Melbourne strikes another note for sophisticated late-night dining with restaurant charm-pot, the Mayfair
The Mayfair’s wonderful, darling. That’s the four-word review of this place dancing on the ascetic memory of Pei Modern with the swellegant vibe of a New York supper club from the days folks dressed for dinner.
It’s like therapy for the restaurant soul. If you’re tiring of the hard-edged industrial fit-outs and “edgy” soundtracks and having a taco hurled at your head by a backpacker waiter, this is the antidote. A place of circular booths and white linen-clad tables; of a grandiose golden chandelier and flickering candlelight, into which flattering Botox-effect gloom Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner might be showing up anytime.
On each table, a vase of what looks like gypsophila and a dried marigold. On the floor, carpet (remember that?). Near the bar, a jazz duo – keyboard and sax - noodling on a Keith Jarret theme. With live music most nights, a supper menu that only starts post-10.30pm and a guarantee that those doors onto the Sofitel forecourt aren’t closing until 1am, the Mayfair doubles down on the promise newly made to Melbourne by the likes of fellow travellers Arlechin and Butcher’s Diner that we can do witching hour without getting shit-faced.
David Mackintosh, the serial restaurant owner behind Lee Ho Fook, SPQR and Ides is here doing the el patron thing. Co-owner Joe Jones of Romeo Lane is presiding over the ante-bar, a barrel-ceilinged vault of smoky mirrors and uplit bottles where he mixes strange brews with apothecary skill.
All in all, it’s a flight of retro fancy grounded in the good sense of giving people food they needn’t think too hard about. At its heart, behind the French headings of hors d’oeuvres and petits plats and garnitures, it’s food that’s very good.
Not to say there aren’t oddities. Take the crab crumpet. If it feels strange to be eating a crumpet with a knife and fork – well, so it should. But it’s also the poshest crumpet you’ll ever encounter, with a smoosh of spanner crab bundled up in a lemony mayo, bejewelled with Yarra Valley salmon roe and draped with dill branches. There’s just a whisper of curry, too, like the impending end of empire.
There’s asparagus, most noble of veg, with tangy truffled Champagne sabayon and egg yolk (this is a place that likes its oeufs), a well of molten richness just begging to be swiped with green spears and fingers. A steak tartare of brutishly rough-chopped meat (aged four weeks, with flavour that goes on about the same time) strays into too-acidic territory thanks to the overweening triumvirate of onions, caperberries and Worcestershire but its main course counterpart of a bavette from the wood grill is classic playbook.
We haven’t had space to go into the Sydney Rock oysters, or the duck croquette, or the whole flounder lavished with beurre blanc (all good). But it does it a disservice to break the Mayfair down into the sum of its parts. For all its old school posturing, The Mayfair is very much a member of the restaurant new school. It’s not just about the eats. It’s not just about the drinks. It’s the way it makes you feel. And the Mayfair is determined to make you feel very flash indeed.
|Venue name:||The Mayfair|
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sat 5pm-1m; Fri noon-3pm|