Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Meat Market - Juxtaposing a Sleazy Pick-Up Place With a Fine Cut From The Butcher

Another day and another boat with "asylum seekers" accompanies another timely post on this blog. I certainly know what I would rather read about.

The notion of "good food, beverage and service" is subjective and can be found in most places in Melbourne. Sure, we all have different ideas of what perfect "food, beverage and service" includes and for me my expectations are never set too high, so I am rarely disappointed. I try to empathise with restaurant owners and the delivery teams knowing that they put a tremendous amount of time and effort putting produce to plate and also paying for the surrounds in which one eats it so my subjectivity, although bastardised at times which is applied at different levels to suit not only my mood but the perceived quality of the restaurant according to other reviews, the bizarre rating systems and of course the company that I have normally leads me to look for the positive things about places. There is no reason to tear a restaurant or bar to shreds because of some petty complaint but sometimes I do look on with awe whilst observing and evaluating the environment whilst I stuff my face and fill my stomach with intoxicating beverages. For me, The Meat Market, at South Wharf, was queer indeed and being able to describe it has not only vexed me for some time but stumped me, because really sometimes a narrative just does not cut it.

You are spoiled for choice in the South Wharf precinct. The other week I wrote about The Common Man and the Bohemian, and I was happy to have discovered the latter whilst holding no bad feelings about the former. I would still go to the Common Man and enjoy a breakfast and a Bloody Mary if the circumstances dictate, regardless of the price they set for the beverage on the day, just because I think it is a fun place. The Bohemian impressed me with its wine list, food, service and ambiance and out of all of the places that I have mused about on this blog over the last 45 days since its inception, I think it is one of the unexpected "great" finds that I plan on returning to over and over again. Because the hungry and thirsty patron is spoiled for choice in the precinct, I called into the Meat Market with the epicurean emo for lunch not long ago. I had a slight headache after a recent trip to Maedaya and Der Raum and was looking for something wholesome and heavy to counteract the pain that I was experiencing after enjoying too many good times at the aforementioned wonderful boozer and the awesome izakaya.

The Meat Market drew us in because of the chalkboard outside announcing the daily specials. The open kitchen, clean fit-out, views of the river and the derelict North Wharf (such potential) along with the high ceilings sucked me in like a horny teenager into a sleazy pick-up place, a true Meat Market. The architecture and open space reminded me of one of my favourite restaurants in Sydney, Flying Fish, at Jones Bay Wharf. Not wanting to get rained on, we chose a table inside which the floor manager was happy to accommodate us at. The table was close to the open kitchen. There were not many patrons so I was keen to observe the activity in the open kitchen as I always quickly gain an understanding about a restaurant when I see one work well... or not.

The chef looked like he had as big of a night as I did and I could tell that he did not want to be there. The dialogue between him and his assistant was terse, if not tense, and being within earshot, I thought that I was dining at the Summer Bay Cafe with Irene and Colleen carrying on about the town gossip on Home and Away given what was being discussed, with a good sense of ambivalence from the chef.

The lunchtime kitchen drama aside, the service was friendly. The server and the floor manager would frequently come over to fill the water glasses, refresh my ongoing thirst and need for beer and generally were friendly. It wasn't long until the delivery manager was telling off the server within earshot near the window for not putting something into the terminal. What could have been a request turned into a discussion about a failed task and I actually felt bad for the server as the floor manager appeared to want to blame her for the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain, the failures of the current Federal government and a raft of other items. Between the drama in the kitchen and question time in the House of Representatives taking place on the floor, I was grateful to have something to drink as it was a bit awkward, at least until the meals were served.

The food was good and there were many items on the menu that I would like to try however the professionalism of the place was poor. I really do not like hearing the kitchen carry on when I am paying for the pleasure. If I wanted to witness bad behaviour like that, I would watch Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. If I wanted to see workers get told off, I would go into the office and be paid to bare witness to Jesus being crucified. I always expect some basic professionalism in restaurant in and amongst the staff.

Given the transient nature of food service, I will return to the Meat Market in about three months as I am sure that the staff will have turned over. Given I really like the ambiance of the place and want to try different things on the menu, it would be a shame to blow the place off completely however I will use time to my advantage and wait for what I expect to be a new contingent of staff. I just hope they do not inherit the bad habits that I observed and experienced.

The Meat Market
Link to review
53 South Wharf Promenade  South Wharf VIC 3008
(03) 9008 8953
My Rating: 11.5/20
Service: 2.5/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Quality: 2.5/5
Value For Money: 2.5/5
Comment: Good views and fit-out

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

As of this writing only 66% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked the Meat Market. I wonder if they observed the same things as I did? I will have to check out their reviews after I post this.

Meat Market South Wharf on Urbanspoon