36-42 Courtney Street
North Melbourne VIC 3051
03 9328 4222
Open: Lunch Mon – Thu, Sat 12-2pm Fri – 12-3pm
Dinner Mon – Sat 6-9pm
Ahhh…. The Hotel Metropolitan…. I have had many great meals here. In fact, I would rate Hotel Metropolitan amongst one of the better gastropubs in Melbourne. Situated in North Melbourne, it perhaps is best known as “that” pub – where Christine Nixon ate while country Victoria burned… but that was a long time ago now, and despite this poor PR – the hotel keeps pretty busy – mainly because it is a great neighbourhood gem and sends out some excellently sourced, and well executed food.
It has a lovely ambience and feel – housed in the former meat market, which is now a heritage listed building – the dining room has soaring ceilings, is furnished with classic pieces and has a beautiful feature mirror and fireplace.
Tonight I had said to Andrew, this is a main and dessert place – let’s just do two courses. However, upon hearing the entrée special, we knew I was a goner. Surf and turf tartare! Oh my – they said the magic word. I then informed Andrew we would definitely be doing entrée and main (and maybe dessert as well – but we’d see…. famous last words!).
On this dish you had two little mounds of goodness - salmon tartare and wagyu tartare. It was served with capers, cornichons, avruga caviar and sourdough croutons. And the piéce de resistance – a fried crumbed egg yolk, and apple balsamic gel. How good does that sound?? Amazing right…. alas – the experience didn’t quite match the promise of the description – it was good, but not as good as it could have been. In particular, the egg had been overcooked – which you can probably tell from the colour of the fried crumb. This meant that only the very centre of the yolk was still runny… and you know how I feel about having a lovely runny yolk with my tartare. Suffice to say – I have very strong feelings about it!
As well, you had to mix the wagyu tartare with the accompaniments – which was a bit difficult because the meat felt as though it had clumped together.The croutons were really hard – which I don’t particularly like. The salmon was fine – but it was a bit difficult working out which accompaniments went with what… It was a beautiful idea in theory – but somehow missed the mark in execution. The tartare at the Hotel Lincoln (which I’ve reviewed previously here) is still winning the race for Melbourne’s best tartare at this stage.
Andrew selected 2 choices from the mezze selection, but was fairly disappointed with both offerings. The first was the 18 hour smoked lamb ribs – which unfortunately didn’t have much flavour at all. The second was the selection of charcuterie including duck prosciutto, wagyu bresaola, and cured pork belly. All cuts were over salted with the result that the character and flavour of the meat was overwhelmed. Feeling completely disappointed, Andrew, my most avowed meat eater and eschewer of vegetables, resorted to saying maybe the vegetables will be better! For him to say this in and of itself was pretty amazing, but imagine his face when he popped them in his mouth and then realised they were pickled!! He did not enjoy it! But I laughed my head off!! Sorry honey!
For my main dish, I had the duck – there’s quite a lot going on in this dish – and I’m not sure it all works together. In particular – the foie gras terrine was served cold, and is probably better suited as an entrée. It really needed some bread to go with it… where did those croutons go….? The duck itself was actually very nice - although could have been a little more tender. The sausage and puree were quite lovely. Overall, it’s not the best conceived dish that I’ve enjoyed at the Metropolitan – perhaps it was a little overreaching in its complexity.
You’ve got to love a restaurant that states the provenance of their meat! And they source their meat well – Andrew, our appraiser of steaks worldwide rated this particular dish very highly. Not quite the best he’s had – but very close. He was very happy with the onions – because they were a little undercooked (which is exactly the way he likes them… short of raw that is… lucky me!). The Paris mash that we ordered as an accompaniment was pretty special – having rich, buttery, garlic flavours throughout. Andrew chose the cognac pink peppercorn jus… which was good, but perhaps not as good as the amazing peppercorn sauce at the Station Hotel (for review see here). Overall, though – Andrew was very pleased with this dish – which did a lot to restore his faith.
In the interests of research… we decided we needed to do three courses, so we ordered dessert…
I will preface my review of this dessert by saying I have had the most amazing pannacotta at the Hotel Metropolitan many, many times. Alas – this was not one of these times. Both the jelly and the pannacotta were so over-set that you could have bounced them and they would have reached that soaring ceiling – not good at all. The sauterne sorbet was absolutely lovely – but I just couldn’t eat the rest of the dish. To their credit, when the waitress came to clear our dishes, she asked if there was anything wrong and I explained that I felt that it was overset. She assured me she would let the chef know, and then came out and told me that the chef completely agreed, and was not happy with the quality. They did comp me the dessert – so no harm, no foul. In addition, they ended up taking it off the menu for the rest of the night – so my feedback was taken seriously. Such a pity, and such an anomoly – because this kitchen usually sends out some kickass desserts. Such as this one….
Oh my goodness – how gorgeous!! There’s not much that can be said – it was incredibly rich with a great balance between the salty peanut butter and the smooth, dense chocolate. It was beautifully complemented by the ice cream and the chocolate soil which both added juxtaposing textures and flavours. An excellent dessert.
The chef, clearly mortified over the apple jelly incident, sent out a complimentary dessert taster as an apology… which was completely unexpected but gratefully received. This dish did a lot to make up for any shortfall… each element was balanced and true. I particularly liked the salted butter chocolate and rice crispies – which mixed in the mouth to simulate a very adult chocolate crackle!! Now this is more like it!
The service tonight appeared to be a bit harried, and while the wait staff do their best – it is quite apparent they are constantly torn between the counter meal service in the public bar, and the semi-fine dining service in the dining room. At times, this means waiting with an empty glass before you’re asked if you’d like more wine, or you have to vigilantly seek out attention to get the bill – which tends to make your night out a bit more of an effort than it really should be, and means that the service isn’t as seamless as other venues in the same genre.
With the right choices – and a tendency towards sticking with the “main and dessert rule” at Hotel Metropolitan – I think it’s still a good night out. The only trouble is that there’s quite an excellent selection of great gastropubs within a 5km radius of Melbourne – so there’s plenty of keen competition for your gastropub dollar. Unfortunately, we had a bit of an “off” night with the Hotel Metropolitan tonight – but, as I’ve mentioned before, we have had some brilliant meals there – so we will give them another run. Let’s hope next time they’re back to the form I know and love…
Stay tuned for the next instalment…