I have to say my visit to The Moat with Bureaucrat was one of the nicest lunches I've had for years. Combining very good food, excellent service and the option of three very different but good dining areas, it's only been open since November (apparently) but despite it's somewhat obscure location next to the Library it's likely to become the in-place to dine in that part of town.
It was only serendipity that we found it as well. I'd been walking along Little Lonsdale Street sussing out a few places for a possible lunchtime visit when I saw the below street levels tables and Astroturf. If you didn't know The Moat was there you could easily miss it. I'd probably walked past several times before finally noticing it.
The three dining areas are the Astroturf lawn, a wooden communal table near the entrance and a more formal dining area. Each has obviously been well thought out and has its own individual charm. The lawn would be a great spot for coffee and a muffin (they are delicious here), the communal table to sit and read the paper and the dining room and bar for an important business lunch or more intimate tete-a-tete.
Most of the food is of the small communal sharing variety that has recently become so popular. The range of dishes isn't overwhelming but is long enough to offer some variety and reflects some of the latest food trends around town.
For example, salads included a quinoa salad with tomato, cucumber, Spanish onion, toasted seeds, coriander, mint and honey dressing. A colourful dish with fresh and interesting flavours, I particularly enjoyed the added texture which the quinoa provided. An optional extra was the cumin poached free range chicken, very nicely done and well worth the few extra dollars.
But good though the salad was, it paled beside the braised lamb with roasted garlic labna, quinoa salad and flat bread. The lamb was tender enough to pull apart with the fork, strongly flavoursome but without a hint of gaminess. Combine with a small amount of salad and a touch of the labna, roll it up in a piece of the flatbread and insert in mouth for a moment of foodie Nirvana.
We hadn't really planned on it, but after such good mains we both wanted to try a dessert. Well I tell a white lie, Bureaucrat wanted to try two but I was starting to feel a little full by this stage. The Valrhona Chocolate and Earl Grey tea tart came with a shot glass filled with lemon curd and topped with Persian fairy floss. Perfectly presented with a glossy exterior and texture as dense as a fine mud cake, the initially flavours were overwhelmingly of the chocolate but with the tea flavours noticeable in the aftertaste. An excellent dessert to top off a fine meal.
To top off our experience the service was very good, one of the few places that has ticked the three boxes of friendly, polite and efficient. The only thing which would stop here becoming my regular choice for lunch is the price. While admittedly we did order from the pricier end of the menu, the bill for the day which included no drinks was $63. Given the whole experience it didn't seem unreasonable, but that's a bit too rich for me to visit every day.
Food - 9
Ambience - 8.5
Service - 8.5
Price - 6.5
Basement 176 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9094 7820