I have driven past this place most days for the past three or so years and wondered what it would be like. I should have remained wondering.
Location-wise, it is a bit out of place… next to a servo on a busy Alexandra Parade. Inside, the interior is pleasant, welcoming and comfortable, not to mention quiet – we were oblivious to the tens of thousands of cars that drive past this restaurant every day.
Beverage-wise, there is only one beer on tap and Ink lets itself down by (now) opting for Carlton Draught as its tap beer, contrary to its website that states they have Asahi on tap. Alas, this is one of a number of small inaccuracies or full blown contradictions made on their website versus my perception (reality), including Ink’s claim that they are “one of Melbourne’s leading seafood restaurants”.
This leads me to the food – it was below average. Now, I’ll throw in a little disclaimer here to state that we visited two weeks ago and therefore I can not recall all dishes and their website only lists a menu that is nearly a year old.
To give us some additional time to peruse the menu, we ordered some mixed oysters; natural, sweet caramelized ginger, nam jim, kilpatrick and maybe another different offering which I cannot recall. I have some concerns that the oysters were actually freshly shucked and their temperature bordered on ambient.
The bread (served with olive oil and balsamic, but no butter) was definitely home made, but it was overly crumbly to the point where a commercially made dinner roll would have been better.
Upon deciding that a friend and I would have a crack at the Seafood Platter for two as a main, I elected not to have a starter (that was a mistake). The other starters eaten by my friends were reported to be OK, but not great. I think someone had pork belly.
For mains, let’s start with the Seafood Platter for two. For $60 per head I have not been so under whelmed by a dish since the laughable cheese plate at Rockpool @ Crown. The platter featured some bog-standard battered flathead tails, cured salmon, two sad looking scallops served in the shell with a mornay sauce (which was tasty), crumbled calamari, some marinated octopus, a prawn… hardly inspiring and nowhere near the standard required to even become Fitzroy North’s leading seafood restaurant, let alone Melbourne; perhaps something to aspire to (Fitzroy North, that is… fish and chip shops included) but as far as aspirations go, there’s a very, very, very long way to go.
When one of our dining party enquired as to what ‘black label’ referred to on the menu in respect of a more expensive steak on offer, the waitress came back from the kitchen with confirmation that it was ‘Angus Breed’. I believe Coles offer a ‘black label’ range of Angus breed beef. Perhaps it was from there.
I won’t go on because by now, you’ll probably realise that it wasn’t the best dining experience we’ve had. We’ve been running a quarterly lunch for around five years now and we’ve have had some great lunches but this officially was the worst.
Ink Bar & Restaurant
5 Rae St, Fitzroy North 3068
Good for: a laugh… albeit at it, not with it.
Not good for: seafood, which is shame given IT’S A FUCKING SEAFOOD RESTAURANT