Saturday, March 24, 2007

EQ Cafe Bar

Melbourne Concert Hall
100 St Kilda Road
Southbank VIC 3000
Owner - Dur-é Dara
When you have tickets for a show at the Arts Centre for an 8pm start time and you are seated at your table, no, make that bar in front of the ginormous coffee machine at 6.10pm, you don’t want to wait an hour between your entrée and your main. This causes anxiousness in diners and more than a few murmurings on walking out, complaining to the diminutive, elegantly dressed, harried round figure of Dur-é and of course, writing a review on how wronged you were by the dining experience.

We had tickets to Weird Al at Hamer Hall so we decided to forgo the temptations of Fed Square and give EQ a chance. I had gone a long time ago, when it first opened to positive reviews and great expectations, after all, an enviable location and an Australian culinary entrepreneur with stellar experience under her … caftan? Yes, I think it was a caftan, very flowy, much like a round coffee bean nestled in a truffle – but I digress.

We were told at the door by a wait staff (I am not going to mention how wrong it is for wait staff to be allowed to work with huge cold sores on their lips, ew!) that the only table available was at the bar. Okay, we were happy to take that, after all, I had already mentioned how good the fish cakes were … so we sat and perused the wine list, then the menu – the wine list is quite good, a wide range of local and international reds, whites and all the other drinkables in between. Recommended is the Wairau River Estate Riesling as its quite light and fresh with passionfruit and pepper notes. Great with fish.

After twenty minutes the barista conjuring out coffees ten a minute in front of us took pity on us and took our drink order, we didn’t want to take a risk of being ignored again so when he brought the drinks we asked if he could take our food order, I pretended not to notice the fleeting look of annoyance that flitted across his face before he said ‘sure’. We ordered fishcakes ($8) to share and these came about 7 minutes after orders, great.
They were as good as I remembered – crisp and crunchy on the outside, fluffy and tasting of baccalà and potato – served with a gorgeous red pepper dip and a few fresh rocket leaves. We were almost ready to forgive the wait for our order with the quality of the food. But it was not to be. Over an hour later with no one even so much as batting an eyelid our way to replenish our tepid water, empty drink glass or thunderous expressions. We were about to give up and just walk out when as if reading our minds, our mains arrived.
I had a sexy little salad of smoked chicken, Loganiza sausage, potato and grapes in a light mayonnaise sauce ($18) and my partner had spaghettini with a ragu of pork and beef ($23). Great flavours in both dishes, clearly chef Stephanie Maier and her crew are doing good things in the kitchen. The wait-staff who delivered our mains grudgingly brought over the basket of presliced bread and offered us a piece each - no bread plates, no butter. The rule of bread is, great bread no butter, average bread - don't serve it!

Sadly, like so many eating establishments out there, EQ sufferes from excellent food let down by shoddy service. Considering where they are located and the crowd they cater for, timing should be the strong point at EQ but it is severely lacking. As my dining partner commented, even if the food wasn’t as great, if the service was wonderful, you’d be more likely to come back because you would feel looked after. I would recommend booking ahead and not making plans for after if you want to experience good food in a vibrant atmosphere … that or just walk across to Fed Square.


Chai said...

Such a pity. I'd be put off with the cold sores bit.

I am usually very polite to the staff mainly because of my fear of having my food/drink spat in.

Weird Al, eh?

Husky Nutmeg said...

At least the food was good but it's a shame you had that kind of atmosphere to eat in. It's not the same is it? Bad manners can be even more toxic than the cold sores... or maybe not.

Borrego said...

I agree with Chai, you need to be nice just in case.

Anh said...

I am just about to go to EQ Cafe Bar tomorrow... Hmm.. not sure if it's worth the visit.

A good restaurant must have good food and services. What a pity the service does not match up!

Karen said...

Hamer Hall? My maden name was Hamer - almost always pronounced by others as "hammer." Oh, well, grammer is a fading art.

I am always curious about roots and ancestry. What is the genesis of "Hamer Hall"?

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Linda said...

I love the reviews on this site.

And as for the cold sores... ewwww!