"We are setting a new benchmark in casual fine dining." says their website.
I feel this is an oxymoron, as either a restaurant is casual (which doesn't necessarily mean they do not serve great food) or it's a fine dining establishment. Luke Benchmark is neither one of these things and is a strange compromise of laid back decor and atmosphere mixed with the eagerness to be better than it really is. It's puzzling, but now that I have read their philosophy it makes sense. Well it explains things perhaps. It doesn't really make sense to me. At all. The food though, holds up its end of the bargain. Phew.
I am a huge oyster fan. A huge natural oyster fan. I never really go in for all these crazy garnishes. Perhaps a dash of something here and there, but not your everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of oysters. But here in oyster town, it is worth trying them with all of the fabulous bells and whistles. The oyster tasting plate is a mix of cold and hot oysters dressed in various garments and was all going splendidly until my lovely dining companion, face drained of all colour, said "It's blue cheese."
Nevermind. I gave that blue cheese mornay a good home. Oysters and blue cheese? Yes. It works. Try it.
Another triumph was the oyster adorned with lime, coriander and chilli sorbet. It was herbacious and clean.
The Red Curry Baked Barramundi has a lovely crisp skin that crunches like autumn leaves when I bite into it. In fact, it is probably the best fish skin I have ever had. The flesh is soft and juicy and yearns to be swooshed around with the curry and fig to create a little mouth party that is very happening. So I don't deny it. My dining partner partner tries it. He agrees that it's very happening.
Unfortunately the plate of Dukkah Dusted Salt and Pepper Baby Calamari opposite me has vanished before I get the chance to taste it... So here is the non-expert opinion: "It was good but the salt and pepper was a little overpowering and I couldn't really taste the calamari."
I always prefer sock it to me flavour than bland food, so I probably would have enjoyed it.
Sadly dessert is a tragic tale of miscommunication, false hopes and empty tummies. I shan't bore you with the details but we had to leave before we could eat our dessert. Harrowing.
If you are in The Shire, I'd say Luke Benchmark is your best bet at getting a good feed. But wherever he has set the benchmark, many others surpass it... Luke-warm Benchmark?