Even as a member of the NGV I would not have noticed this place and only discovered its' existence through Ed Charles blog at http://www.tomatom/ Being a fan of Raymond Capaldi I took the first opportunity to go for lunch (They're only open daily 11 - 4 daily) last Sunday. The menu is designed by Ray but the catering is by Peter Rowland.
The venue is extremely pleasant looking out over the gardens at the back of the Arts Centre and towards Hamer Hall. The seating is comfortable, the small unclothed tables, however, are very close together resulting in a full glass of red landing on my shirt and lap when a gentleman tried to squeeze past to his seat!
Presentation is very attractive (there are more pic's and a nice review on http://www.eatalmostanything.com/ ) and the prices are very reasonable. NGV members also get a 10% discount.
We started with the smoked eel 'parfait' chicken liver, apple, mushroom ($16). I loved it with its well integated but distinct tastes BUT my partner proclaimed it "The best chicken liver I have ever eaten" Yes, of course she is prone to exaggeration, but I wish there was more of it. An exceptional entree.
I followed this with roasted flounder, cavolo nero, potted shrimps, spiced bread ($23). I asked if it was a whole flounder and was told it was however by the time it got to the table it had the head removed and had been skinned and severely trimmed. I really like the skin and if I get it, the roe, and am happy dissecting my fish off the bones. This was a really tasty dish beautifully presented but I would have liked the rest of it.
My partner had the plat du jour which was a traditional Sunday roast, cooked rare with Yorkshire pudding, parsnip, potato and a side plate with a cauliflower cheese and choice of mustard ($32) The meat was as tough as leather which was particularly unfortunate as the rest of the meal was quite excellent.
For dessert we could not go past the Tahitian vanilla creme brulee ($14) which was first class and I'd have it again any time.
Ambience: Children friendly, they have a smal menu for kids, and we also had an accompaniment of music which added to the noise rather than the atmosphere
Wine: We drank Mojo Shiraz ($6) which was a little softer and less acid finish than the Grampians Shiraz ($8)
Price: Extremely well priced in the present environment.
Comments: A very good restaurant for lunch and I'll be more than happy to try other offerings on their menu