With his freshly purchase Entertainment Book, Kin was eager to put it to use, so asked me to pick a restaurant as the resident self proclaimed foodie. I flicked through the book and picked EQ Cafebar since the food sounded good and it was suppose to have a great view along the Yarra. The restaurant is located next to the Melbourne Concert Hall, around the corner from the Arts Centre.
We arrived to find a restaurant with a huge Q of purple lights surrounding the entrance. The restaurant had that mood lighting that I dislike, where its really dark. There were dark columns holding up a cavernous roof, a good three storeys high. There was modern paintings lining the walls surrounding round dark wooden tables.
We are seated and the waitress pours us some ice water. This was a good thing, but then she proceeded to ruin her good work by asking what we would like to drink. Firstly we could decide what we wanted to drink if a)we were given drinks menu, but b)it is fairly obvious by the bottle of wine on the table that we would like to drink that. Instead of saying that she will go and get glasses, we had to ask her to open the wine and to get some glasses for us. She looked hesitant and we asked if we could bring our own wine. She went off to get glasses when a few minutes later, another waitress came and said "There's a ten dollar corkage, make up your mind whether you want to open the bottle." What was this, an ultimatum. Of course we were assuming that there would be corkage. So we told her that we would like to drink the wine. Despite trying to bill themselves as a fine dining experience, the youth of the waiting staff ruins this facade as their inexeperienced service cannot be hidden too long.
As the usual practice, we order an entree and then each pick a meal to share. I suggest the EQ Cafebar Tasting Platter, which turns out to be a great choice, with everything on the plate tasting great. The platter is huge and there is heaps to sample. From left and going clockwise, as far as I could identify, here was the contents: Strips of squid marinated on a lettuce leaf, candied onion (never had this before and it was really nice), fried cheese with yoghurt, pastry parcles of cheese and spinach, falafel with yoghurt and tabouleh, crispy herb bread on hommous, olives, pumpkin mash, chorizo, goats cheese and pickled vegetables in the centre.
For mains, Kin and Jo both chose the Pork Cutlet with veal and tuna sauce, anchovies, kipfler potatoe crisps, watercress and apple grapes (wow that was a long title). It was good but the sauce was a bit too much I thought. The grapes provided a good burst of sweetness.
I chose the Roast Rib Eye Beef with bone marrow, braised silverbett and a red wine sauce. This dish was excellent, with the beef full of flavour and cooked just right. I love bone marrow so sucked that straight away. The sauce was rich with the flavour of wine and I dried it off the plate with lots of bread.
Phuong had the very modestly portioned Calamari Rings, cooked with chilli, garlic, parsley and white wine. It was tasty and the calamari was cooked well and not tough.
Paul's Squid Ink Pasta with roasted red peppers, pig's cheek, chorizo in a tomato sauce looked great and tasted great too. I had never eaten squid ink pasta before and it is very good. I conjured up thoughts that it would taste bitter or something since that's what I imagine ink to taste like.
For desserts we got Sorbets that were served with a caramelised sugar thing. The sorbets were hit and miss. I loved the berry and passionfruit one. But the read bean one didn't do it for me. The texture was very good on all three, with a smooth texture rather than an icy type feel.
The Pear Tart with currants and spice with ice cream was surprising good. The warm pear inside the flaky pastry was nicely matched with the hint of spices just coming through rather than being overpowering. The walnut brittle in the ice cream was also good.
The most disappointing dessert was actually the one that sounded best on paper. The Chocolate Drowning, which is a liquer shot and hot chocolate that you pour over a chocolate brownie ice cream tasted like an iced chocolate. It looked much better than it tasted.
After dinner, despite it being such a cold night, we just had to go outside to look at the wonderful view of the Yarra and city. Here is Kin and Phuong acting silly.
Here I am almost fainting from the cold.
It was so cold that even the ducks came out to play.
The wonderful Melbourne skyline with Flinders Street Station and the Yarra in the foreground.
The Meseum which is currently showing the Guggenheim Collection.
The Arts Towers changing colour throught the night.
Isn't Melbourne just beautiful at night. It may not have huge skyscrapers like some other citys, but it has its own charm with unique buildings and a river that runs through it.
Too bad I can't say the same about all the people. There we were just happily laughing and taking photos when a group of "Aussies" walked past us and one guy yells out "We aren't in China or Vietnam." He then proceeded to turn to his friend and say "I'm more Aussie than all of them." If it means that you have to be a racist to be Australian, then I'm definitely not Australian. If it means you are proud of living in this country and contribute to it, then I will call myself an "Aussie".
Back to the meal though, the food was good and the view is excellent. The service could be a bit better. In terms of price, it is better with the Entertainment Book discount. Otherwise it would have been a little more.
Overall Rating: 14/20, Food is very good, service not so great. The view outside is beautiful, well worth a good look once you finish your meal.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.