Located at the political power end of Bourke Street, The Mess Hall is another of those eateries straddling the line between café and restaurant.
For a fairly limited space it offers a range of different ways to eat - al fresco on Bourke Street, in the sun behind the front window, at the communal table or towards the back viewing into the kitchen. Casually smart and smartly casual, with its stark white walls, sun drenched interior and brown tables it is pretty in a minimalist sort of way. Pretty interior, pretty food and pretty waiting staff.
With only two of us visiting our range of selections were fairly limited. Not having had pasta for a while I went for the linguine with clams, prawns, scallops and mussels in a white wine sauce. The pasta was nicely cooked but the seafood didn't quite hit the mark. The prawns were large but not as sweet as I had hoped, the mussels a little tasteless. I am not the biggest fan of clams, liking the flavour but finding the shell to meat ratio pretty high, but also thought these were a little bland. And the scallops were almost missing in action, being very small and few in number. I am not sure what the issue was and it certainly wasn't a bad dish or something I'd send back to the kitchen. However, given prices were closer to restaurant than café I feel that the bar should have been raised a little higher and had hoped for more.
Opting for a lighter lunchtime option, Snooze’s choice was the soup of the day, a smoked hock and vegetable soup, which came with a bread roll. While generally preferring options with a lighter salt content, Snooze was a definite fan of the smoked hock. But unfortunately the majority of the flavouring came from the hock which seemed to overwhelm any flavour coming from other elements of the soup. Overall, it was satisfying as a meal given the bread roll but I think Snooze was looking for more.
The atmosphere was good and the food reasonable but the prices were consistent with how I usually find at this end of town - slightly overpriced. Not a knock on The Mess Hall in particular as I suspect this reflects both clientele in the area and rents, but it wouldn't normally be the sort of place I'd make a twenty minute walk to visit for lunchtime visit except for one reason. We didn't try them on the day because neither of us were terribly hungry but I am a little intrigued by the notion of polenta chips. I can't imagine they would be terribly healthy, but they looked awesome when delivered to nearby tables.
Food - 6.5
Ambience - 8
Service - 7
Price - 6
51 Bourke Street
Melbourne CBD VIC 3100
Tel: (03) 9654 6800