Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Melba Brasserie, Southbank by Big Fil

It was young Evan's last day before moving off to a new job and his lunch venue of choice was the Melba Brasserie, reputedly Melbourne's best (and most expensive) buffet lunch. While I am not normally a big lunchtime eater, preferring a more substantial breakfast and dinner, I decided to take one for the team and try a small sample of as much of the buffet as I could.

Melba's is located in the Langham Hotel on Southbank, with the window seats having a view of the Yarra and Flinders Street. The buffet itself has a small selection from a reasonably wide range of food, including sashimi, dumplings, Indian (mainly from the tandoor), salad, seafood and of course desserts.

Several of the stations have attendants that make the food up fresh. Naturally enough, with a couple of exceptions these generally matched up with the best food. One of those exceptions was the seafood. Big luscious King Prawns, Green Lipped Mussels (far and away my favourite mussels) and from the next station smoked salmon. Very fresh and flavoursome. I didn't try the crab but it generated some appreciative comments from my fellow diners.

Next up was the sashimi, where I went for the tuna, prawns, octopus and white fish, with a serve of seaweed on the side. There were a number of other options available, and apparently I missed out big-time by not going for the unagi (eel). However, there were still several more stations to try and not having and endless supply of stomach to fill (whatever Snooze sometimes says) that will have to wait until next time.

Next stop was the dumplings. The guy making the duck pancakes wasn't around so I just went for the sui mai, har gow and char sui boa (pork and prawn dumplings, and roast pork buns). I thought these (along with the carvery) were probably the worst items at the buffet. Better than the dumplings at most buffets, but still unable to avoid going a bit dry and gluggy from waiting to be eaten. I suspect the moral of the story is that unless you see them being brought out fresh, probably avoid the dumplings at any buffet. The stomach space can be put to better use!

Next stop was the Indian Station, with its attendant ready to make the naan of your choice. The list was long but I went for the familiar garlic naan. Evan went for the cheese and lamb, which I think he described along the lines of 'almost makes the heart attack to follow worth it'. Apparently it is also halaal so our Pashtun Princess Dirks was able to join in. I went for the chicken and swordfish tikka. Given that it was a buffet I was very pleasantly surprised at how moist the meat was. Much better than similar dishes in most Indian restaurants. The rice had unfortunately started to go a little dry, but that was only a small price to pay.

Last stop was the carvery for the duck and lamb. Probably a mistake, as while the meat was a good effort it suffered a little from the curse of buffet roasts, the meat had started to go a little dry. Others raved about the stir fry so I might have been better off spending the calories there. Another tip for next time.

By this stage it was time to hit the desserts. The variety was huge and I didn't even get to try the ice cream or the impressive chocolate fountain. The desserts were served almost as miniatures, two or three bites in each, which was good as I had many to try. First cabs off the rank, the tiramisu, lemon meringue and chocolate Melba (a chocolate and custard layered cake). All were good, with the chocolate Melba close to outstanding. Decadently rich, my sort of chocolate cake.

Next up was the sago coconut mango pudding and the chocolate panna cotta. Sago and coconut pudding is one of my favourite desserts, as I love the combination of flavours and textures. This was a good but not great one, nice but a little bland. Similarly the panna cotta was decent but a bit lacking in flavour.

Final dishes for the day were the crème brulee and rum baba. The crème brulee had a nice crust over the rich custard filling and was the second best of the desserts after the chocolate Melba. I found the rum baba a little bland. It was almost as if they had turned down the flavours on some of the desserts. Still, in the scheme of things for a buffet dessert selection these were pretty good.

I rarely go to buffets. To me they are an exercise in paying too much to eat far too much mediocre food. If they were all like Melbas I would have to change my mind. It's not perfect. I wouldn't go to the carvery or dumplings stations again unless I saw the fresh dishes being brought out. And some of the desserts were a bit hit or miss. But the sushi and the seafood were very good, the Indian better. It's not cheap, more of a special occasion place, but I thought the price much better value than paying a bit less for the dry potatoes and cardboard meat you get for most buffets.

Oh, and guys, get rid of those ugly plates!

Food - 8
Service - 7.5
Ambience - 8
Price - 7

1 Southgate Ave
Southbank VIC 3006
Tel: 1800 641 107

Melba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

1 comment:

Bureaucrat said...

I've been to Melba a few times. It's one of the better fine-dining buffets. But The Conservatory at Crown always, hands-down, is at the top of my list for a buffet. I rather miss my twice yearly pilgrimage to The Conservatory =(

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