107-111 Victoria Avenue
Albert Park VIC 3206
+61 3 9699 9744
So I’ve been brutally sodomised by the nasty flu that seems to be going around at the moment and instead of enjoying fine wines and amazing food at The Marriage of Food and Wine blogger event at Papa Goose tonight, I’m stuck at home like a miserable git. This is what you get for being a good girl and spending your entire weekend studying and forgoing all social invites that come your way, Libby. Bah. The good news, however, is that being sick means more nights in and more nights in means more blogging. Y’all should be so lucky.
One eatery that’s lucky to still be alive in Melbourne’s brutal dining scene is Hotel Nest, in Albert Park. Shirley and I had high tea there earlier this year, thought it was alright but have said ‘no’ to giving their pub meals a go due to bad reviews all over the internet. So when Shirley told me that she was going to buy a group voucher (scoopon, cudo, I can’t remember which) for a lunch package for two at Hotel Nest, I wasn’t sure if I was up for it. On the other hand, a trio of entrees, a main each and a glass of wine for $29 was too good to give up. So what if the food was crap, we both thought as we hopped on the number 1 tram down to Victoria Street, making a mental note to stop by Jock’s Ice Cream for some dessert on the way back.
It was literally an empty nest when we rocked up for our 12:00pm booking. Despite the lovely greeting we received from the manager and despite the lovely courtyard that we were directed to, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad for the place. What was once the Red Eagle is now (well, has been for a couple of years) Hotel Nest, a smart, sexy done-up gastropub with a Euro-centric menu. Looking at our polished surroundings in the outdoor dining area, you can tell that a lot of work had been put into the place. We oooh-ed and aah-ed over the dark wooden tables and chairs which contrasted sharply and beautifully against the ivory walls, as well as the pretty lights and fresh flowers that dotted the room. The lone heater perched randomly near our table was also a nice touch, and a most welcome source of heat in the cooler months.
The deal was that we chose three entrées from the entrée menu, with the exception of the antipasto platter which was fine with us because the platter didn’t interest us. Our entrées arrived all at once, after we received our drinks (Shirley swapped her wine for a Diet Coke while I had an Alexander Hill white wine of some sort), and we eagerly dug in. First up, we enjoyed the marinated chicken breast strips (normally $10). Coated in a luscious jacket of panko breadcrumbs, it was a simple finger food dish that worked well with the creamy aioli that came with it. I don’t know what it was marinated it (nor were we told), but I could taste a bit of sweetness in the breadcrumb mix. It was one of those dishes that tasted so bloody good, yet so easy to make that I couldn’t help but think why I didn’t think of making it at home at some point in my miserable life much earlier on.
The Kataifi wrapped tiger prawns (normally $12) were decent. Another one of those easy-t0-make-at-home-dishes-if-only-we-had-come-up-with-the-idea type dishes, four juicy prawn cutlets were neatly wrapped in kataifi pastry and then gently fried and served with a peppery romesco dressing. The menu also advertised a ‘herb salad’ but all we got was a meagre tumbleweed of sprouts which didn’t really sit well with me. The prawns were alright, though. That said, $12 for four measly prawns (that weren’t even of Little Press quality) was a bit steep.
Sadly, the spice-dusted calamari with fresh lime (normally $9) could not even muster up the skills to be half as decent as the other two dishes that came before it. Salty, salty, salty. That’s all I’m going to say about it.
In between opening strawberrynet.com packages and gossiping about undesirables, our mains arrived. Like we did with the entrees, we were able to choose whatever main we wanted with a few exceptions. I think we were allowed to choose anything that was under $22 which essentially meant that only two dishes, the steak and the main-sized serving of linguine was in the no-go zone for us. All good. Shirley chose the ‘juicy’ wagyu burger (normally $20) which was as juicy as its name suggested (see photo below, you can literally see the juices oozing out!). It was a burger that didn’t suck – a soft, fatty wagyu pattie was nested (teehee!) between two slices of sweet brioche. In it, there were also rocket leaves, beetroot, lots of cheese and a tangy relish to tie everything together. Just-cooked fries completed the package, too. Shirley thought the burger was good, but I’ve had better for that price. I’m not sure what didn’t do it for me – the brioche that was bordering on stale? The wagyu pattie that was so juicy that it was almost liquid? Or the absence of onions? In any case, I would have much preferred a $10 burger from Andrew’s just down the road.
If this was proper pr0n, this would be a cum shot.
I ordered the steak sandwich (normally $20). Now, ever since my Steak Sandwich Revelation at Coin Laundry a year ago, I knew that comparing any steak sandwich to Coin Laundry’s steak sandwich would be a fruitless task. Still, I tried to be objective here. And nope, this one was a two to Coin Laundry’s ten. On paper, Hotel Nest’s steak sanga sounded promising – “char-grilled sirloin strips, caramelised onion, semi-dried tomatoes, house-made chutney, seeded mayo on toasted ciabatta bread with fries.” And to be fair, if I was a foodie philistine AND had not been given the opportunity to have the steak sandwich at Coin Laundry, then I would have probably said that Hotel Nest’s steak sandwich was “not bad.” I am, however, not a Coin Laundry virgin and I like to think that I know a bit about food so I say firmly that this steak sandwich was only ‘meh.’ The strips of meat were on the verge of being well-done (which made me go ‘grrr’) and well, that spoilt the sandwich for me already. While I loved the tangy tomato chutney, I would have also loved for them to be a bit more generous with the seeded mayo to diffuse some of the tang from the chutney and the semi-dried tomatoes. As for the chips, beh, same ol’ story as above.
I wanted to like Hotel Nest, I really did. I liked what they did with the decor, I couldn’t really fault the service, they had a promising menu and they even brought out food that was decent (the chicken strips, for starters). However, I was underwhelmed by everything else we ate ESPECIALLY the calamari which shouldn’t have been THAT hard to stuff up. And given the hotel’s lack of patronage, I think heaps of other people feel the same way. I’m not sure what is preventing people from coming here – maybe the location or maybe the perceived value of the food (the steak sandwich at Coin Laundry, for example, was a few dollars cheaper). Or both. Whatever it is, Hotel Nest needs to know that they need to do more than dish out a few group coupons to get people flocking into its nest.