I suspect the most apt description one can give The Strand is hit-and-miss.
The Strand was voted best Café in South Australia 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 as well as Best Café in Australia 2007.
During its prime it was without a doubt a fantastic place to dine. It boasted fast, friendly and professional service, a fun albeit noisy atmosphere, clean décor and exceptional food. The Strand paired modern Mediterranean and Australian “café” cuisine with fair prices, offering an extensive menu and seasonal specials. A talented barista encouraged you to linger after a meal or just come in for coffee and to sample some of their wickedly good desserts. If you wanted a table during the weekend, reservations had to be made days in advance.
However, The Strand today is another story.
The menu is relatively unchanged since 2008, and while their cuisine hasn’t kept up to date, the prices certainly have. If you’re lucky enough to dine on a good day, you’ll probably receive a reasonable meal, adequate service and terrible coffee. Wander in on a bad day (no need to book ahead anymore), and you’ll receive an overcooked meal and you’ll watch the staff stand in a corner, chatting, when someone should be taking your drinks order. You’ll still be served terrible coffee.
The only steak you’ll find on the main menu is the Prime Steak of the Day; chargrilled and set on soft parmesan polenta, flecked with wood oven mushrooms and bacon, served with balsamic jus, agresto and beetroot aioli. It is a well-presented meal, the polenta is always creamy and the bright pink beetroot aioli agreeably sweet. Although at $35 it would be nice if the steak could be cooked to your request-even just once.
A similar problem is often found with the Orrecciette Sugo di Granchio; pasta caps tossed with crab meat, mild chilli, vodka, cream and tomato sauce. It is a pleasant pasta dish, the chilli cuts through the creamy sauce keeping it light and fragrant. If only it didn’t always have small shards of crab shell in it!
Complaints and criticism are not handled well. On my last visit, I ordered the Steak and Slipper Lobster Tail special. The steak was dry, leathery and beyond overcooked. The lobster tail resembled rubber (I briefly considered rolling it into a ball to determine if it would bounce) and the puddle of mash was over-seasoned. After mentioning the problems to one of the waiting staff, I was somewhat surprised at the response. There was an offer of a new meal (if I wanted to wait another half an hour) and that was all. No discounted bill or free drinks and worst of all, no apologies. The chef then glared us down for the remainder of our visit.
Overall, I am disappointed with The Strand. It seems to be meandering along on a good reputation made years ago-and it would appear management have no desire to bring it back to the note-worthy restaurant it once was.
If you’re in the mood for taking a gamble on your meal and you’re on Jetty Road, The Strand is always an option. Just remember there are plenty of other cafés in Glenelg. You could always try one of them instead…