Mercy Bar + Eatery – A Great Change

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NOTE: THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED

G and I headed for dinner to Mercy Bar + Eatery on a Friday night. I had been there when this place was Virginia Plain, so was keen to see what the changes were. I did enjoy the food at Virginia Plain but thought the Degustation menu we did could have been a bit better. Check out my review here – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/virginia-plain-contemporary-european-cuisine/

Mercy Bar + Eatery is located at the top end of Flinders Lane (near Spring Street) where the old Virginia Plain used to be. Marco Santucci is still the owner, Andy Hammer is still the chef and Mat Beyer is still front-of house – but what has changed is the interior and the menu. Artist Steve Cross has redecorated the interior with graffiti art and it’s funky to say the least! The artwork is colourful, bright, intriguing and can be talked about for quite some time. There are pictures of contorted faces and objects with varying shapes and colours.

The venue is fit out with wooden tables and chairs in the dining area of the restaurant, with the front section having communal tables and high tables for drinks and gatherings. The lighting is quite dim, with not many light shades fitted out through the venue, although it creates a great ambience. Near the table we are at there is one light to the left of us, together with artwork of a woman’s face in green and pink tones (have a look at the picture above). The kitchen is open plan and located in the back of the dining area so you can see the chefs preparing your meals.

I got there a tad bit earlier than G so ordered a mocktail – they asked what kind of flavours I wanted and would make one to match that. The result was a fruity, orangey and lime concoction which was quite refreshing.

Once G arrived we decided on what food we would want. The menu is new and has an emphasis on bar snacks with 12 to choose from. There is a variety of entrees – there are about 7 to choose from which include eel, quail, wagyu and kingfish – together with a selection of 4 different salads. Mains are also available ( you can choose from 5) and these include Fish, Beef Cheek, Wagyu and Pork Belly and finished with Desserts – there are also 5 to choose from. The waitress informs us that there are also specials available – one from the entrée section and one from the main section.

To start with we decided to get the Eel & Roasted Beetroot Salad with Horse Radish Cream and the Hand Cut Chips to share. I love that there was Eel on the menu – there aren’t many places that serve eel so I was definitely keen to try this dish. The dish was presented beautifully and was such a colorful dish against a black dish. The horse radish cream served as a base, where pieces of eel, beetroot, swirls of onion and crisps were daintily placed around. The eel was seasoned perfectly and was cooked just as well. They were bite sized pieces of eel and together with the horse radish cream and sweetness of the beetroot was a delicious dish. The Hand Cut Chips were also just as amazing. They chips were all different shapes and had some bits of potato skin left but this is what made them so good – they were authentic and fantastic. The potato was fresh and the chips seasoned with a perfect amount of salt.
Next up was the mains – G ordered one of the specials on offer and got the Lamb Special Sauteed served with Beetroot, Carrot and Potato Mash and I ordered the Hapuka Fillet, Du Puy Lentils, Caramelised Endive. Once again presentation of both these dishes was great. My dish came with the Du Puy Lentils and the two pieces of Hapuka Fillet placed on top with the endive and salad leaves around it. There was also a smearing of mash. The Du Puy Lentils was my favourite component of this dish – the sauce in which it was cooked in was really delicious. It had a sweet and nutty taste to it and really brought the whole dish together. Couple with the perfectly cooked fish – the skin was crackled and crunchy – and the mash it really was a great fish dish. I am not an endive fan so didn’t eat too much of this component. G enjoyed her dish as well, however she said that the Lamb had too many fatty bits to it and she found her mash a tad bit too salty.
We were both really quite full from the meals but decided to share a dessert dish – we went with the Hot baby Madeleines with Selection of Custards. The Custards that came out was a lime custard. The Madeleines were warm and crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside with the sweetness just right. The Madeleines came in the same bag style that the bread was served and it felt like they were never-ending – which was really great because you could just keep eating them. The custards were great as well, and added some tang to go with the sweetness. It really was a great way to bring together a pretty good meal.
Mercy Bar + Eatery is a great place to come for a dinner or even a quick snack and drinks – a place for casual, relaxed dining. On this Friday night by the time it got to 7pm the place was buzzing with people mostly around the bar area having drinks. The dining area too was quite filled up. The team behind this new venture have stepped it up from Virginia Plain days and it really is a great transition. I definitely want to come back and try things from the Bar Snacks menu.

