100 St Kilda Road Melbourne, VIC 3004
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.
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