Whether it was by luck or coincidence, The Deck Gastropub won me over the minute I sampled the Seared King Scallops & Tiger Prawn Croquette with Caramelised Cauliflower Puree, Chorizo Sweetcorn & Roasted Garlic Mayo (RM38). Pretty as a picture, the semi-circle of plump scallops and springy tiger prawn was chockful of irresistible flavours and varied textures that captivated our tastebuds.
That exquisite appetiser coupled with the clean, fruity Placido Pinot Grigio selected by The Deck Manager John Ong set more than an amiable tone for our maiden visit to WEIL Hotel's rooftop gastrobar, possibly Ipoh's most sophisticated yet fun dining & drinking venue.
The Deck's red brick and wood clad mod-vintage interior evokes a comfy, laidback atmosphere; a cool hangout spot where picture windows look out to the hotel's rooftop garden, pool deck and panoramic vistas of its surrounds.
Should you need companionable advice on suitable nibbles to complement your fave tipples, seek John Ong out - he'd be delighted to share his treasure trove of fine wine and food knowledge after chalking up years of F&B experience in Hong Kong. Born and bred in Ipoh, the eligible bachelor has now returned home to roost and striving to raise the city's fine dining bar.
At his insistence, we shared the starter of Seared Beef Carpaccio & Parmesan Tuile (RM26) and we had no regrets. Enlivened by candied walnuts, fresh arugula and a splash of aged balsamic vinegar, the delicately gamey slices tasted out of this world.
Aged balsamic dressing brought out the full rusticity of another sublime appetiser - plump slices of Grilled Portobello Mushroom (RM21). Adorned with wild rocket salad, candied walnuts and shards of parmesan tuile, it was an uncomplicated but soul-satisfying starter to nibble on in between sips of wine.
Another notable fungi option to tickle the palate in the snack/small plate section is Creamy Mushroom Ragout (RM21). Touched with sun-dried tomato, herb, garlic and truffle oil, its rich accent is ample enough for sharing; perfect if you decide to stretch Happy Hours till late.
You can tell The Deck team put in TLC into the food judging by the nicely assembled Tempura Blackened Yellow Fin Tuna (RM25). Raw tuna rolled in nori and lightly coated in tempura batter came crowned with Japanese pickles whilst a cone of pickled daikon (radish) bore a dollop of ebikko. Frilly dill, swirly fennel strands, wasabi jelly and sesame dressing completed the composition; each element bestowing palate-pleasing textural and flavour interest.
We were fortunate to cover almost all the house specialities that evening. Although soup doesn't rank highly on my 'must have' list, the trio served up for our sampling was top notch. My personal fave (a rare first) was Roasted Pumpkin (RM19); the wickedly delish soup embellished with smoked duck, sourdough croutons and chilli oil.
The other two worthy contenders were Roasted Tomato & Basil (RM16) served with crusty baguette topped with basil mayo, tomato and olive, and Creamy Mushroom Soup (RM22) primped up with shimeji mushroom, crispy bacon and white truffle oil.
Out of the different mains we savoured, my personal pick has to be the moist, ultra delectable Chicken Ballotine (RM35). Black truffle-scented mash, tender mushroom, sweetish onion chutney and shallot thyme sauce formed a scrumptious bedrock for this yummy dish.
Coming in a close second was the Seared Black Cod (RM68) with herb nut butter, confit lemon, fennel and roasted cauliflower. A surefire winner for those who are partial to deftly prepared fish as the cod's inherent flavour shines through with the attendant ingredients playing their supporting roles.
Carnivores aren't neglected here as prime cuts of beef and beef ribs are on the menu as is a well-acquitted Roast Rack of Lamb (RM69). Carrot puree, potato confit, minted peas and lamb jus ensure this meaty choice is worth sinking your teeth into.
Carb lovers can also get their fill from the Alaskan White Crab Meat Linguine (RM38). Crispy crumbs, capers, parsley, spring onion, garlic and chilli converge to heighten the taste dimension of this pasta alongside sweet chunks of Alaskan white crab meat.
Ever mindful he's the ambassador of sorts for his hometown, John got The Deck culinary team to incorporate Ipoh's famous white coffee into one of the signature desserts. You mustn't leave The Deck without succumbing to the luscious Ipoh White Coffee Pudding (RM24).
The white coffee aroma was unmistakable in this superb dessert which has candied walnuts, raisins, mascarpone, berries and salted caramel sauce boosting its sweet allure.
Brimming with inventive ideas and boundless enthusiasm, John also spurred The Deck's mixologist to create a special cocktail using Pagoda groundnuts.
Known as Pagoda Xtreme, the concoction shaken with frangelico (Italian hazelnut and herb-flavored liqueur), kahlua, Bailey's and blended groundnuts was the perfect after-dinner aperitif. Think liquid Reese's peanut butter candy with a naughty alcoholic twist.
We had such a terrific time over dinner that it was close to midnight before we finally took our leave. The Deck was still abuzz with patrons on that weekday night; some were trailing in whilst others remained cosily ensconced in their respective seats, nursing drinks.