Welcome to Melbourne's pants-optional restaurant, a space where you call the shots from music to mood lighting.
Yep, thanks to Uber, the app that lets you ride in strangers' cars, you can now get Supernormal's lobster rolls, Pidapipo's gelato, or steak tartare from Entrecote delivered to your door. In this brave new world, meals on wheels is for the not-at-all-infirm, which technically makes the hottest restaurant in town right now your house. Or desk. Anywhere close to the CBD.
High-end home delivery is the gambit and UberEats isn't the first to market. UK companies Deliveroo and Foodora have been engaged in a war since late last year, each armed with fleets of traffic-dodging cyclists and cult snack artists Huxtaburger, Mamak and Gelato Messina on their hook.
Uber has swaggered onto the scene with their network of cars (bikes and scooters are coming) and, with their enormous database and serious restaurant gets (Gazi, Red Spice Road, Henrietta's Chicken), this is the critical-mass moment in Melbourne for the fastest-growing sector of the hospitality industry globally. And we're talking about it because we need to. Hell, if we're going to give the environment and our waistlines a really good kicking, let us be mindful jerks so our children may hate us the better.
First to the nuts and bolts: UberEats works like the ride sharing app. You create an account linked to your credit card, browse menus of nearby restaurants, click to order and watch an update bar as your food is prepared and driven to your door for a $5 fee. Foodora and Deliveroo work the same way, but their radius, sans cars, is smaller.
But is a lobster roll, Supernormal's buttery bun filled with poached crustacean, still a $16 thing of beauty when your waiter is a Kia? Mohammed brings ours one lunchtime with prawn and chicken dumplings. The brioche has quickly dried out and our dumplings are past-prime cool, but it's probably in as good a condition as you'd get walking takeaway back to your office. And it's lobster. At work. Stupid luxury at your fingertips.
Best off is the Gazi spit roast – crackle-skinned pork with a side order of cuminy, curd-topped grain salad, an equally good traveller. Too easy.
So we up the ante with a steak baguette and bombe alaska – surely a hot mess waiting to happen – this time from Entrecote. The sandwich (and most hot bready things we order) is a little limp, its fries soggy with herb butter, but Entrecote has custom-built its dessert directly into a paper cup and its silky meringue insulates the caramel ice-cream. Both are a buck cheaper than eating in. You win this round, technology.
The appeal is fearsomely strong and not just for critics who are pretty excited to be doing this story in pyjamas.
One park-based Sunday, I test the delivery notes function and summon the excellently cheesy burger from The Beaufort to: "We're the group near the children's birthday party." Success. Imagine pulling that move on a date with a Milk the Cow cheese board?
One night I get the simple greens stir-fry from Vegie Bar delivered in the same time it takes to get a table at the vegetarian haven, with no one in Lulu Lemons. #followthatbliss
But it's not all sunshine and gelato on demand. Five deliveries bring 22 bags and containers. Many are biodegradable and cutlery isn't included unless you request it. Even so.
When things go wrong (no one picks up my job at Gazi one rainy night), the support button suggests I send an email for fastest response. I send them a picture of the can of beans I've heated after the job cancels without explanation. I get a refund, and a voucher.
And let's be crass and talk money. Participating restaurants (who'll remain nameless) tell me they pay about 30 per cent commission. That's usually their entire margin if not more. The system lets them increase output without raising their normal overheads, but how much of this money is destined for San Francisco?
Drivers have to park (god knows where in the city at lunch), get the food, drive through traffic, park again, and bring the food to your building. Insurance, fines, taxes, petrol and wear and tear are their responsibility. My driver earns $4.80 for 22 minutes of messing around, but a spokesperson for Uber claims this is a glitch in the app showing the fare incorrectly, assuring me they receive the same rates as UberX (Uber's "low-cost option") drivers. But it's a staggering amount of extra work and the risks are high.
Wildly addictive, probably bad for us, a few big foreign winners and a lot of workers taking the risks to bring us the goods? It's like a drug ring for snacks. And I'm hooked. But it's a habit I want to kick.
Pro tip Think big picture before getting hooked.
Go-to dish Grains salad from Gazi ($14.50).
Like this? Deliveroo and Foodora are neck and neck in the race.