Virginia Plain

Note: Virginia Plains is permanently closed
It’s funny how your experience paying the bill can make such a difference at a restaurant. I’ve been to Virginia Plains, the latest restaurant to open in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane dining hot spot, twice now.  I came away with a bit of a different take on the place both times mainly because on my first visit to celebrate the launch of the new website and TV show Love To Share, the kind people at Love To Share shouted the bill (check out the show on Saturdays if you haven’t already), while on my second visit with a group of my girlfriends I paid for myself.

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.

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Details: Virginia Plain, 31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000 (Ph +61 3 9290 0400)
Damage: Pricey.  Our bill for six came to $551.

Virginia Plain on Urbanspoon


  1. $45 for water is seriously outrageous! It really pisses me off when you get charged for things that aren’t made aware to you. You leave remembering the service and unfortunately forgetting about the food.

  2. Ouch – $45 for water when you would have been happy for tap water is offensive. And not giving $30 change while presuming it was the tip after the water mix up is a bit rich. Money is the customers until they decide to leave it so why there are place out there who presume all cash they receive is theirs if beyond me. My Q would be what would be the amount overpaid for them to think they should provide a customer with change…

  3. The degustation seems like good value but the service and bill paying situation is quite awkward – I always hate when restaurants make decisions on your behalf on how much they will be tipped, seriously!?

  4. Pet hate when they assume you don’t want change. $45 for water?? wtf!!

  5. That water charge… woah!
    I would not be happy with that at all!

  6. Wow, as everyone else has said, that water charge is ridiculous. Will ahve to be watchful of that!

    That aside, the food does sound lovely, hopefully they can clean up everything else to be on par with that!

  7. I better get superpowers from a $45 worth water

  8. Urgh, that water charge is ridiculous! I’ve been burned too many times before, so now at the start of meals when they ask if I want water, I always say: “Tap is fine for me thanks”, unless I really really feel like sparkling. I used to feel embarrassed about it, but it’s better than being stuck with a $45 bill for something that you don’t really get a lot of value from!

    I would have actually kept the $30 tip in that instance, even if I had planned on leaving it initially – that’s so tight of them to assume!

    At least the food looks like it was nice. 🙂

  9. Jules – Yes I think that was the problem here the food was great but the end of the meal took the shine off it

    Sharking for Chips and Drink – I am sort of used to always tipping after living in London where it is a standard 12.5% but I do think in Australia where tipping is very optional it can’t be presumed.

    Catherine – Yes it put a bit of a dampner on things

    Iron Chef Shellie – Agreed

    Blithely Unaware – Indeed we were not.

    Ashley – Let me know what you think if you go there

    Jack – Sadly no…

    Sarah – I always make a point of asking for tap as well but the fact that they never asked me meant I thought there must be some set fee that covered water. Next time I will be more assertive.

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