NOTE: Mercy Bar + Eatery will still take bookings for its dining section down the back, and anyone who was a previous customer at Virginia Plain will always be able to book – a thank you for being there from the start.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Menu can be found at http://mercybareatery.com.au/Menu.html Drinks Menu can be found at http://mercybareatery.com.au/Drinks.html You can also do a 5 Course Tasting Menu for $65 ($40pp extra with matched wines). There is also an Express Lunch Menu – 2 courses + wine for $25
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Vibrant and Fun – has a great drinks culture
Standout Dish: Eel & Roasted Beetroot Salad with Horse Radish Cream
Service: Friendly, Keen and Helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://mercybareatery.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://mercybareatery.com.au/
31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9290 0400

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 12pm – Late

Mercy bar + eatery on Urbanspoon

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Virginia Plain – Contemporary European Cuisine

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Virginia Plain is Marco Santucci’s newly opened European styled restaurant, which is located next door Cumulus Inc on Flinders Lane in Melbourne. Former Vue du Monde head Chef Andy Harmer is at the helm of the kitchen, together with Flo Gerardin and Andrew Wright. The venue is massive (one of the largest in the CBD in fact) and seats 120 guests and boasts a bar that is 18m long, which is the focal point of the restaurant. The vibe is casual and the place is spacious and artistically designed. The tables are wooden and sturdy, the chairs are comfortable and if you score yourself the couch side along the walls- very soft. There isn’t much lighting around, and I wondered once it got to well into the night, if you would be able to see anything (Despite the lack of lighting, it does stay well lit even late into the night).

My friend and I decide to try out the 4 course degustation menu which we are told showcases some of their best dishes. At this point I have to say that the prices for the degustation meals are very reasonable. Four courses will set you back $55 (which includes 3 savoury courses and 1 dessert course) and if you wanted matching wines – $75. There is also a seven course degustation available for $89 (which includes 5 savoury courses, 1 cheese course and 1 dessert course).

Whilst we wait for our meals to come out we are given warm sourdough bread which is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and came in a little cloth bread pouch. Our first course was an “egg course.” This was a described as a slow cooked egg sitting on top of parsnip crisps and sorrel, served with a brown sugar sauce together with a bruschetta crisp and finished with fresh parmesan. The egg was cooked perfectly and when you cracked the white casing, the yolk was the right consistency and gooey. The Brown sugar sauce was my favourite addition on the dish, and I really think this brought together all the other flavours of the dish. My friend had the addition of the jamon in her dish as well.

The next dish we received was their version of a tart – Tomato tart with goats cheese, beets & lambs lettuce. I wasn’t a fan of this dish. It did however come beautifully presented, but I think there needed to be more flavour added. It just seemed like a dish where different elements were put together but somehow didn’t all match. The puff pastry which formed the base of the tart was buttery and deliciously crunchy.

For what was lacking in the second course, was definitely made up in the third (and final savoury) course – Roasted King fish fillet with three cheese crust baby calamari with Vongole sauce. This dish was spectacular! I haven’t had a fish dish which came with a cheese crust before, and this simply addition made a whole lot of difference. It added not only texture but great flavour to the fish. The fish was seared and cooked fantastically and was soft and flavoursome. The vongole sauce was another definite highlight of the dish. It added depth and brought the whole dish together, along with the clams and calamari. Highly recommend this dish for not only fish or seafood lovers, but anyone.

Dessert came served in a glass and we were told this was their take of the Banoffi Pie (called the Hungry Monks Banoffi Pie) and consisted of caramelised banana, semifreddo condensed milk, Genoa sponge (génoise), Dulce de Leche caramel, topped with milk foam and rice crispies at the bottom.  I have never been a fan of banana’s in my dessert, however this was an interesting take. I liked the layering of the Banoffi Pie and the best way to eat it is to get every layer in a mouthful. The flavours worked well together, and the rice crispies added a welcome crunch. The dessert was very sweet, and I couldn’t finish the whole dish.

The food was good and the service was attentive, pleasant and friendly. We had waitresses come up to us during each of our courses and ask us if everything was alright. One gripe however, was the temperature in the restaurant, it was quite cold and I had to put my jacket on halfway through the night. I do want to come back and try food from their a la carte menu and that may change my rating.

Rating : 3 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can either do A la Carte, Have a Degustation – 4 courses for $55, Bring it on (7 courses) for $89. They also serve Bar Snacks – check the menus out at http://virginiaplain.com.au/menus/
Fullness: 90%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual and Comfortable. Great for a group function or work get together.
Standout Dish: Roasted King fish fillet with three cheese crust baby calamari with vongole sauce
Service: Friendly, Pleasant and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://virginiaplain.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://virginiaplain.com.au/
31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tel No: 9290 0400

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 11am – Midnight
Thursday to Saturday: 11am -1pm
CLOSED SUNDAYS

Virginia Plain on Urbanspoon