Docklands. It has the look, doesn’t it? This fabulously ugly amalgam of office blocks and purple hotels presided over by the giant ferris wheel like some sort of modern mono-eye of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg could not possibly have a good restaurant in sight. The violet (think Cadbury) hotel in which we are staying advertises the attraction in reach as being a football ground. Enough said.
On the one hand I feel really sorry for Bar Nacional which seems to be making a brave attempt to say it is possible to have a good restaurant in a visual wasteland populated by tourists like us who can’t afford to stay anywhere else. On the other, they didn’t have to, did they? They must have known the odds were not exactly in their favour.
So I’m going to try hard to make myself go to Bar Nacional, but today saw us first at The Grainstore. No pictures as I wish to remove visual temptation. The food here is exquisitely presented, it isn’t quite totally packed out every moment of every day and I’m afraid I’d like to leave it that way. I had breakfast last visit at The Milk Bar in Footscray with my brother and he was happy to permit the staff to sit 5 of us on a table for 4, because they wanted to keep the 6 person table free. Of course one person could not reasonably expect to keep a 6-person table occupied, but five people on a six? As it is, a six person table is scarcely big enough to fit five. Upmarket cafes should not be so blatantly about bums on seats. It isn’t cheap eating in these places, nor is a drink, the more so since you are generally expected to purchase a coffee about every ten minutes.
It reminds me of a bank teller I had once in the Commonwealth at Albert Park. I was apologetically trying to get everything into my handbag as quickly as I could so as not to hold up the queue and he said to me:
It’s okay, take your time. We aren’t a coffee shop.
Doesn’t that perfectly state the case? It would be funny if it weren’t true.
The Grainstore seems to be better than that, at least for now. Service has been pleasant in the most competent of ways. The orange juice, although freshly squeezed is ordinary, but I imagine that’s because it isn’t the season. The food is wonderful. I’m going to let words paint the picture:
GRAINSTORE TOASTED GRANOLA PARFAIT
vanilla apricot, chia seed yoghurt and elderflower rhubarb, quinoa milk 12
SUMMERFRUIT COCKTAIL & GOLDEN FLAXSEED DUKKAH
agave nectar buttermilk and watermelon mousse, rooftop chocolate mint 13
BUTTERMILK FRENCH TOAST & POACHED PEACH
peppered caramel, lemon curd, sweet basil, oreo crumble 17
GRILLED ASPARAGUS and HOUSE SMOKED SALMON
poached egg, goats curd, blood orange, crispy quinoa 19
These were all as beautiful to eat as they sound in the reading. Apparently toast does not come automatically with dishes like the last mentioned.
Next our intrepid eaters moved up to the top end of town for lunch. (I know, I know, it’s a hard life.) The Mess Hall was first recommended to me last visit, but this was our first chance to eat there. Manny, recovering from that very large breakfast (he ordered the toast) tried the Barbabietole salad 15.5 thyme roasted beetroot, walnuts, ruby chard, goats cheese & mustard dressing. It was pronouced too small – that reflecting his irrepressible appetite rather than the price, I think. My spaghetti looked on the small side too, but although Manny had the occasional forkful it still seemed like enough for me. It consists of small fish pieces in a rocket pesto with walnuts. Not something you’d want every day, but it was a special and I think it worked, however odd it might sound. Presumably you had to purchase bread here if you wanted some on the side. The coffee was good. It was okay, but it isn’t begging me to go back, not in a place like Melbourne where one is spoilt for choice.