This restaurant is now closed.

Scooting across a rain-slicked and windswept courtyard near Melbourne’s iconic Rialto towers on a wintry night, the foyer of Hare and Grace is a welcome respite. A small open fire is blazing, the room is toasty warm and the greeting is likewise. Given Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband were making their first foray into the world of ‘coupon’ dining, things were off to a good start.

There’s always an element of worry when you purchase a heavily discounted offer through a social buying website – will we be treated like second-class citizens? Will there be huge limitations on when we can get a table? Will the food experience be worth it, even at less than half the regular price?

Hare and Grace is described as a ‘minibar and eatery’ and is the latest venture for Melbourne chef about town Raymond Capaldi.

Greedy Girl and group had previously eaten a fairly disastrous degustation at Fenix, a restaurant with a lovely aspect on the banks of the Yarra River on the city’s fringe, but that had been several years prior. Fenix was no more – and given the almost raw fish (it wasn’t supposed to be sashimi) and the pretty appalling way the wait staff dealt with our concerns, Greedy Girl was not surprised.

Capaldi though, has a decent reptuation as a chef. The chance to try three courses (including coffee or tea) for A$79 was a good opportunity to revisit his food. It was easy to get a booking, for our preferred night, and no problem at all when we needed to reschedule. We turned up at the appointed time, handed over our voucher and were shown to seats in the main dining room which was dominated by the highly unusual ‘smoke wood’ branches dangling from the ceiling and a very nice bluestone feature wall. The idea of the branches is to recreate the sense of the restaurant’s ‘hare’ being in a burrow with the roots of the trees permeating through. It’s a lovely thought except Greedy Girl isn’t sure hares, unlike rabbits, live in burrows. Hmmm.

The special menu for us cheapskates offered three choices of starter, main and dessert. There was one vegetarian option for both starter and main. Greedy Girl chose scallops with aioli and breadcrumbs served on the half shell. The scallops were nicely cooked and even with the breadcrumbs liberally sprinkled on top weren’t dry. The crumbs were crunchy, the aioli was smooth and delectable and a squeeze of lemon on top worked a treat. Two of the scallops put up a fight to come away from the shell and Greedy Girl, sharing with gluttonous husband, was a little sad there were only three on the plate. For the price point she shouldn’t quibble.

Gluttonous husband chose the vegetarian starter, a light carrot soup. Served with a dollop of cream in the middle, this was quite flavourful but could have been a bit hotter, especially on such a cold night. It was served with a basket of sourdough and a whipped quenelle of butter. Gluttonous husband described it as having a more-ish flavour.

Next up, we reversed roles. Greedy Girl went vegetarian with pea, broad bean and parmesan risotto. The incredible vividness of the green was a stand out and the flavours were well balanced. Greedy Girl would have been delighted to get the saltiness and texture of some guanciale or pancetta but this was not to be, so she sprinkled a few salt flakes and gave the dish a grinding of pepper. When gluttonous husband tasted the dish he said it reminded him of a comfort food favourite from years gone by, Risi e bisi, at Florentino Cellar Bar. Ah, good times …

For his main, gluttonous husband had braised beef cheek with onion jam and red wine reduction and a very smooth quenelle of mashed potato. The meat was soft, moist and tender, the sauce rich. Gluttonous husband, who always prefers his meat still mooing pronounced it a more than acceptable dish.

Given the food was included in the voucher, we tried a couple of interesting beverages. Gluttonous husband was delighted to see his favourite Fat Yak pale ale from the Matilda Bay brewery available on tap, while Greedy Girl started off with a very reasonably priced glass of Perrier-Jouet champagne and followed it up with a red blend Sacha Lachine vins sans frontieres ‘Le Coq Rouge’ from the Languedoc in France. Utterly delightful.

And so, it was time for dessert. Gluttonous husband had the vanilla creme brulee, which came with a nicely crisp top that shattered appropriately and a lovely hazlenut and pistachio biscotto on the side. He pronounced it enjoyable if a bit too sweet. To accompany dessert he chose a glass of ‘Skimstone sticky’ from Mudgee – it had a bouquet that led him to believe it would be a very sweet wine but it was subtle and quite enjoyable.

Greedy Girl opted for the ‘autumn fruit’ crumble. This was mainly an apple custard topped with some sweet and slightly salty crumbs. The crumbs were nice but the fruit mixture way too sweet. The sugar buzz kept Greedy Girl awake for far too long.
All told, it was a very good experience and a nice setting. The wait staff had genuine warmth and ensured we felt at home. It would be something Greedy Girl would definitely keep in mind for a business lunch down the western end of the city.

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