Hare and Grace

525 Collins Street, Central Business District, Melbourne, 3000, Australia

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Hare and Grace has a large dining room in the Central Business District that has a somewhat rustic feel, with tablecloths and ornamental clusters of bare twigs decorating the ceiling. Chef Raymond Capaldi (originally from Scotland; he had worked at the Dorchester in London, amongst others) moved here after dabbling with molecular gastronomy in a previous, now defunct venture called Fenix, but here the menu has little to frighten the horses.  Starters were around AUD 18-22, main courses AUD 36-38, with mains from the charcoal grill at AUD 38-55; vegetable side dishes are in addition at AUD 9-10. There was also a three course set lunch for AUD 50 including a glass of wine or beer, and a tasting menu at AUD 130 for six courses.

The two page wine list started at AUD 32 and had selections like Seresin Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2009 at AUD 52 (£33) for a wine that retails in the UK for around AUD 19 (£12), Dexter Pinot Noir 2009 at AUD 79 (£50) for a wine with a UK shop price of around AUD 32 (£20), up to Pierro Chardonnay 2009 at AUD 120 (£76) compared to a retail price of AUD 52 (£33) back in Britain. We drank Garagiste Chardonnay 2010 at AUD 78 (£50) for a wine you can pick up retail for around AUD 22 (£14). Bread was bought-in sourdough from a local bakery, and was pleasant enough (14/20), though not a patch on the sourdough at MoVida the night before.

A starter of "cauliflower cheese" (AUD 18) was really gnocchi made with Comte cheese, served with cauliflower cream and breadcrumbs, topped with cauliflower florets. This was pleasant, though the gnocchi had better flavour than texture (13/20).

Braised beef was the star dish for me, the beef cooked to a very tender state, with a creamy mash and meat juices, garnished with black truffles (easily 15/20 standard). This was much better than the Australian wagyu sirloin (from a supplier called Sher, with a good local reputation, in this case grade 8 wagyu on the Ausmeat system, which goes from 1 to 9). Although cooked capably, the beef simply did not have the degree of flavour that I would have expected from a beef that was presumably meant to have a high degree of marbling (13/20).

I also briefly tasted some kingfish, which appeared to be farmed and for me was a fraction overcooked, while I was disappointed with the vegetables on show. Tomatoes were entirely out of season here (January to March is the tomato season in Australia; this was August) and, not surprisingly, were utterly tasteless. I also thought it odd that the French fries were really potato wedges with the skin left on: surely better to describe these properly or, better, make some actual triple-cooked chips.

I was being taken out by some friends so did not see the bill, but three courses with vegetables and some simple wine would set you back around ASD 100 per person (more if you went for the charcoal grill options). Overall I thought the technical side of the cooking here was quite good, but the meal suffered from ordinary ingredients, which at times seemed odd choices (e.g. the out of season tomatoes).


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