however.
The two most disappointing dishes were the wood-charred beef and suckling pig. There is a large wood fire oven on display in the kitchen, and these dishes are perfect opportunities to take advantage of the smoky flavour such an oven provides. The steak was cooked well enough, but again the taste was lacking and didn’t seem to be a very good quality cut.
The pork was a non-event. The most expensive item on the menu, you expect something decent. I have had suckling pig a few times in restaurants here and overseas, and can cook a mean pork roast myself. This one tasted like something from a second rate pub menu. Stringy, fatty and luke-warm. Again, the quality of ingredients just didn’t seem to be there – it tasted like budget supermarket meat. And where was that lovely, slow-cooked smoky flavour? Nowhere to be seen. If you want suckling pig, fly to Bali and pay a third of the price, because this dish just isn’t worth it.
We have dined at Miss Kitty’s for dinner twice now and these dishes were sampled over those two occasions. After the first occasion on a busy Friday night, we wanted to give it another go on a quieter Tuesday to see if that made any difference either to the speed of service or quality of food. It didn’t. We had a longer wait on the Tuesday for our food than the Friday and the staff, although friendly and attentive when on hand were, at times, nowhere to be seen.
Miss Kitty’s is open on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch, so we decided to have one final try for the sake of thoroughness. Despite being at only half-capacity, the wait from the kitchen was once again lengthy. Coffees took nearly a full 30 minutes to arrive, and had a strange smokey taste that wasn’t entirely unpleasant. It was yet another 30 minutes until our brunch arrived. Amie’s chicken waffles with chilli sauce were not nearly as daring as she thought. An expectation of crispy waffles, dripping with syrupy goodness was dashed by the bland little waffle topped with crispy chicken and a light salad dressed in chilli sauce. The savior of the dish was the sour cream on the side, it was in Amie’s words “the only element that lifted the dish”. The stone baked mushroom tart with eggs and hollandaise was beautifully cooked and presented. However ,the holladaise was sweetened, I suspect ,with maple syrup, and left me longing for a zesty note to cut through the richness of the eggs.
Our experiences at Miss Kitty’s Saloon were disappointing mostly because we wanted it to be good. We were rooting for it, to steal the American expression. It’s a great idea that, done well, could have been amazing, and easily become a regular for us. Not so, unfortunately. Quite simply, the good is outweighed by the bad and, at times, downright ugly. Slow service and overpriced food that has little-to-no taste, served in a setting that is at best confused and at worst chaotic, doesn’t make me want to go back. It just didn’t work for us.