The Norman Hotel, Woolloongabba

They live by the moniker "Brisbane's worst vegetarian restaurant" and do their best to live up to the claim.

There's no escaping that the Norman Hotel is primarily a steak house and you are there to eat meat. From the bull who greets you at the front door to the gaily coloured ribbons from this year's best Ekka steers, it's all about the beef.

Staring down the bull, who seemed to be serving water to the queuing crowds, we lined up to order our meals. There's plenty of information to peruse while you wait including explanations of their cooking guide. So if you are going to order your meat 'blue' be prepared to receive it outside sealed on both sides and warm inside.

The system here is typical pub style where you order from the counter and take a buzzer to the table which tells you when to collect your meal.  Drinks are served by wait staff circulating the room.  It works well and keeps the crowd moving, although they do warn of delays on busy nights.  Our steaks arrived in good time on a Friday night.

It's easy to pick your steak from the fully labelled window display. Our choices were the midi eye fillet for K2 and a small rib filled for moi. All steaks come with a choice of sauce, garden salad, Idaho potato with bacon sauce and a bread roll.  I also went for the seafood topper which was an extra $10 but promised prawns and scallops as well.

And they do the steaks well here - full of flavour and cooked to perfection. The salad was fresh and the potato soft and creamy with a tasty bacon sauce.  My seafood topper was a wonderful array of scallops wrapped by prawns.

How do you cook a steak to perfection?  Norman Hotel Executive Chef John Alexander's best tip is wait till you see little beads of blood on the steak until you turn the meat and don't turn it too often. John learnt how to cook steak in Rockhampton, the beef capital of Australia, so his techinique is worth trying.

We couldn't resist the wait staff's recommendation of a sticky date pudding.  It came with a pleasing hint of ginger and a delicious caramel sauce.

Built in 1889, the Norman is turning 123 this year with a five day long celebration from October 17.

Norman Hotel General Manager Duncan Lumsden said there’ll be something for everyone during their birthday week, including the release of the Ekka Champion beef.

If you'd like to learn how to cook steak Norman style you can join one of their Mastersteak BBQ cooking classes which includes a two hour cooking class, a steak and drinks and a chefs apron, all for $95 per person.

Bottom line: Vegetarians are catered for with Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli but that's it folks.

Best tip: Take John's advice and order your steak medium, or just as I like it medium rare.

Disclaimer: E,d+bK was a guest of the Norman Hotel.

Kerry Heaney

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