31 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 9290 0400
Now that semester one is almost done and dusted, I can happily look to my blog backlog folder to occupy those cold Melbourne nights with. That is, once I’ve finished with season three of Game of Thrones (PLEASE NO SPOILERS OR I’LL BEHEAD YOU AND FEED YOU TO A PACK OF DIREWOLVES!). In the mean time, here is long-awaited review of Virginia Plain.
Sounding like a character from a Louisa May Alcott book*, Virginia Plain has caused a bit of stir among the Melbourne’s Twitterati. With a European-influenced menu consisting of not-overly-expensive dishes and Marco Santucci, the former owner of the Carlisle Wine Bar, behind the wheel, I can see why. And with that, I gathered Daisy and Dave up for dinner towards the tail end of last year (Yes, I know. Lag much?).
They were playing songs by The Smiths all throughout our meal. While that alone would have received two thumbs up for me, I’m going to give them extra props because Morrissey happened to be playing at Festival Hall that night (AND OMG WHY DIDN’T I GET TICKETS?!) and I couldn’t help but think that they played his band’s songs on purpose. Nice work. We also loved the granite-topped bar and banquettes that made Virginia Plain a comfortably sophisticated eating house that was nice enough to take your missus to for her birthday, yet casual enough for three chumps wanting dinner on a Thursday night.
Dave and I started off with wines. I can’t remember what I had, but it was most likely a Riesling.
Daisy was tweeting and Instagram-ing during this time. Before we knew it, a Smoked Negroni appeared in front of us compliments of the bar. I guess I should use this opportunity to thank Matt Beyer, former Masterchef contestant, front of house dude and social media extraordinaire for being on Twitter at the right time and was quick to act. Smooth, mate, smooth.
The Smoked Negroni contained an intoxicating mixture of West Winds Cutlass, Carpano Antica Forumla, Averna and Campari along with Virginia Plain’s ‘secret smoke mix of herbs and spice’, which I suspected was mostly made up of lapsang souchong ( Chinese smoked tea).
We started off with warm bread and olive oil…
…before moving onto Rolf Beeler Sbrinz macaroni croquettes ($8).
Yes, I know you see croquettes on the menu of every second restaurant in Melbourne now but I like them, OKAY? (and apparently so does Melbourne).
‘What’s with the odd name?’ you ask. Well, the Sbrinz is a hard Swiss cheese made with unpasteurised cows’ milk. After aging for four years, the result is a lovely smooth nutty flavour which lends well to creamy croquette fillings such as this one.
Equally impressive was the David Blackmore wagyu bresaola board, served with buffalo ricotta and house-made grissini ($19). The combination of salty and nutty bresaola and puffy bits of ricotta was just beautiful.
Onto the mains! Dave ordered the 300g wagyu rump steak (BMS 5+) with mixed leaf salad and hand-cut chips ($36). The steak was cooked well and the chips were fat and crunchy. That said, it was one of those dishes that got boring pretty quickly. I wasn’t sure whether it was the steak or the salad, or just us being really difficult (probably just us).
Daisy’s free range Milawa chicken Kiev, confit leg, asparagus and foie gras velouté ($32) sounded intriguing but I was surprised to find that it was my least favourite of the night. I had no issues with the way the chicken was cooked (it might have been slightly bland but it wasn’t dry, so fine) but the execution of the dish was a bit awkward. In particular, I thought the addition of foie gras velouté was odd.
My whole deboned Yarra Valley rainbow trout, summer green salad and caper butter ($35) was, thankfully, a lot better. I gave huge props to spectacular presentation and I loved the caper butter that went with it. I did find the fish erring on the dry side though and like Dave’s steak, it was one of those dishes that one gets bored with quickly (I almost did).
That said, I should get mad props for being able to almost finish it.
We shared three different desserts. The first dessert was the gingerbread donuts with Tasmanian red cherries and pistachio ice cream ($14). I’m a sucker for all those ingredients so I knew I was going to like this dish. Okay, so I can’t say that I’ve had gingerbread donuts but I don’t mind gingerbread and I LOVE donuts so it would be silly to think that I wouldn’t like it, right?
While I thought the pistachio ice cream tasted more like almond jelly than actual pistachios, I did enjoy this dessert very much. The kitchen made use of the season’s plump cherries and the donut bits provided a lovely Moorish crunch to each bite.
We also enjoyed a warm chocolate mousse, orange granita and green apple ($14). While this dessert was nice in a pleasantly cute Charlotte York kind of way but it didn’t wow me as much as the first dessert – and I’m normally one to prefer lighter, fruitier desserts. I wasn’t sure if it was because the thought of apples and chocolate in the same dish just makes me ill or if it was because of the mousse – I was expecting something light and airy but instead we received something resembling chocolate sauce.
The blueberry mille-feuille, sponge cake and carrot top ice cream ($14) wasn’t bad either but again, it didn’t wow me. I also didn’t see the point of the whole carrot top ice cream which I thought tasted pretty dimensional. While I understand that Virginia Plain probably created it for the shock factor, it did nothing for me except make me think of Carrot Top *shudder*
While we enjoyed our starters, we were slightly let down by our mains with only the gingerbread donut dessert reviving our experience. That said, I wouldn’t rule out another visit. The service was fantastic (props should go to Matt Beyer for being so lovely) and the prices are actually quite reasonable given that the restaurant is on very competitive Flinders Lane. I am keen to try their winter menu (quail and mushroom terrine, anyone?) so I’ll pop by when I am motivated enough to crawl out from under my doona… and I’m going to bloody stay away from anything with carrot top in it!
*It’s not. ‘Virginia Plain’ is actually a song by British glam rock group, Roxy Music.