I’ve recently gotten myself addicted to purchasing group discount coupons from places such as Scoopon and OurDeal. They offer great value meals to restaurants that I would otherwise not visit. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have the motivation to go out at night, just getting to that age I guess. However these coupons have an expiry date so I have ‘no choice’ but to go and the great thing is it comes with the bonus of possibly finding a great restaurant.
I purchased 3 such coupons for Flare Contemporary Grill in St Kilda for $59.95 each. Each provided a 3 course meal for 2 people and a glass of white or red Wild Oats wine. Newly opened late last year, the executive chef, Chris Wade, has worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsay and George Calombaris. Bringing his own ‘flare’ to the St Kilda region.
One issue with having a restaurant in such a busy area is parking availability, pretty much the only things available are paid parking. This poses an issue, the time taken to eat. I paid for 2 hours of parking thinking, 2 hours is plenty for dinner. Right? Frankly not.
We were seated in a very ‘red’ area directly under several huge red lights (red is an understatement) but I really did like the atmosphere. The dark, modern interior provided a somewhat private feel where we could talk amongst our table without being ‘in your face’, even my dad liked it which is a big deal. This is the reason why all my photos had red tinges to them.
The service was reasonably good at the beginning. Our orders were taken quickly, water and wine were served without any issues and we were happily settled and chitchatting amongst ourselves. As we had a group of 8 people with only 3 coupons, 2 people ordered a la carte. Yuye and Jeff ordered their own dishes while we took our picks from the special coupon menu.
For entrees we had a choice between Spiced Calamari, Sauce Thai & Coconut or the Duck & Truffle Parfait, Madeira Bubbles, Charred Sourdough. I ordered the Duck and Truffle Parfait, which was quite nice although small. The duck parfait was fragrant and delicious but sadly lacked the lovely truffle flavour that was suggested which I only found a tiny hint of. The sourdough was a bit hard and crunchy for my liking and tasted a tiny bit burnt (but maybe that was deliberate?) although it did go well with the parfait. It came with a balsamic sauce and some sort of green sauce which I believe may have been pea with butter. Yuye said it just tasted like butter… What I really didn’t understand was the madeira bubbles. I know that Madeira is meant to be a wine but I have never tried it before so I had no idea what to expect. It didn’t really taste like much to me. In my opinion, its existence was only good for entertainment purposes. Taste wise, the dish would have done fine without it.
The greatest thing about being a blogger is the ‘right’ to taste everyone’s dishes. Yes, it’s for a good cause! The spiced calamari was surprisingly very good. This dish was well received by everyone who tried it. The calamari was tender and juicy, the sauce was just the right consistency and tasted fantastic. I regretted not ordering it instead!
Yuye ordered the Grilled Quail Legs with Roquette, Tomato & Saltana Burnt Butter for $14. He just ended up passing them around the table as he got quite a few on the plate. I enjoyed them, although there was nothing that stood out about this dish.
Jeff got the French onion soup for $10. The soup itself isn’t big but for $10, it was still quite good. As it was approaching Winter, a hearty soup such as this was great as a Winter warmer, however, I think if it was in a big, deep bowl, I may have enjoyed it more since the plate it was on was quite shallow and felt like it could have been finished in one mouthful. Since it was Jeff’s, I felt bad taking too much of it.
This concluded the entrees for us. Next up were our mains. Up until this point, nothing much had gone wrong.
For mains, we had the choice of either MSA 100 Day Grain Fed Eye Fillet (which was only around 200g) or the Queensland Broadbill Swordfish with saffron aioli, served with salsa verde butter, caramelised onion and red wine jus. I ordered the Eye Fillet just because I’m a meat over fish kind of person. I read on other reviews before that night that the eye fillet was very small so I was a bit weary about ordering this for my dad. However, it turned out that it was still quite filling. For a dish that normally would have cost $38 though, it may not have been the best value out there. The beef itself was very tender and cooked to perfection. I like my steaks very rare and it was just right for me! Steaks being overcooked is one of the main reasons I don’t order them at restaurants anymore but tasting the steak at Flare has brought back confidence in restaurant served steaks.
