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Aug 23, 2012 12:24 PM

Melbourne CBD fit for a princess married to a frog

All hail, fellow chowhounders. I will spend sep 16-21 in Melbourne CBD on a conference and my Princess has deigned to accompany me. She is, as always, picky when it comes to quality and ambience and I am picky when it comes to price/quality ratio... She likes romantic restaurants and old buildings, cozy bars and proper food. I have therefore made a tentative list and would like comments from the gentle city folks that live in Melbourne gourmet heaven...
sep 16: excursion w rental car: lunch at cerberus beach house. Dinner at congress venue
sep 17: lunch at Millsbucks, dinner in the Tramcars
sep 18: lunch at Gill´s Diner, dinner at Cumulus
sep 19: lunch at Comme Kitchen dinner at Meat and Wine Company
sep 20: lunch at Coda, dinner at congress venue

Lots of C´s.Will this be an A experience at a reasonable price or could I do better? The Oz dollar is frightfully strong at the moment and the Princess has married a Pauper.

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  1. Ditch the tram cars!

    Millsbucks has been closed and the building knocked down.

    I'd replace that with:
    Lunch at Journal Canteen (that;s the upstairs one)
    Dinner .. I would jump on the 86 tram for a 10 minute journey to the Bistro at the Builders Arms in Fitzroy. Mind you that would be 2 Andrew McConnell meals.. but the BIstro is pretty price competitive and fits the old building & romantic vibe.

    16 Replies
    1. re: kersizm

      Where on earth did you get the Millsbucks recommendation from? I had to google it.

      The tram car is a really great experience for visitors, but you're not going for the food. I wouldn't necessarily can it, but I'd make sure you weren't expecting anything more than average food. As kersizm says, you can make a tram + dining experience anyway.

      The real value propositions in Melbourne are Chinese food, poncey pizza and BYO places. Asian is out because cheap normally equals scruffy so doesn't score on the princess scale. Pizza could work - DOC, Ladro, Mr Wolf - as they tend to be sleek fitouts. BYO can allow you to spend more money on the food as you're not spending it on the booze - margins are much higher on alcohol in restaurants.

      Kersizm screamed at the tram. I am going to scream at Meat and Wine Company. It's terrible, and the only reason its still in business is because its in front of PWC on a desolate stretch of Southbank. Were you looking for steak or something else driving this choice? Whilst I'm whining, Comme has never done much for me either, though the building is nice. (Nor has Coda, but I just think I don't like the style). What about the European or Hare and Grace instead?

      Chin Chin needs to be on your list, it is the epitome of Melbourne dining at the moment.

      Also, don't write off the casino for lunch - there are some good deals on and there are a couple of gems in the mass of mediocrity. I mention it as I assume your conference is that end of town.

      1. re: mr_gimlet

        Dear kerzism and gimlet-the only reason we take the tramcar is that I got it included in the conference fee and therefore it costs me a net of AUD 40 for two people...All other meals are non-deductible.
        Yes- Meat and Wine company was chosen in the hope of vast amounts of affordable steak. What is Your suggestion for a better option within reasonable price ranges? Concerning Your other suggestions we will definitively look at Chin Chin but we would love to eat solid australian food in Oz...

        1. re: mr_gimlet

          I'm off to Chin Chin for lunch today, finally. I'll report back.

          1. re: kersizm

            Dear Gimlet and Kerzism, I would be very happy to get suggestions for an Australian steakhouse. The South American connection feels slightly out of place when we visit Oz for the first time in our lives...

            1. re: Rustscheff

              Try Rockpool Bar & Grill - lots of great Australian meat. But is it an Australian steakhouse? Yes, but Aussie steakhouses are all influenced by other countries, Australia is great at taking influences from around the world and melding them into an Aussie style. So RB&G has lots of American influences but it is very Australian

              1. re: PhilD

                It doesn't really fit into the affordable though does it?

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  Good point - but if cost is an issue the advice would be to not try for steak.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    There has to be some middle ground between Meat and Wine Co and Rockpool!

                    There is excellent, affordable steak at the Newmarket in St Kilda, the Middle Park Hotel and the ubiquitous Station Hotel in Footscray.

                    1. re: mr_gimlet

                      The Wayside Inn! It's Sean Donovan's (Station Hotel) new place.

                      That should hit the mark.

                      1. re: kersizm

                        The Station on Napier looks nice. The Wayside Inn looks even better! And it is not that far from the CBD-and it has Pierre Koffmanns Pigs Trotters!!! Definitely a place we will choose for one night.
                        The Spottiswoode seems to serve enormous steaks and seafood platters for next to nothing, e g 800 g porterhouse steak w surf and turf +seafood platter for one for AUD 52!!!+ Gnarly dudes shiras for 39! And a nice ambience and fireplace! Isn´t that a jolly good bargain? Is service and performance in the kitchen so spotty we should give it a miss?

                        1. re: Rustscheff

                          They are all pubs, which generally means you order at the bar and pay as you go (or run a tab). Don't expect attentive serving staff to come and fill your wine glasses from the bottle. The Spottiswoode is not in a great location and will be heard to reach without a car - it was reviewed last week in the Age.

            2. re: kersizm

              Chin chin was OK..

              Great fit out and space. The staff seemed too busy being fashionable.

              1. re: kersizm

                As I said - epitome of current Melbourne dining :-)

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  We have now eaten through Melbourne. The Tramcar experience was fun enoughh, but food and wine mediocre. As stated by You. The Wayside Inn was in a veruy unattractive part of City Road but had good happy hour oysters, excellent service and lovely black pudding and pigs trotters. Not enormously cheap in the end though. Spottiswoode on the other hand...Fabulous place, ENORMOUS portions of WELL MADE food, GOOD service and quite OK ambience. Yes, a bit out of the way but reachable by train from the CBD in 15 minutes and with prices and food like that it is a complete mystery to me how they coud make a profit!
                  900 gram rare rumpsteak of good quality, a HUGE seafood platter with fresh and fried kinds enough for two, a flounder the size of a toilet seat perfectly fried and a decent veal, 2 bottles of wine, a beer, a large bottle of fizzy water and 2 desserts for under AUD 200!!! We were kindly invited to Aria in Sydney yesterday, also 4 of us. Tasting menu (yes-of a different style, substance and quality) and two bottles of wine and a bottle of fizzy water: AUD 1200!!! I REALLY do not think that it should be a 6-fold difference in the prices. Tks again for the advice about Spottiswoode.