Shop 10 530 Collins Street (enter via Little Collins Street)
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9614 4500
Earlier this year, a PR agency sent me an e-mail inviting me to try out then-new Mr Mason’s lunch fare. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend as we were quite busy at work so I couldn’t afford to take a couple of hours off while my comrades continued working. Naturally, there has since been a plethora of extremely positive blog reviews going on about how awesome Mr Mason is so of course, I was spewing.
My chance to try it out did arrive a few months later, however, with the introduction of Agenda Melbourne’s ‘Agenda Tables’ feature where diners can get 30 per cent off their bill at participating restaurant if they book on the Agenda site? The catch? The discount may not apply for some sessions (for example, weekend dinners). Also, a credit card payment of $10 is required to secure each booking but hey, that’s ridiculously small change for a 30 per cent discount and there are some pretty notable restaurants on the list, too so why not, hey?
Our mid-week dinner booking was for 7pm and the dining room was reasonably packed when Dave and I arrived. There was a room with a neat-looking fire place and lots of people enjoying their beverage of choice, while further into the restaurant, happy diners were digging into their meal. I like fireplaces and glasses of whisky in front of fireplaces but my empty stomach prefers food so we were quickly ushered to our table which was next to a wall shelved with wines.
My wine for the evening was a glass of Baby Doll Sauvignon Blanc ($9), chosen purely for the name. Being one of a list of extremely well-priced wines (no ridiculous mark-ups here!), the wine was a very fun wine to drink. It was fruity all over with floral and herb-y notes, as one would expect from a wine named as such.
Despite its decidedly Anglo-centric name, Mr Mason is all about French simplicity and offering a produce-driven menu minus the price tag. Here small dishes (i.e. appetisers) and medium plates (that is, entrées) are designed to share while large plates act as ‘proper’ mains. All the ‘medium’ plates are only $16 while ‘large’ plates represent equally great value at $25-30 each.
We started off with a salmon tartare, crème fraiche, nasturtium, warm sourdough ($16) to share. Dave and I are avid fans of raw fish so we ooh-ed in excitement when we saw the neat little half-cylinder of raw salmon cubes presented on a wooden board with warm sourdough slices.
The salmon cubes were blended in with a luscious crème fraiche dressing, ensuring that each forkful was a delicious mix of freshness and creaminess. I also loved the contrast the crunchy sourdough crust gave when eaten with the salmon.
Next, we had the cuttlefish ‘risotto’, cauliflower, Pedro Ximénez ($16). No grains of rice were harmed in the making of this dish for the ‘risotto’ comprised of tiny bits of cuttlefish that were supposed to resemble bits of rice.
This dish was amazing. The cuttlefish was slightly chewy but very soft which meant that the flesh was able to absorb the flavours of the creamy cauliflower sauce very well. I also liked the little cubes of Pedro Ximénez jelly that not only made the vomit-like arrangement look slightly more appeasing, but also provided a bit of sweetness to break up the dish. Excellent.
Unfortunately, we didn’t like our half-shell scallop, flaky pastry, julienne vegetables, shallot butter ($6 each).
Resting on a bed of salt, our scallop shell was covered in a sheet of puff pastry. We were both expecting a rich and creamy filling to ooze out as soon as we cracked the pastry with our fork. Instead, we cut into… air. Digging deeper, we found maybe a pinch of julienne carrots and leeks… and a scallop that was not only tough, but no bigger than a 10 cent coin. Dave wrote in his blog that this dish was just like an airhead: full of hot air and the scallop was the brain, which I totally agreed with. We also thought that the shallot butter was virtually non-existent as the whole thing just tasted bland. Disappointing.
At this point, we heard a loud crash. Startled, we turned to see where the noise was coming from and to our horror, one of the wine shelves had somehow fallen from the wall along with several dozen bottles of wines. To make matters worse, there was an occupied table directly underneath the fallen shelf! Getting several designer bags and a table full of food soaked in wine was the least of Mr Mason’s problem, though, for one of the ladies sitting there had her head hit by a falling bottle. The lady was alright, albeit obviously shaken up. I was glad to see that the waitresses were prompt in giving her and her table appropriate attention, quickly moving them to another table and cleaning up the mess before anyone else can get hurt. It’s great to know that the high level of service at Mr Mason does not diminish even when unusual (and scary!) scenarios like this occur.
After all that excitement, our mains arrived. Thankfully, they were much better than the scallop. I had the twice-cooked lamb shoulder, goats curd, parsley, roast garlic gnocchi ($27). The lamb shoulder, so deliciously fatty and tender, formed a neat cylinder that easily fell apart with the slightest prod of a spoon though I must admit that it wasn’t the prettiest of meat dishes (see below). My favourite bit of this dish, however, was the pillow-y roast garlic gnocchi pieces that were almost as big as hash browns and soft all the way through.
Lamb plus goats curd plus baby carrots plus gnocchi = winning combination.
Dave’s dish was also pretty good (though not as good as mine, in my opinion!). He got the tournedos of beef, potato fondants, savoy cabbage, bone marrow ($32). If you’re wondering what a ‘tournedo’ is, it’s just a fancy name for beef tenderloin that sounds sexier than filet mignon, which is what the Americans call this cut. Each slab was cooked beautifully medium-rare and was just as soft and luscious as the blobs of bone marrow that dotted each dish. I wasn’t too sure whether I liked the savoy cabbage ribbons that made an appearance, though I did like the potato fondants.
Our mains were ridiculously big, especially for the price we paid. Still, we couldn’t leave without trying their sour cherry macaron ice cream sandwich ($14) dessert. For some reason, I was expecting a single big macaron so I was delighted to see that we received five little beauties. Each macaron biscuit was lovely – I always thought the combination of almond (in this case, almond meal) and cherries worked extremely well – and I really loved the contrast of flavours between the super-sour cherry sauce and the sweet and creamy vanilla ice cream inside each macaron. This was a very successful dessert.
The meal was very reasonably priced even without the Agenda discount so it seemed almost ridiculous to be paying 50-or-so dollars per head once they took 30 per cent off. Both Dave and I can vouch for this place (just as long as you stay away from the nasty scallops) and we can certainly see ourselves coming in for a post-work dinner again.