It's tough in hospitality, tougher than it has probably been since the GST was introduced back in the 80's when this scribe was cheffing in or running suburban venues. Restaurants are struggling to survive between lockdowns and many punters are doing their best to support them. It is tough and we get it.
Which is why this much hyped new addition to 80 Collins Street was an even greater disappointment. The first visit caused a couple of old industry stompers to look at one another and ask was it a bit pedestrian? We were underwhelmed at best with a seated table in the deli section, perfunctory service and some pretty average fare. Benefit of the doubt as always, so a second visit it was. Suspicions were confirmed.
Alejandro Saravia was enchanted by Gippsland produce and so created this three story monolith to honour it. Instead, he has created an overpriced city venue which kind of flips it the bird instead.
Let's start with the flatware. Whilst it is beautiful, it is mostly impractical. Trying to eat with a knife and fork, in a bowl made for a spoon, is not an easy task, made harder when squeezed in a small space with little room to move.
There is nothing wrong with the terrine, with black garlic chutney, but there is nothing to eat it with. When questioned, we were advised to order some heavily priced farm style soda bread, making this a $30+ entree, which needed two others to go with it. Gippsland meat and pickles were fine and a Corner Inlet school whiting with jupiter turnip and nettle pesto likewise. None of it overly inspiring.
A main of lamb rump with carrots was going to be shared with a couple of sides, but was stingy in proportion. We succumbed and ordered a pork and leek pie which, while tasty, was more leek and sauce than pork.
Don't get me wrong, the food is tasty and does pay homage to the incredible produce of the Gippsland region. An obviously costly fit out and some good coin being made off water sales, thanks to a Purezza system should be balanced with the right amount of food. The wine list is well marked up with little to find below $80, and whilst some inspired choices have been made, there is little from Gippsland you'd drop $90 on.
I absolutely get what the venue is trying to do, and over three levels, it is a hell of an undertaking. But, if you want people to come back, perhaps it is wise to think about the perception of value. We passed on dessert and decided to shuffle around the corner for a cocktail to finish the night. Our second visit was less inspiring than the first, and will really make us wonder about a third.