I realised as I was compiling this post that, in the excitement of taking everyone else’s photos first, I actually forgot to take a photo of my own steak!! Oh the horror. This is probably the worst mistake that a blogger (or anyone rather) can make when taking photos of food. Anyway, the mistake has been made so sorry everyone, no photos of the eye fillet. You’re not missing much though since the dish didn’t actually come with any sauce (although it tasted ok without) or sides.
We ordered chips separately ($6), it came with two tubs of warm sauce which I believe may have been red wine jus. It was absolutely divine with the steak so I really suggest ordering chips to go with any eye fillet orders.
The swordfish also looked small. As I’m not a fish person, it just tasted like normal fish to me. Nothing special.
Yuye ordered a seasonal pasta dish which was lamb ragu with fettucine (no longer on the menu at the time of writing this post). Honestly speaking, I wouldn’t have called this dish a main. The serving size renders it only fit for an entree and totally not enough for a grown up man. Thankfully Yuye doesn’t have that big of an appetite or else my dish would have been in trouble. Taste wise we both agreed was quite nice, something I wouldn’t mind getting a recipe for and making at home.
Jeff, being a teen who’s still having random growth spurts, his appetite is something to be afraid of. Sometimes. That night was one of them as he ordered a T-Bone steak weighing at a crazy 600g for $42. He finished it all. Although a bit more chewy than the eye fillet, taste wise it didn’t lose a bit. It also came with its own boiled veggie side and mash along with the same sauce as the chips we ordered.
We also ordered two other sides, a salad and a mash, all costing $6 each. The mash was tiny by any standard and the salad wasn’t liked by my parents, although I found it to be alright. Some of the citrus fruit inside the salad was so sour it made my eyes twitch.
This is where it stopped getting fun. When our entrees were finish, our plates were efficiently cleared away and the mains brought on reasonably quickly. However, when we finished our mains, it suddenly felt like we were being ignored. No one cleared our plates despite some of them looking our way. Even after the plates were cleared, we had to sit for quite some time before the desserts came out. In fact, even before it came out, our 2 hours of parking was up and Yuye and I had to go add more money. When we came back, finally our dessert was on the table. Even though the original coupon said we’d get a Pina Colada Cheesecake with Orange & Almond Salad, it was changed to a Sticky Date Pudding instead. Most people on the table would have preferred the cheesecake as, naturally, sticky date pudding was very sweet. I fully enjoyed it however. The sauce was rich and flavourful, the pudding moist and hot, just like it should be. This is the one time where small portions worked in their advantage as it was so rich that I don’t think I could have eaten any more than what was served.
We waited and waited, but Yuye’s dark chocolate fondant, raspberry coulis and pistachio ice cream didn’t come out. Neither did Jeff’s ice cream and sorbet selection. You’d think ice cream wouldn’t take that long to plate up. “An extra half an hour should do it” is what we thought when we topped up our parking. Big mistake. It left me chowing down Yuye’s dessert (which was quite delicious by the way) with only seconds to spare before we had to rush out to the car again. In fact, everyone was already dressed and walking out the door as I was finishing off the last few bites. OH but was the fondant good! If only I had a few more minutes to enjoy the glorious hot melted chocolate sauce oozing out of the fondant. The raspberry sauce went perfectly with it as it took away a bit of that rich sweetness some might not like.
Jeff’s ice cream was a bit strange however. I didn’t think it would be so but the ice cream was a let down. There were three flavours on the plate – chocolate, pistachio and pineapple. I thought it was strange that Jeff ate everything apart from the pistachio so took the initiative to finish it off for him. OH I shouldn’t have done that. It hit me with a wave of what seemed like a mouthful of flour. Maybe someone mistakenly poured in flour while the ice cream was churning? I will never find out. The strange thing was, I thought Yuye’s fondant also had pistachio ice cream and that tasted fine. Anyhow, I didn’t have much time for thought as we rushed outside in an attempt to avoid parking fines. All up, our meal took a little over 2.5 hours.
All in all I still thought it was a good meal, albeit a few hiccups. Although the food was delicious, I didn’t feel like it was bang for buck so I probably won’t be returning there any time soon. However, if you don’t mind paying a few extra dollars for good food and have plenty of time on your hands, definitely give this place a try as the food, on the most part, was really quite delicious.
Flare Contemporary Grill
Phone: (03) 9525 4000
60 Fitzroy St, St Kilda 3182