This restaurant is now closed.

Celebrating her third blogiversary recently, Greedy Girl has eaten in a few places that have given her cause to reflect on why she shares her thoughts on the food experience.

Food is an experience, for all the senses. Sight, smell, taste, touch are the obvious ones, while restaurateurs also invest (some more heavily than others) in ambience and service. And so we found ourselves at the revamped Builders Arms Hotel on Gertrude Street in Melbourne’s inner-city Fitzroy and Moon Under Water.

This is part of the Andrew McConnell empire. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband have sat down in a lot of his establishments, with varying degrees of enjoyment. We were pleasantly surprised on arrival here, to be greeted by a refined-looking dining room, dominated by tones of white and yet it still felt warm and inviting on a very cool evening. A good start. Waiting for our friends Pucci Girl, the Francophile and the Runner (it was a late birthday dinner for Greedy Girl), gluttonous husband ordered a black IPA called ‘Black Maria’, while Greedy Girl stayed with water.

Moon Under Water is one of the few restaurants in Melbourne that doesn’t enforce the practice of ‘sittings’ for dinner. It’s a rare pleasure now to arrive around 7.30pm and be able to enjoy a full evening out, instead of being forced into the early bird ‘in by 6, out by 8’ or starve until the second sitting at 8.30pm. Greedy Girl readily concedes she’ll always be the obvious tourist in Spain et al in her desire to eat earlier in the evening. At that hour, the dining room was perhaps a third full, the noise levels were comfortable (notwithstanding the buzz from the public bar, just through some double doors) and the wait staff were very attentive and personable.

When we were all seated, we opted for a bottle of a non vintage Christian Etienne Brut Tradition from Meurville, a small family vineyard in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. It was interesting enough but Greedy Girl was hanging out for some food. Moon Under Water offers a tasting menu, or a choice of three or four courses. We opted for three, but some of us made the choice to have additional starters, while others opted for the desserts. We could choose from two options per course between the five of us, we covered off most of the menu.

But first, we chomped into some delicious crunchy cheese biscuits with our first sips of champagne. This was followed by another couple of amuse bouches, radishes with seaweed sauce and some rather yummy crab and eggplant fritters – these were served on top of little tins. Once we’d taken a fritter each, the lid flipped up to reveal soft sourdough bread and very good butter. A nice touch.

And so, the evening unfolded; the various courses duly arrived and we worked our way through. The noise levels rose quickly once the restaurant was full and it became increasingly difficult to attract the attention of servers.
First up was a very interesting plate. Smoked potato, lovage, globe artichoke and salad cream looked quite delicate and the execution was excellent. The combination of flavours, from the slight smokiness of the potato to the almost nuttiness of the artichoke were spot on and there was certainly enough texture in the dish.

Gluttonous husband’s first dish was the ocean trout pictured at the top of this post. The colours were beautiful (and apologies the photographs are a bit muted. Despite the room being dressed in white, the lighting was kept very low) and the taste was just as vibrant. The wood-fired trout was incredibly soft; it had a stronger flavour than other ocean trout dishes Greedy Girl has enjoyed before (most notably the confit of ocean trout at Tetsuya in Sydney), but the accompaniments helped it mellow. The leeks cooked in mussel juice were inspired.

The other option for this course was duck served two ways – cured and as a roast fillet, with Jerusalem artichoke and melon. The meat was probably the strongest duck flavour Greedy Girl has ever experienced but it paired particularly well with the sweetness of the melon. There were a fair few bitter radicchio leaves on the plate, which Greedy Girl could have done without. Still, an enjoyable dish.

For main course, Greedy Girl chose a beef short rib with grilled broccoli, almond, anchovy and crackling. Generally, she doesn’t enjoy slowly braised beef but had to admit the flavour and texture of this dish was pretty much spot on. If she wanted to quibble, it was a little salty. The crackling was basically puffs of beef tendon and it was rather moreish.

Gluttonous husband had the other main course, flounder fillets served with confit pine mushroom, nettles and toasted garlic. Pine mushrooms aren’t exactly high on the wish list for Greedy Girl and she’s not often thought about serving them with fish, but this was a very enjoyable plate of food. Even the nettle emulsion worked well.

We took two sides to share – a mixed leaf salad and some perfectly roasted potatoes. The potatoes in particular were absolutely delicious.

It was time for dessert. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband shared the plate, described economically as soft chocolate, brown butter and chocolate mint. Presented nicely, there wasn’t an outrageously strong chocolate hit and Greedy Girl was happy to leave the brown butter ice-cream to her better half.

With the noise reaching crescendo level and finding it difficult to get attention from the staff to get water glasses refilled or to request other glasses of wine, we opted to beat a retreat. First, though, was a plate of little marmalade meringue tarts – a nice touch.

But, we wanted to head off into the cool night. We requested the bill but on presenting various credit cards, were told that the restaurant’s system had gone down. So we waited. And waited some more. No further information was forthcoming and eventually, we needed to take our bill to the public bar outside and make payments at their terminal. The restaurant’s waiters were very content for us to just sit, without water, without any attention or communication from them. It was a disappointing end.

The food here is quite good – some inventive ingredients and flavour combinations and solid techniques are on show and each plate was beautifully presented. The chef here is Josh Murphy, a former winner of The Age young chef of the year award, and previously head chef at another McConnell establishment, Cumulus Inc. His food was very enjoyable, although there wasn’t a huge ‘wow’ factor.

It was a nice enough spot with some quirky touches in the dining room (a rooster on display in one cupboard next to a model sailing ship) to give some talking points. Most of McConnell’s empire is noted for noisy dining rooms although we were all still able to carry on a conversation here. Just the lack of real attention from the wait staff diminished the experience and that had to be taken into account in the rating. If you’re not fussed too much about service, you’ll find some good food here.

Moon Under Water

The Foodie World three star rating
211 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
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