I recently caught up with my lovely breakfasting companions Z & B at Bourke St cafe the Mess Hall (not to be confused with the band of the same name). I have sporadically eaten lunch at the Mess Hall and had recently been told by several friends that the breakfast was something special.
The Mess Hall is a comfortable space, with wooden tables, exposed walls and quirky artwork. Service is friendly and relaxed. When we arrived on a Wednesday morning it was fairly quiet, with a few other tablefuls of people tucking into their breakfast.
I had been told that the bircher was pretty great at the Mess Hall, but on this cool morning a cold muesli didn’t appeal. Instead, I was enticed by the omelette of the day ($13.50), which I was told was pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini and sundried tomato:
Unfortunately, this wasn’t good. The omelette was really oily (as can be seen by the spodges of oil on the plate) and the sundried tomatoes were dry and difficult to eat. I ended up removing them from the omelette altogether. None of the advertised pumpkin could be found and the whole thing was crying out for a herb or two.
Z had the bruschetta:
Which was fine, but also a bit uninspired. According to Z, the tomatoes were watery and bland, which didn’t help the dish.
After this breakfast I was pretty disappointed and began writing up this post, loathe to be critical of a place that I have generally enjoyed in the past. Fate (otherwise known as a colleague’s going away lunch) sent me back to the Mess Hall that very same week, so I held the post back and gave the place another opportunity.
So, lunchtime at the Mess Hall was an altogether different affair. The place was buzzing and packed. Our large group was seated in the upstairs room, which was airy and light filled. On the lunch menu, in addition to the range of pizzas and pastas (which I sadly cannot eat) there were a number of interesting salads. I decided to go for the pan fried calamari, with salad and aioli ($17.50):
This was great! The calamari was soft and flavoured with garlic, parsley and chilli. The mixed salad was zingy and fresh. The serving was generous and I ate the entire thing (leading to a serious food coma for the rest of the afternoon). My dining companions also really enjoyed their various meals of pizza and salad. All in all a very positive experience.
So what’s the deal? I found it a bit strange that their lunch could be so great while the breakfast was so lacking. Maybe the chef was having a bad day? Or wasn’t in yet when we arrived? The idea of a restaurant without a cook reminds me of a rather strange meal I had in Tunisia, whereby the waiter cooked for us as the chef hadn’t turned up, incidentally the waiter’s food was pretty good.
I don’t have the answers, but based on my experience, it’s a yes for coffee and lunch and a definite no for breakfast. Hopefully there will be some more consistency in the future, (although I note that others have had this problem too – see MEL hot or not). Time will tell.
The Mess Hall
51 Bourke St Melbourne
ph:(03) 9654 6800