Posts Tagged ‘middle park’

The Confusion at the Middle Park Hotel continues

Front Page of the Menu

The front page of the Menu. Worth a read.

The Middle Park Hotel has been refurbished, rebranded and reinvigorated. So they would have you believe. This ex-brewery, ex-party, ex-neighbourhood pub is the latest gastropub in town and the food is getting rave reviews. People are over the top with the quality of the food that chef Paul Wilson is producing and they are right, the quality of the food is great. Perfectly executed.

But what are they doing? The hotel is trying to be everything to everyone. It has an amazing feature-piece bar which dominates the room and a wine and booze list to match. The architecture is startling, built with beautiful dark wood, it even has a custom printed carpet with the hotel’s emblem. The collection of sporting paraphernalia adorning the walls is pretty impressive. Robbie McEwen’s signed green jersey, a Victor Trumper bat and a variety of panoramic photos, rugby jerseys and old, long-irrelevant highschool awards boards. I suppose it is left over from the days of the Gunn Island.

This strikes me as a hotel built by committee. Take 1 hotel owner who loves his sport and owns a great piece of real estate, add an investor who loves architecture and thinks an interior design makes or breaks a venue and top it all off with an awesome English chef who loves eating and cooking offal. The result is a superb restaurant with a statement on the first page of the menu that they love everything to do with sport and that the Spring Racing carnival will be played on all screens throughout the establishment. This is exactly what the discerning diner wants, the sound of people cheering on the boxing match (advertised on a letter-board out the front) while they are enjoying their offal salad.

Robbie McEwen's Green Jersey The confusion doesn’t stop there. The menu doesn’t know what season it is. The pub has outside dining for close to 50 patrons, perfect to take advantage of the hot, upcoming summer, yet the menu consists of mostly heavy, winter style meals. Offal, roast chicken, lamb chops, pork chops and the “coming soon” roasts of rare animals are not the sort of meal to eat in 35 degree weather.

Nor have they quite grasped the concept of a bar menu. There are 2 menus, a restaurant and a bar menu, yet both can be ordered throughout the hotel but only is their any sort of service at the restaurant tables. Order your meal, explain to the bartender which of the 20 outdoor tables you are sitting at and you receive a box of cutlery, napkins, salt and pepper. With the quality of the food and the price of a meal, I expect a far higher level of service. Perhaps these may be teething problems, but the obvious solution is to only allow the restaurant menu to be ordered from the restaurant where the extremely good waitstaff can handle everything.

You see, the problem is that this pub could be so much more. The critics will love the food and the people of Middle Park are crying out for a place, any place to drink. But this hotel, even with it’s free wifi, superstar chef, and extensive wine and scotch list just isn’t going to be the haunt of the wealthy 55 year old BMW driving residents of Middle Park.

Sad really.

The Menu

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More photos

Tomoshibi Japanese Restaurant, Middle Park

As our neighbour described it, Tomoshibi doesn’t look like much, but it is most definitely worth a look. The first thing you notice after negotiating your way to the front door, down the alleyway is that you seem to be in the entrance to someone’s house. The cash register is tucked under the stairs, the reservations book is behind the door and hanging from the walls in place of family photos are alcohol licenses, newspaper clippings and sashimi calendars. The sounds emanating from the stairs are either those of a party or a family’s everyday life, the kids running around give it away. This certainly isn’t the feel of a normal Melbourne restaurant, but this complete lack of pretentiousness coupled with polite japanese service is a breath of fresh air.

The dining room decor is dated, solid chairs and tables, almost too dark lighting, punctuated with elegant flowers and chopstick holders but the loud drunk girl was wrong when she crassly suggested that they “just get some new fucking chairs.” This setting is the background of a restaurant that is about much more than worrying about designer furniture and achieving what they want perfectly. Perhaps this fitout won’t endear itself to the materialistic yuppies among us, but what is served will leave an impression on the food lover.

The menu consists of a number of sections, starters, sashimi starters, sashimi mains and regular mains. The gyoza from the starters menu was  a brilliant start, steamed to perfection the lightly fried classic japanese dumplings were full of flavour, with a great texture. These are the sort of dumplings you could eat all day. The mixed sashimi starter, salmon, tuna, ocean trout and mackerel, was sashimi at its best. Fresh fish, good sized portions presented beautifully on an upturned oystershell and garnished with a pink orchid flower.

For mains, the chicken and fish soup was the only let down. The dish is served still boiling away with an impressive sizzling sound, the chunks of fish were tender and flavoursome, the chicken was nondescript and the broth lacked flavour. The grilled eel on the other hand, was the standout. The eel had been grilled perfectly giving the skin has a slightly crunchy texture, the soy based sauce’s (I’d love to know what this sauce was) richness was not overwhelming at all even when eaten just with the leftover rice.

Accompanying this great example of japanese cuisine was a very well priced, but minimal, wine and beer list. Topping off a great example of japanese cuisine, service and hospitality.

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