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Not really on the wild side

At Café Mercara at the Chola Sheraton, the service is so unobtrusive that you barely realise its there. Actually, its barely there. If you plan to head to Mercara for dinner take a good book. In fact, take two. And maybe a couple of magazines, a DVD player and a pot of strong coffee to keep you awake while you wait for each course to appear.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. But the café's latest food festival `Mexi-Canadian Wild Side Food Fest' is certainly not one of their high points, though to be fair, it does have its redeeming factors. The staff and the desserts are really very nice.

The rest is largely ho-hum. Unless you have a wild, unquenchable, voracious passion for potatoes that is. The food seems more like an advertisement for Mc Cains - the food giant that has supplied Mercara with ready-to-eat potatoes in every size, shape and form imaginable - than a festival that brings together the best of spicy Mexico and colourful Canada.

The meal began with a `Chicken motza ball soup'. The soup, which was as warm as a hug, was luscious, spiked with rosemary and bright slices of tomato and capsicum with chewy cheese balls floating in between.

A long pause later, a basket filled with golden onion rings and mozzarella balls filled with a spicy cheese sauce appeared. The 'Chuck wagon special ' was an exhausted looking pile of chicken drumsticks accompanied by a basket of Mc Cains potatoes, in rings, spheres and rolls.

Pause. Yawn. Then, the cheese cookies arrived looking like scones that somebody had sat on. But they tasted good in an evolved bun meets cupcake kind of way. They were short and dense, filled with bursts of raisins and topped by melting cheese.

Sigh, wait, look around sleepily. Finally 'Surf n trax' - Popcorn shrimps and 'cross trax potatoes' served with a vodka cocktail sauce - made a grand entry. And, after enough time to write a small book, the grand finale arrived: a 'Wild roastie Decker', which was basically a Mc Cain potato cutlet perched on a bun, slathered with Thousand Island dressing and artfully piled high with lettuce, cucumber and onion rings. Yes, it came with potatoes - in rings, wedges and rolls. The white chocolate brownie that followed however was sinfully scrumptious. It was rich, dark and slathered with generous lashings of soft white chocolate. Their Naniamo bar, made of chocolate and coconut layers, thickly studded with walnuts, was equally good.

Mercara's apparently been flooded with orders for Christmas, and their chefs have been frantically baking plum cakes, Yule logs, cinnamon cookies and a host of other festive foods non stop. That might explain why their Wild Side fest whimpered, though the desserts sang.


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