|Scallops and black pudding at Virginia Plain|
Virginia Plain is ambitious in size, they can do a lot of covers here (it’s bigger than nearby Chin Chin) and the space is dominated by the long bar that runs along one side of the room leading to a partially open kitchen at the back of the restaurant to deliver a bit of food porn theatre. It’s a pretty understated and pared back space with dark leather banquette seating and moody low lighting.
The constant on both my visits was the excellent food. The menu’s best described as modern European and offers a contemporary take on some classic dishes. Probably the best way to explore it is through the well priced degustation at $55 for four courses. If you veer off the degustation there’s still value to be found in Virginia Plain’s oysters which are great quality and $3.50 each and dishes like a simple artichoke salad ($19.50) which is instantly lifted from good to wow by a gutsy dressing of mushroom purée.
|Oysters at Virginia Plain|
Jumping straight on board the current trend for American street food Virginia Plain does an excellent beef brisket ($11) which is slow cooked until it is sticky and served in a slightly sweet bun. I also enjoyed a pearly cube of cured Spanish mackerel ($19.50) which was under seasoned (strange given it was cured) but teamed beautifully with the acidity of some pickled vegetables and a hit of citrus tang from a smear of preserved lemon purée.
The chefs are not afraid of a bit of offal and I loved the combination of fat, pan fried scallops with a black pudding made with pig trotters ($29.50). If you are anti offal this is the perfect dish to convert you as the delicate flavours of the scallop serve as an antidote to the black pudding. For dessert the hot chocolate fondant with milk ice-cream ($19.50) is every chocoholics dream.
|Artichoke salad at Virginia Plain|
While the food was great it was the service and billing process put a bit of a dampener on my second visit to Virginia Plain. Drinks proved to be an issue as our waitress didn’t have much knowledge of the wine menu. We asked for a dry riesling and she recommended an $85 riesling and when we said that was a bit out of our price range, her recommendation was a chablis which was neither a riesling or dry. Throughout the evening our table was served sparkling water from a carafe along with the wine we ordered. One of my girlfriends ordered it initially but the rest of our table were never given the option of anything else and so it was a bit of a surprise to find that the sparkling water was charged at $9 a carafe and our table of six had been slugged for $45 of sparkling water over the course of the dinner.
|Beef brisket at Virginia Plain|
Paying our $550 bill mainly in cash we handed over $580 and the bill was then returned to the table without any change. I had to ask our waitress for the change even though we were happy to (and did) leave the $30 as a tip but I was a bit irked by the presumption of a tip rather than returning the change and leaving it to the diner to tip as most restaurants do. Hopefully once the restaurant settles in a bit more these little wrinkles will be ironed out and the rest of the dining experience will match the fabulous food.
Details: Virginia Plain, 31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000 (Ph +61 3 9290 0400)
Damage: Pricey. Our bill for six came to $551.