Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ayers Rock Resort Review

Red desert sands
If you are thinking of going to the  Uluru-Kata Tjuta area, book very early. In fact, if you are traveling several places in Australia, you would benefit from finalizing these reservations first. Flights to Ayers Rock Resort are frequent, so getting a flight is not as difficult as getting lodging. If you are considering the Sounds of Silence tour, book this when you get a room reservation. Although Ayers Rock Resort is a remote location, the food was good. Again, as with other restaurants in Australia, food is expensive; food from the grocery was more reasonably pried. The five hotels at the resort range from expensive to relatively inexpensive. I've stayed at two of the moderate price hotels and at the backpacker's hotel (Outback Lodge and Hotel) and all are well maintained. For an explanation of the ratings, please see Sydney Review.

The Reviews: Lodging and Food
Three Carrots
While our room at Sails in the Desert was lovely, the bathroom left a lot to be desired. The basins are almost unusable because of the position of the faucets and the shower can’t
Sails in the Desert
 easily regulated. On check-in our bags reached our room before we did, but when we checked out the porters never came to collect them. We finally took our bags to the bus rather than risk them being left in the room. Our first day, the room was serviced by the time we got back from breakfast (about 9:00AM) but on subsequent days this was later and later until our last day when we were greeted at about 4:00PM by a room that looked the same as it had at 5:30AM when we left it. There is free internet in the lobby of the hotel, but it was so slow that I had a thought I heard the dulcet tones I once associated with dial-up connections; no one else in the lobby was using WiFi at the time. However, when I spent $7.00AU for an hour of in-room connection, I accomplished all my tasks in about 30 minutes. There was a free laundry for guests and the machines worked well. However, with the price we paid for the room, everything should have been perfect and free, high speed WiFi should have been included.

Four and one-half Carrots
The food at the Bough House Restaurant was the best we had at Ayres Rock Resort and
Kangaroo Steak
comparable to the best we’ve had anywhere. Dave ordered emu and kangaroo fettuccini with a tomato sauce base. It was well prepared and had a good flavor; no one ingredient overwhelmed any other. Mine, the kangaroo steak with a red wine reduction sauce, carrots, broccoli and potato, was outstanding. If I close my eyes I can still taste the tangy sauce. A dessert bar was included with dinner and featured the usual cheesecake squares along with fresh fruit and some more exotic offerings that presented nuts and wattle in interesting confections. While they had an extensive wine list highlighting Australian wines (which I usually order), I chose pear cider. I've decided pear cider is as good choice as wine ~ sometimes better when the weather is exceptionally hot. Service was excellent although our waitress was just learning food service skills.

Four Carrots

Eggs Benedict
Each day we had breakfast in the Ilkari Restaurant. I opted to include breakfast with the hotel room charge rather than wandering around looking for something to eat prior to having coffee. The Ilkari Restaurant has cooks preparing eggs, pancakes, French toast and omelets on demand. The rest of the buffet, with fresh bread, fruit, cereals, sushi, salad, cheese, nuts, dried fruit and prepared meats was pretty good, too. David wasn’t enamored with the French pressed coffee, but there was an abundance of fruit juices and hot tea available. I thought it was odd that we continuously had to ask for refills of our water.

Dinner at Sails in the Desert can be in the formal dining room, and is much like breakfast in
Cheese plate and
Hamburger with Chips
that there is a cook to prepare certain foods while other items are chosen from a buffet. We wanted to sit down and be served, so we ate at the Walpa Lobby Bar. I had a great cheese plate with chunks of bleu, cheddar and brie cheese. The apple, nuts and sweet wattle jelly complimented the cheese quite well.  
Dave had a hamburger that was pretty substantial. The beef had no hard pieces of gristle and the vegetables (lettuce, tomato, beet root, onion) on the bun were fresh. The chips (French fries) were hot and crisp. Home fries (chunks of potatoes) were also crisp and served with sour cream and hot, sweet chili jelly. Here, as well as most other restaurants, you have to ask for ketchup. We also had to ask for our water glasses to be refilled.

Three and one-half Carrots
At Kulata Academy Café they are teaching kids how to cook, interact with customers, make change, and so forth. These young people did a pretty good job of everything and the sandwich was enough to feed us both. We were able to choose from fresh vegetables, dressings and meats; some days the sandwiches are half price, while other days feature different sale items. Hot and sweaty from one of our hikes, we stopped in for milkshakes. Although it took quite a while to prepare these drinks, they were cold, sweet and flavorful. All of the kids working there were cheerful and quite willing to please the customers; they were always busy no matter what time we walked by.

Three Carrots
Vegetables and meats from buffet
Especially given the price we paid, Sounds of Silence dinner was a disappointment (see full description in Around the Rock). The barramundi had a definite fishy odor I associated with being thawed and frozen too often. The offerings on the buffet alternated between adequate and modest depending on when your table was called to the line. The salads had that tired look of being in the bowl a bit too long. The amount of alcohol consumed by most patrons seemed to render these shortcomings invisible. Having experienced this tour on previous visits, I was disappointed with the exceedingly short and superficial star talk and the food offerings.

Gecko’s is a causal restaurant in the ‘City Center’. We both had salads that were okay but nothing special. The flies coming in from the open door were annoying, as was the
Chicken Caesar Salad
inefficient service that, not once but several times, had me going in search of someone to re-fill our water glasses. This would have been excusable if the restaurant had been busy, but there were few people in the establishment.

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