Monday, 17 June 2013

Lobster Cave Beaumaris - Motion In The Ocean

South of Sandringham and Black Rock, you will find the sleepy suburb of Beaumaris with a simple shopping strip with the Lobster Cave a distinct architectural highlight, nestled in next door to a Pizza Capers franchise. Despite people raving about this place and both the quality and volume of seafood that is in offer, a visit elluded me until I was out driving around with someone else where I was the passenger. I was in the area picking up a snowboard and boots for the forthcoming snow season (please, let it snow!) so I offered to pick up the tab at the Lobster Cave knowing that I could get stuck into wine and not have to worry about driving home. 

We were given a table outside under the bright and hot heat lamps. After exploring inside the restaurant, I was grateful that we were seated outside as it was calmer despite the footpath that separates the outdoor tables from the restaurant being used by random people. Service was quite welcoming, almost too welcoming, indicating they were singing from a hymn book.

Drinks orders were taken. I ordered a Hendricks Gin & Tonic to start off things. A small bottle of  Bombay Sapphire, a small bottle of tonic and a glass of ice was brought out and the elements were all placed in front of me on a small tray. So I was tasked with making my drink. Weird. The same sort of odd service was wrapped around serving the sparking mineral water. Two empty glasses, two glasses of ice with tongs and two bottles of water were placed on the table. I have never met anyone in my life that requires a certain variable of ice cubes in proportion to the volume of water so all I was seeing was a bit of extravagance just for the sake of it and far too many glasses on the table especially after I quickly knocked back the G&T and ordered another one, this time articulating that I wanted Hendricks gin. The wine list was procured as was the food menu and it took some time to read about all of the options available.

We decided to order the "Ultimate" Combination Platter with Whole Rock Lobster ($299.90 for two) and I requested a bottle of chardonnay from the Yarra (honestly, I can't remember what I ordered as I lost the scrap of paper I wrote it on) and when I quizzed service rather facetiously as whether there would be enough food, we were offered fries and a salad, to which we declined. About twenty minutes later, the bonanza of seafood was delivered. As expected, it was a massive amount of food. There was one two level riser with two plates of assorted delights, a plate of fried seafood and a plate with the Rock Lobster, rice, bivalve mollusks and other assorted condiments. This was a table for two and after all of the food was delivered, there was absolutely no space left (note my comment about the exceptional amount of glassware earlier) which left some of the plates dangling precariously over the side as our eyes attempted to digest the task ahead of us.

Lobster Cave "Ultimate" Combination Platter with Whole Rock Lobster
Whole flame grilled Rock Lobster was apparently the star of this performance. At least given the name of the restaurant and the striking beauty of this crustacean which was cut in half so that we could easily pull the meat from the cavity. I really like lobster. I especially like it when it is pulled from the tank, slaughtered in front of me and the meat ends up on rice in a sushi bar within one minute of its death. I also like it boiled and steamed at Chinese restaurants. For some reason though, this grilled Rock Lobster did not do much for me. It seemed a bit dry and I did not want to disrespect its memory by dressing it with condiments. 

Whole seared cray tail infused with lemon, garlic, parsley olive oil and the Queensland (Mooloolaba) jumbo cooked tiger prawns were some of the highlights of this feast. The kitchen conveniently sliced the sharp exoskelton of the tiger prawns in the kitchen so it was convenient to remove the flesh.

Pacific oysters served three ways - crab meat and caviar, horseradish cream and smoked salmon with pearls and mornay bordered two of the large dishes. An interesting and tasty take on classic oysters and the horseradish cream was a nice touch especially since I was looking for something to excite my palate a bit.

Returning to the fried food which was quickly filling my stomach, the salt and pepper squid was another highlight and perhaps my favourite if you can believe it. The hot chilli steamed black mussels were served in a large bowl and they were all perfectly cooked in a mild sauce where I only came across one mussel that did not open during the cooking process. The grilled Kangaroo Island abalone was also filled with flavour and unlike the lobster, I enjoyed this mollusk grilled and it was probably the best abalone that I have ever had.

Refreshing the palate with watermelon and rock melon intermittently during this war on the seafood stocks, the whole grilled Moreton Bay bugs were devoured quickly and in between bites of fruit my share of Hervey Bay scallops on the half shell and the whole crumbed and fried soft shell crab was consumed. Wine was drank. The night being spent on the street of Beaumaris was turning into a festive occasion.

At this point we were looking at each other with consternation and agreed that we could not finish all of the food so tactical decisions had to be made. The Western Australian scampi, smoked Tasmanian salmon with caviar pearls and the tempura tiger prawns were polished off. Despite wok tossed blue swimmer crab being available, I found it too difficult to get any meat out of them and the quest for some of my favourite flesh from the sea was quickly abandoned.

We had to fully ignore the Thai style South Australian baby calamari salad and the beer battered King George whiting fillets. The latter mainly because these fillets were huge and we could not tolerate anything fried after some of the wonderful tastes of seafood available on these four huge plates.

Service was a mixed bag. One of the servers was amusing, pleasant and engaging. He was ultimately succonded to the wealth of diners inside as by the time our "Ultimate" platter was nearly polished off, there were but a handful of diners outside. I overheard another server be told to check on us every 15 minutes but that did not happen. Yet another member of service kept appearing asking if we wanted tea or coffee however I wanted more G&T's and kept ordering them. The attack of the empty glasses started in again and by the time I had my dessert which consisted of a fourth G&T after polishing off the bottle of wine, the table looked very unkempt with remains of seafood, rice, serviettes and empty glasses that the infrequent service did not really pay much attention to.

When the bill was requested, that was brought out quickly along with a fair amount of propaganda relating to the Lobster Cave "Gold Medallion Club" where we were advised that the one-time $99 joining fee had been waved and that we should hand over all of our personal details so that we can join said secret society. The benefit would have been should we return, we would be entitled to a free bottle of wine to takeaway provided that we spend a certain amount of money. Like with Taco Bill, I am not a fan of these sorts of gimmicks so I couldn't be bothered signing up.

Given this is the Lobster Cave, I expected to see tanks of lobsters respectfully hidden within the walls inside the restaurant. There are tanks with tropical fish and an LED television on the wall with an "under the sea" screen saver, but I did not see any evidence of what was on offer and the seafood presumably rests behind the scenes somewhere.

Although the Lobster Cave is impressive and would make for a good venue to host a doo, I find it quite inconvenient to get to so it would be a challenge to end up there again under favourable circumstances.

Lobster Cave
16/18 North Concourse, Beaumaris VIC 3193
(03) 9589 6329
My Rating: 13.5/20
Service: 3/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5

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

At the time of this post, 65% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Lobster Cave in Beaumaris.

Lobster Cave on Urbanspoon