Earlier this week I returned to Conservatory with one other as we were both extremely hungry. I had completely recovered from the hangover that I had leftover from my visit to Sydney after a marathon party which commenced at Spice Temple, this being the first occasion that I felt that my stomach could handle anything and everything without revolting.
We turned up at 11:50 AM. A mob had gathered outside of the entrance to the restaurant. I was half expecting to see One Direction in the place with the volume of children in the wings however the demographic was just not limited to the pre-pubescent, but also the aged, willing and unwilling visitors to the casino. Everyone was gathered waiting to be first past the barrier as the restaurant states that lunch commences at high noon - 12:00 PM sharp and they enforce it. Nobody is let in even a minute before which I thought was just a process for the sake of having a process. Surely the mob of people would have been happier having a seat, placing a drink order and commencing their culinary gorge without having to look through the windows and allow their saliva to drip on the worn Crown carpet outside of the restaurant in anticipation of the clock striking noon. Rules are rules though.
Regardless, when the morning evolved to noon officially, the gates were open and the warm bodies raced inside. It reminded me of the Emirates Melbourne Cup the way punters charged over the white parquet floors, bumped into the perfectly set tables and claimed the various tables of food for their own. Some larger groups had some sort of arrangement for tables next to the large windows which in turn gave them good views over Southbank Promenade out toward the Melbourne Aquarium. It was a beautiful day in Melbourne however these patrons I believe were not there for the view, but for the endless supply of food and the most extensive dessert bar that I have ever seen.
We secured a table that some would say would have been the worst in the house, in the corner near the bar but it was away from the action. I wasn't there for the view either but we were also civil enough to enjoy our seat and wait for service to order a beverage before taking on the buffet.
I found myself in the seafood area first. I hate working for my food so I never get prawns that require being deshelled. All of the tables have bowls for prawn shells but also one filled with water and lemon for your messy fingers. It would seem that others that normally frequent this place do not mind working for their food. I saw a fair amount of shucked oysters available, but I passed on those also. Instead I opted for salmon and tuna sashimi, kippler potatoes, intentionally cold beetroot quail and what I would find a very tasty watermelon-lamb-feta shooter.
When I returned to my table, our drinks arrived. The food was consumed. Everything was rather bland except the shooter. My second trip to the battlefield was to the area that had the curries. I wanted to sample them as I was interested in some spice. There were five available, along with some tandoori chicken. There were many meats and vegetables available at the carvery and it was a very popular area but I normally do not go out to eat things that I can easily make at home. I would later find the curries bland also however the second round of watermelon-lamb-feta shooters were the highlight once more.
Exhausting my two main forks and knives, I wandered over to the very extensive dessert bar. I kept thinking that I want to actually lose weight this month so I took it easy however everything I selected was both rich and perfectly presented on display. This was one of the few times I wanted to act like a tourist and take a photo because it was a beautiful and symmetric setup.
Service was quick to turn up to remove the used plates when we were at the various buffets. They were also quick to return to ask if we wanted more drinks but other than that service did not have much to do. I liked the design of the waterglasses and how they matched the paper straws that you are given should you order a carbonated beverage. It was a nice and whimsical touch. For $48 for lunch ($61 on Saturday and $75 on Sunday ($98 if you want to match it with unlimited cheap champagne)) I thought it was a reasonably priced deal since you could sit and graze for 2.5 hours if you were keen. We lasted about an hour but it looked like the hungry mob was only going to be dislodged from the place when the cow bells rang at 2:30 PM when lunch ended.
An interesting place with a beautiful set-up. With the view and the good selection of food and desserts especially on offer you could impress visitors to our fair city easily but more importantly go if you want some medium-quality food in endless supply.
8 Whiteman St., Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9292 5777
My Rating: 13.5/20
Value For Money: 3/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
At the time of this post, 72% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Conservatory.