Friday, 17 August 2012

"Best Of" Melbourne Restaurants and Bars after 47 Days and 47 Posts

In preparation for the weekend, I wanted to do a summary of my "best of" experiences as they relate to restaurants and bars that I have discussed on this blog since its conception 47 days ago. These lists do not include restaurants that I had previous experience with before I started writing this blog.

I have some lofty goals for this blog over the next 47 days. Although I have been to Vue de monde, Attica and Cutler & Co multiple times in their own right, I want to visit them once more before compiling a blog post. The post for Vue de monde has been a work in progress for some time since I had the best meal of my life there however that was enjoyed at their old location at 430 Little Collins Street and not Rialto Tower. If my wallet and liver can hold out, I will also return to Jacques Reymond which was the highlight of my dining experiences in 2011 also. Besides the big guns of Melbourne, also keep an eye out for Grossi Florentino, Bavarian Bier Cafe, Yar, The Local Taphouse, Matilda Bay Brewing Company and Merrywell.

The "Top 5" Restaurants that I have discovered in the last 47 days...

1. Cumulus
2. The Atlantic
3. Mamasita
4. Maedaya
5. Bistro Guillaume

Honourable mention needs to go to The Bohemian at South Wharf though.

The "Top 5" boozers that I have discovered in the last 47 days...

1. Bar Americano
2. The Den
3. The Waiting Room
4. Rooftop Bar
5. Ponyfish Island Bar

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

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Madame Brussels - Brothel Cum Bar on Bourke Street

Although few things eclipse writing this blog and I realise that my long suffering readers began to enjoy my daily epicurean diatribes, sadly I had to take a break for a few days. It is a sad day when work gets in the way of things that you really like to do however since these ramblings are fuelled by trips to places that provide food, drink and service in and around Melbourne, sometimes I need to prioritise paying the credit card as someone at the end of the day has to win besides Gail Kelly. Besides, I have not come across many restaurants that trade fine food and beverage for the lint in your pocket so I need to keep my priorities in check. After a marathon 40 posts in a row, I thought this blog had a good foundation or "pillars" as what some bloggers call core information so hopefully during my short trip away from the laptop everyone has found a new restaurant or bar to experience based on what you have read here.

At the "Paris-end" of Bourke Street, you will find a brothel that has sense been converted into a bar. Like with the whole mad scientist theme that Croft Institute has going on, the overarching theme for Madame Brussels works. When you actually find the building at 59/61 Bourke Street, you need to navigate stairs in an old building or take the equally old lift to the top floor. Walking out on fake grass (turf) in a make-shift wicked garden of sorts with metal furniture, picket fences and a garden theme that takes me back to my childhood when I used to visit my grandmother is nostalgic however when you see the staff dressed in very skimpy and appropriate costumes that compliments the setting you realise that you can relax in this wicked garden knowing that you will not see Dr Harry or Joanna Griggs hanging around looking to do any repairs or provide any consulting. It doesn't matter if you like looking at girls or guys, usually the patrons and the staff are usually more attractive (according to my bastardised sense of beauty) compared to most other places that I have found and on Saturday afternoons, I have found most of the patrons to be women.

Walking out from the garden, you can sit on the rooftop deck and enjoy both the Melbourne cityscape and table service. The jugs of Mai Tai come at a price however are so worth it and I have been guilty of drinking away many afternoons as their quality cocktails can't be matched. The table service is hit or miss however I have noticed if you tip that the attention levels from the attractive staff are piqued. Try not to sit next to the staff kiosk outside as there is a fair amount of foot traffic around it and it will distract you from enjoying your time at this converted brothel. If you plan on spending some time on the rooftop deck on a sunny day, make sure to take sunscreen and sunglasses.

Madame Brussels, Bourke Street Melbourne

Madame Brussels
Link to review
Level 3, 59 Bourke St. Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9662 2775
My Rating: 13.5/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 3/5
Comment: Saturday afternoons in the sun are great

I still use Twitter. Follow me: @epicurean3006
I do read my e-mai: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
The hyperlink which can easily be remembered:

When I made this post, 89% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also enjoyed Madame Brussels.

  Madame Brussels on Urbanspoon