My first impressions of the restaurant is that it's a very classy looking dining area. The furnishings are very nice and everything has a feel of class and quality to it. It's definitely a restaurant to go to if you like a more restrained and quiet environment. There's something about certain rooms that make you feel like you need to talk in a quieter voice. I'll say that my personal preference is for loud and bustling ambiance generally but it's nice to be able to carry a conversation comfortably without having to shout the whole time.
We start the meal with a mixture of natural oysters for our appetizers. The oysters were fresh and didn't need the accompanying vinaigrette, which was rather heavy and oily than sharp and bright. Entrees of Parmesan and Dill Crusted Scallops and Calamari Stuffed with Chorizo were both good without creating any amazement. While both dishes were well cooked, I think they seemed a bit dated in terms of the flavour profiles and especially the way they were presented. The plating and the plates themselves all play a part in how your brain reacts to the dish and to me the dishes felt more suited to a cafe than a high end restaurant.
For the mains, the Roast Duck with quinoa spiced with quandong was quite a good dish. The duck was cooked quite well, although I felt the fat could have been rendered a bit more so the skin was crispier and the duck less fatty. I didn't care for the quandong in the well cooked quinoa. Lastly, I was quite surprised when I tasted the quail egg which was filled with a cream of some sort. It felt a bit old skool, which I like, but may not be to everyone's liking.
The Seared Barramundi with caramelised popcorn and a red wine butter reduction was again quite a nice dish. The barramundi was excellent and so sweet and perfectly cooked. I really liked the corn puree and the red wine butter reduction. The salsa on the dish was also quite nice. The shocking element was the caramelised popcorn. It wasn't shocking to me in terms of the chef deciding to put it there. I'm happy to try anything in food and my favourite chef is Hestong Blumenthal, and everyone knows all the crazy flavours he puts together. While the popcorn didn't taste awful with the fish, I'd say it didn't enhance it either. And if that's the case, I think it's best not to put it there than to have it for the shock factor.
Finally, to the desserts. The White Chocolate Fondant with chili cream did not manage to excite me. The waiter and chef both apologised for the fondant being overcooked, which happens sometimes. I didn't find the flavour profiles of the fondant very exciting, and I didn't like it matched with the chili cream at all. I did like the caramelised white chocolate pieces on the plate, although maybe they could be presented in a different way as the look of them was quite off putting. The second dessert of a Chocolate Mousse with a mixed nut bar also failed to excite. One quenelle of mousse was presented on the plate with a simple nut bar placed separately. If that is to be the extent of the dessert, each element needs to be exceptional for the $14 that the dessert commands. Unfortunately, the mousse was rather heavy and the nut bar was a nut bar.
The service at the restaurant was friendly and efficient. I would say it was verging on trying too hard, which can make it uncomfortable for the diners as opposed to helpful. I did like how the waitress helped to explain the menu and also gave recommendations for various items.
Overall, as a dining experience, I would rate it in the mid range of Melbourne restaurants. The food was solid, without really exciting. I would say the flavours were quite simple and felt a bit outdated in parts. The restaurant setting is definitely classy and I can see that it would cater to some clientele. If you enjoy a quieter meal in a beautiful restaurant, this would be a good place for you.
My guest and I dined courtesy of Bluestone Restaurant.