As it was the Queens Birthday public holiday the day that I frequented this restaurant with one other, we were presented a menu with a few specific specials but also prices that were commensurate with the reward rate. An amazing $24.20 for a very ordinary Bunga Bunga pizza was just one example of the outrageous prices. I probably wouldn't have been so annoyed by the bloated prices for food and beverage if the service was equally exceptional. They were not. Despite seemingly being fully staffed, it took twenty minutes for service to bring our drink order. This involved simply opening a bottle of Peroni Red ($9.20) and a bottle of Rekorderling cider ($17.30) and having them carried three metres from the bar. During this hiatus, I observed the table on one side of us be served items they never ordered which they rejected. Ultimately when they did receive the pizzas that they in fact ordered were provided with a wheel-type pizza cutter so they could cut it themselves. The table next to us got tired of waiting for the menus presumably and left. All of this time was spent musing about the political landscape and looking at the food that had been left on the floor that nobody seemed to care about cleaning up.
Eventually we ordered Salame Cacciatore ($13.80) and Mozzarella di Bufala ($20.70) to start. Given the price of the cheese, I asked the server if it was D.O.C. Denominazione di origine controllata ("controlled designation of origin") is Italy’s certification system to identify and protect cheeses produced within specified regions within the country. Regional specificity is just one requirement; to achieve certification cheeses must also be produced using exacting, predefined ingredients and methods, and must meet rigorous quality standards. This cheese I would later learn was not classified D.O.C. No matter really, I wasn't surprised but with so many other places that are flogging D.O.C. cheeses which are cheaper, it really just set the mood of this experience at La Camera.The Salame was spicy thankfully and I was grateful to have a bit of taste with the bland Mozzarella di Bufala and made me long for more Red Peroni, which came out quite quickly when I ordered my second round and later the third round.
My Linguine Al Granchio ($36.80) came in a timely manner after we had finished the meat and cheese. For the price I wanted something amazing and in turn received something mediocre. Although the pasta was prepared perfectly, the "Australian crab meat" was really disgusting. The seafood was supposed to make this dish but the kitchen killed it. I had the opportunity to taste the Bunga Bunga pizza ($24.20) which the server was kind enough to slice for us. It was good, but nothing that you would feel comfortable paying that much money for. After recently having amazing pizzas at other venues around Melbourne, I was rather disappointed to say the least.
There is outdoor seating however being wintertime, the balcony is protected by a dirty shroud so there is really no view available of the beautiful (sic) Yarra River. This is a puzzling restaurant which left me sullen. Given all of the hands on deck to provide service which ultimately did not bother, the condition of the dining room and the high prices for rather mediocre if not substandard food, I thought this place would be a good candidate for Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. I would imagine this restaurant survives off the tourist dollar given the high rent for the property and position within the Southgate complex which disappoints me in a way as aforementioned tourists will ultimately judge the dining options of this great city, which is known for its epicurean offerings on an experience such as what you are bound to have at La Camera. Now that is what makes me sad.
If you are a tourist and reading this, check out Sarti or Rosetta as an alternative, you will thank me later.
Shop MR2 Mid Level East End/Southgate Ave, Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9699 3600
My Rating: 10/20
Value For Money: 2/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com