It must be difficult handling tables of 10, let alone two that arrive at the same time, in a dining room that was also at capacity. I don’t know if that was what directly impacted the disappointing service we received on the night, or if it’s like this all of the time.
As for the food, it was just OK. I guess I was expecting more, given the majority of the reviews tend to lean towards favouring the Grand Hotel Dining Roomfor its offerings, whereas I found it all to be a little… “meh”.
For starters, our group opted to share antipasto plates and one of the featured specials of the evening, a house-made bresola. We left quantities of each in the hands of our waiting staff to provide enough to (adequately) feed our table of 10. I believe we were probably one serving of each under where we would be left feeling ‘adequate'; there wasn’t all that much to go around.
The antipasto selection ($18.50) is what you’d expect from a antipasto selection; cured meats, marinated vegetables and a few bits of mozzarella. Most of it was a little ho-hum with the exception of some excellent house-made grissini, albeit the serving was a little on the scant side. However the request for some extra grissini was duly accommodated. The bresola ($19) was good, but no better than any bresola I’ve tried before.
For mains, the table largely went for the ‘highly recommended’ roast duck with calvo nero, spatzle and an orange and juniper berry sauce ($33.50); the roasted spatchcock with du puy lentils, pomegranate, pistachio and treviso ($31.50); pancetta-wrapped lamb fillet with peperonata, anchovies and eggplant puree ($36.50) and one lonesome character attempted the 500g T-bone with kipfler potatoes, green beans and a mustard vinaigrette ($38).
My choice of duck was disappointing, although the skin was incredibly crispy and clearly treated well throughout cooking, the meat was quite dry. The much needed sauce was a very neutral-tasting jus, tasting of neither juniper nor orange. The spatzle seemed a little over-cooked. I had no qualms with the cavolo nero.
As for the other mains, there were mixed reviews from my fellow diners that ranged from “OK” to “fairly average”.
Sides are reasonably priced at $7. We ordered a couple of servings of the vegetable of the day; sautéed broccolini and a couple of servings of fries (everyone likes fries). Both were probably the highlights of the night, which is good and bad in a way; I mean they were sides!
A number of people at our table were excited to try the doughnuts filled with citrus mascarpone, candied cumquats and lemon thyme ice-cream. Unfortunately for us, there was a 30 minute wait as the kitchen had run out of doughnuts. Only one person was willing to wait and the rest of us either made other choices or abstained from dessert. Without going into too much detail on the desserts, they were (again) OK but not great. Basically, GHDR has a menu that reads with so much promise, yet nothing really delivered.
The wine list is extensive and caters for any budget. For example, there are 42 choices of Shiraz alone, from $36 to $725 and a lot of the usual Australian, Italian and French suspects feature. We stuck with the 2008 Henschke Keynton ‘Euphonium’ Shiraz Cabernet Merlot ($78) and rounded out the evening with a 2009 Punt Road Botrytis Semillon ($52, 500ml).
As I’ve previously touched on the service, I will elaborate to say that two the gentlemen bordered on surly. I don’t know if that was their way of remaining brisk and efficient given how busy it was, whether it was us or whether that was the way they’ve always been. Making a suggestion that we should order soon to get our orders in before the other table of 10, then not returning for 10 minutes whilst the other table are providing their order to another waiter did not help. They also gave up on serving us wine and simply left the wines on the tables. Asking us would have been nice.
I would have expected more from a place that calls itself a gastropub. A separate dining room and table linen alone is not enough and there are pub menus that deliver a similar quality, for several dollars less too.
Grand Hotel Dining Room
333 Burnley St, Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9429 2430
Good for: locals, surly waiting staff
Not good for: handling two tables of 10 at the same time. If you can’t handle it, don’t book them at the same time