157 Swanston St Melbourne, VIC 3000
|Opening hours||Sun-Wed noon-10pm; Thu noon-11pm; Fri-Sat noon-midnight.|
|Features||Licensed, Bar, Accepts bookings, Vegetarian friendly, Events, Groups|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa|
|Phone||0433 962 362|
Ladies and gentlemen, if you've been wondering when to deploy your emergency life vest and jump off the dizzying restaurant roller-coaster ride, the time might have come. Because here is 'Pink. The Restaurant', a frothy, blushing Instagram-fuelled restaurant whose pitch is "wholesome Italian and authentic self-love" but whose paint job is probably its biggest sell. The apocalypse has arrived, and it is very, very pink.
Even viewed from the safety of your device, it's clear that Pink is, well, different. Where to begin? The punctuation in the name? The "self love pimped-out fairy floss" dessert that sees diners furnished with a rose quartz bracelet to wear while they eat cotton candy cones? Or how's this for irony: "Australia's most Instagrammable restaurant" has misspelt its own handle @pinktherestuarant [sic] on its main street sign.
So far, so farcical. And it's fair to ask, if Pink is this ridiculous even before you walk through the door, why treat it like a proper restaurant? Largely because places like this are no longer anomalies, and powerful social media platforms like Instagram and the influencers who use them mean that even though 'Pink. The Restaurant' has put a lot of effort into the first part of its title and very little into the second, at two months in, it has 30,000 Instagram followers and, according to its real-estate-agent-turned-budding-restaurateur owner Darren Male, it is pulling in 1200 punters a week.
Should you choose to be one of them, even out of morbid curiosity, you will walk through an Italian canteen (more on this later) and ascend the peachy staircase into an embarrassment of pink. From dusty blush to teenage mortification and vivid fuchsia nightmare, they haven't missed a shade in the Barbie palette. It's on the floors, the walls, the welcome mural of plastic flowers and staining every cocktail destined to be pressed to freshly plumped lips.
Need proof Pink is more about pouts than pizzas? The two-tier restaurant has a dedicated selfie studio, where you can preen and snap yourself before a fluffy bureau, but no kitchen. Instead, the menu, riddled with enough wellness buzzwords and grammatical goofs to make a subeditor weep into their inhaler, is assembled downstairs at Rozzi's – a pizza shop from whose glowing bains-marie you may have inhaled a slice while staggering down Swanston Street at 2am.
"We use a different part of the kitchen," assures our waitress. A stakeout downstairs reveals this is true. Owner Male assures me that their five qualified chefs use the highest quality ingredients to create a menu that makes the perfect canvas for buzzword bingo.
"What are blue soba noodles?" I ask our waitress, who drops into a deep, wide legged squat to tell me she thinks soba is a noodle made of chickpeas (they are actually buckwheat as a rule, here stained royal blue with vogueish superfood ingredient blue algae).
So far, so silly, but harmless. Then comes the food, our entire order of bruschetta (a watery, majority mix of onion-to-tomato on cool charcoal buns), pizza, salad and pastas arriving at once, in the hands of servers who try to clear space telepathically by staring at our table.
A wonky spill of red stains only part of our pizza crust (aka their "signature pink pizza dough") almost like a blood spatter at a crime scene. An attempt to raise a slice sees the thick layer of stretchy mozzarella, and highly processed sausage mudslide off a spongy, blond base that hasn't, in #fitspo terms, worked on its core. I'd reference high street meatlover's pizzas circa the '90s, with one caveat: this costs $28.90. The prawn pizza is $31.
Perhaps, we theorise, you are not supposed to eat the food, rather photograph it and leave? This would explain the $22 rainbow salad's superficial layer of superfoods (avocado, luminous soba, turmeric-coconut dressing) beneath which lurks a cheekily thick, already dressed strata of garden variety green salad.
Ditto the $27.90 bought-in pumpkin tortellini. You'd never know about those chalky edges if you only snapped their pasty pink burnt butter and sage sauce, nor the inverse softness of a uniform mass of fettuccine tossed with cooked chicken and tangy but under-seasoned tomato sauce.
Only, here's the thing. For a restaurant for whom aesthetics are king, the veneer is truly thin. The paint job on the walls and barriers is as translucent and wonky as that stain on our pizza. Our blushing cocktails are pretty, almost identical, except that one is as arrestingly sour as the other is squintingly sweet.
If self love truly is the pitch of Pink, that's perfect. Because Pink will not love you. This is a restaurant as onanistic as it is narcissistic with beauty that doesn't even run skin deep.
Vegetarian Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and options available.
Drinks Skip the cocktails except for pics and stick to beers and mid-tier wines.
Cost Pizzas $21.90-$31.90; pastas $24.90-$28.90.
Pro Tip: Take a picture, leave the cannoli.
Go-to Dish: If you must, go for LOLs and order light.