I have frequented The Hairy Canary at least ten times over the years. When I lived in Sydney (and even Brisbane for a while) I would escape the dull dining and beverage scenes in each of those cities and find refuge in Melbourne. One of the first ports of call at around lunch was always The Hairy Canary because of its proximity to the Grand Hyatt Melbourne however now it is a convenient stroll across the dirty Yarra River from Southbank.
This is a more "social" venue which is refreshing. You are allowed to take whatever seat that you want and classically speaking you can eat, drink and chatter all you want and you are not molested by pushy staff that like to push the main meals or move you along. On that note, I have not found many places like that in Melbourne, which I continually use a benchmark for service, since the horrible dining scene in Sydney usually involved pushing mains and bodies in and out of a revolving door. Some of us in Melbourne wonder why the seemingly "good" eateries are closing in Sydney however considering service is usually so poor, with Justin North's Etch and Becasse the exceptions on the list that I am providing, I am not surprised the liquidators are circling. Check out this link for the latest round of Sydney restaurant closures as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as of July 2012 if you can be bothered.
This is the first time I noticed that the Hairy Canary has a special and aptly it includes any of their pizzas for $10. They have a pizza oven that is conveniently rendered into their front kitchen wall and I have always found the crusts to be done properly so I was excited to order one and a bottle of Cricketer's Arm beer.
I am usually bemused when I see a large group of people coming into an establishment and placing a coffee order but since this was a relaxing afternoon I decided to observe and evaluate so I could properly judge service as the aforementioned server was the only employee on the floor. Bemusement usually leads to consternation in moments like this since I realise that when large groups of women order coffee's that everything else is forgotten by the staff and the resulting slurps and hisses are just not coming from the coffee machine but the red faced customers as they wait. In this case we ordered a couple of bottles of beer. I do not even think they needed a tool to be opened but they remained chilling in the refrigerator whilst the single server, reminiscent of when Slim Pickens attempted to fly the bomber in Dr Strangelove; however we know how that mission ended up in the end.
What I appreciated about Bar Americano is a sign is (sometimes) posted that reads "Please do not ask for a latte after 2:00 PM as refusal often offends" and this philosophy needs to be adopted by all eateries after lunch service and beyond as not to impact diners who just require a beer to be opened. Given the profit margins on a Heineken are at least 125% after noticing what a case cost on my recent trip to Costco Docklands, management should be pushing service to open the bottle and get them out as soon as possible instead of standing around and burning coffee produced by the B-52 bomber.
Despite the wrong priorities afforded by service, The Hairy Canary is a relaxed place to meet up, have some tapas, a pizza, a few drinks and start your afternoon. I have also frequented this place later in the evening on a Friday and it is equally relaxed and it should be included in your itinerary as a fuel stop if you intend to power through everything that Melbourne has to offer one day.
Link to review
212 Little Collins Street Melbourne VIC 3000
no web site
My Rating: 12/20
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Pizza specials on Saturday, full bar
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
When I updated this blog post on 24/09/12, 78% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also liked The Hairy Canary.