Did you know that catering colleges run training restaurants where meals can be had for close to cost price? I didn't.
The word 'Tiros' means people who are learning, and while the staff at Tiros @ 120 are learning (Tafe SA's catering school is back of house, hospitality school out the front) it is far from amateur. The students are supervised by experienced instructors, and many of them have worked in restaurants before. The menu is designed by the students and features bistro-style dishes that change with every season that the restaurant is open.
I ordered the lamb shoulder with cannellini beans and a crumb crust. I was expecting a cut of slow-roasted lamb shoulder alongside the beans, and was let down to be served a tomatoey lamb and bean casserole with a panko and parsley crust. The meat was tender and the beans were firm enough to stay together in the casserole, but it didn't knock my socks off. Others ordered a steak and kidney pie with sweet potato mash that they loved, and paprika chicken with herb spatzle.
The staff at Tiros were cheerful and attentive without being annoying. It was obviously a busy service, but the staff didn't miss a beat — our food came out lightning fast. Too fast, actually. I can understand the need to create a fool-proof menu that can be prepared ahead, but the kitchen were so well prepared it felt to me like cafeteria food with fancier plating. No restaurant starts a service without pre-making some of its food, but at the best you wouldn't know it. A grilled chicken breast instead of chicken simmered ahead in sauce, or pan-friend (but pre-boiled) potatoes replacing a warmed mash are simple changes that can make a tangible difference. With twice the number of chefs of a comparable café, it's disappointing that Tiros relies so heavily on pre-making entire dishes.
Maybe I'm judging Tiros by the wrong standard — including drinks my lunch came to only $15 and it was much better than many other $15 lunches I've had. And it's not Martinhas either, which is Tafe's student-run a la carte evening restaurant (opening again July 23). Although I felt that its 'bistro-style' food wavered into cafeteria territory, the chefs executed their menu solidly and the friendly service made for an enjoyable afternoon.
Tiros @ 120
120 Currie St, Adelaide
Tiros @ 120 will be open this season until July 11. 2008 opening dates for Tiros @ 120 and Martinhas can be found on Tafe SA's website.