It was with a bit of sadness and longing that I entered this large dining space. I had not set foot in this place since its former incarnation, Gordon Ramsey's Maze was the crown jewel of the Metropol, which was not only a dining highlight from around four years ago but also caused a relatively small amount of sadness to be experienced when I heard that it closed.
For my lunch meeting, we turned up to a bit of controlled chaos at the front of the restaurant. The barperson was desperately trying to placate some people with takeaway coffee, others were making a mad dash across the floor to serve some diners who already had their food some water and curiously there was nobody at the kiosk up front to greet us. I propped myself up against the furniture, waited and chatted with my guest. After about five minutes someone informed me that someone else would be with us soon and after I counted backwards from one hundred, we were escorted to a table in the main dining room which oddly was devoid of any diners.
The "Express Lunch Menu" was quickly presented to us for review. I asked for the wine list and advised service that we were in no rush per se and that there was no reason to constrain us to anything with the word "express" in it. We were then informed that was the only menu on offer. Essentially a choice between three starters, three mains, three desserts and three sides. The three course deal was only $45 and included some bizarre wine so we opted for that and also a bottle of the 2010 Helm Riesling from the foothills of Canberra in the ACT. I have fond memories of visiting this winery a few years ago and I was excited that this particular vintage was on offer as I expected for it to pair well with the limited choices that I was about to make with respect to food.
Smoked rainbow trout with a simple potato, celery and cucumber made for a tasty starter when matched with the Riesling. The trout was soft and fell apart when prodded with the fork. I was pleasantly surprised with this dish and ultimately it helped improve my mood. Given the simple yet well presented trout dish, I wanted to see if my luck would continue being in the proximity of the casino and ordered the pan fried Ora King Salmon with peas and asparagus to follow it up. Crisp vegetables complimented this lightly fried oily fish and when matched with the Riesling, once again proved to be a good marriage of convenience.
The blueberry cheesecake was a standout. Served in a simple glass provided a raft of sweet tastes across the palate and effectively cleansed it. This restaurant is somewhat known for its dessert offerings, including the much maligned dessert degustation by medical practitioners in which the restaurant devotes a separate bar area just to enjoy desserts. Given the quality of the blueberry cheesecake, I was not only happy with what I had, but it rounded out a not so "express" lunch at our own choosing.
Gone are the dark colours and twinkling lights from the Gordon Ramsey days, this restaurant really doesn't have much character and is a natural extension of the hotel used for large functions. Service remained interested however they were reading from the hymn book when it came to the script that was required to be followed. It is service that you would expect in a hotel restaurant. What surprised me was the food and the relative value for money that you achieve for this express lunch. The wine list is comprehensive and had a few gems worth returning to explore however the dull ambiance and the realisation that you are in fact dining in a hotel does shine through and ultimately reminds you that there are far more intriguing places to frequent in the general area.
Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar
Crown Metropol, Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9292 8300
My Rating: 13/20
Value For Money: 3.5/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com