Trocadero deserves an ovation for dishes such as rich onion risotto.
Trocadero deserves an ovation for dishes such as rich onion risotto. Photo: Ken Irwin

100 St Kilda Road Melbourne, VIC 3004

View map

Opening hours Daily 11am-late
Features Outdoor seating, Bar
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef Nick Bennett
Seats 100
Payments Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 8698 8888

The best thing about Trocadero is that it's there at all, serving drinks and food at a jaunty clip to Arts Centre visitors and Southbank browsers. A seamless saunter from Hamer Hall takes you into the bar. The upper Southgate concourse spills into the restaurant's terrace, soon to be winter-proofed with glass and heaters. Your Trocadero view might be of an outdoor lift shaft or the more enchanting sight of Flinders Street Station and the city.

Last time, I succumbed to a reverie of overcrowded trains and Myki beeps, but you can insert your own magical Melbourne moment as a substitution.

I've experienced the gamut of service here: uninterested, efficient, dismissive, heart-warming. The functional nature of the restaurant as pre-theatre meet-up zone can lead to a lack of atmosphere and engagement.

Show time: Trocadero's cool greys and graffiti have brutal appeal.
Show time: Trocadero's cool greys and graffiti have brutal appeal. Photo: Ken Irwin

The look doesn't inspire passion either: the cool greys and graffiti art have brutal appeal but they don't really nudge the interior out of its corporate could-be-anywhere mood. While I'm kvetching, I also have a gripe about the toilets (I can vouch for the ladies only): the doors are too large for the cubicles so you have to edge yourself in to close them.

The food, though, is mostly really good, with interesting flourishes boosting a necessarily safe menu. Chicken breast vies with eye fillet as the dullest meat cut in the world but this dish shows why it's beloved by billions. The corn-fed meat is honey coloured and juicy, the skin is gently crisped, and the dish is jazzed up with layered figs and a foamy sauce infused with hay. Hey? Yes, hay, a new ''it'' ingredient, lending an earthy, grassy complexity to dishes all over town.

Sweet Moreton Bay bugs come with fried leeks and lemon chutney, and a rich onion risotto has caramel crunch and jammy depth.

Two sausage dishes lost me: the beef and quinoa sausages are overpowered by their chipotle element, and a side order of chorizo and whipped potato struck me as a good way to ruin two types of wonderful.

Desserts rock. Even that old standby panna cotta is turned into a festival of flavour with mint jelly, peach and pepper granita and a thick (too thick) disc of shortbread. It's a comforting but sparky ''curtains down'' to a meal. If there wasn't an Arts Centre show to follow, I can imagine calling for an encore.


3.5 out of 5 stars