Knowing that both Spice Market and MoMo were upmarket we dressed well for the occasion and headed to Spice Market around 8:30pm. There was no queue (and had there been one we'd have been on the guest list due to our dinner reservation) but it still took a while for the door lady, I guess the call them hostesses, to find Steve's name on her iPad and then she had to take my name too! You know a place thinks it's too cool for school when the guest list is not a clipboard with a Bic biro attached but an iPad!
We also had to get a stamp and it's been a long time since we've had one of those at an evening establishment! This place even dictated where they would stamp us - inner wrist if you want to know.
Finally we made our way down the stairs into this Asian inspired bar which reminded me a lot of Buddakan in New York. There were Asian statues everywhere and little rooms and nooks with lots of rich velvet cushions, birdcages hanging from the ceiling, dim lighting, loud music.
Cocktails were delicious. I started off with a rhubarb and raspberry martini before moving to a more strawberry based concoction. The longer we were there, the more the place filled up with the well heeled and high heeled uber cool Melburnian set!
I'd love one day to hire one of the booths with girlfriends and work my way down the cocktail list or host a party in one of their private areas. Sadly the minimum tabs are way over my budget so I'll have to make door with standing at the bar or sitting in the main area.
MoMo is beautifully decorated with sparkly light fittings and detailed furnishings. It's dimly lit for atmosphere I guess although that does make menu reading a little difficult.
Wait staff are efficient and all speak with a very posh accent so some may find this a bit stuffy. We rose to the occasion dressed in our finery and put on our best British accent. Steve even dropped his Hull accent for the night and called it Moh - Moh as opposed to Mer Mer which it would be had this be place be on Beverley Road, Hull!
We opted for the Moorish feast which basically consisted of 4 entrées, 2 mains, 4 sides and a dessert plate. Our waiter was very serious and said that it was his responsibility to tell us that this would mean a LOT of food and most people don't find this manageable. We decided to not let this deter us!
Out came two fish dishes:
- Seafood Eshkeneh - Persian style rockfish soup with fenugreek and egg threads
- Warm salad of roasted barramundi with fennel, tarragon and buffalo feta
The barramundi was well cooked and the fennel and parsley flavours vibrant and fresh. I've got to say though that the Middle Eastern flavour influences - fennel, parsley, tarragon, mint aren't my preferred flavours as I'm not into aniseedy and strong herby tastes. I can see why some people who love those flavours would do well with this dish but for me, although everything was perfectly executed it didn't hit my flavour spot.
I was looking forward to the Buffalo feta in the barramundi dish but there was very little of it and although I could taste the odd crumb here and there, it was too subtle.
- Duck breast roasted on the bone, creamy lentil - burghul pilav and baby beets
- Kifta nayee - Middle Easter style beef tartare with basil, marjoram, smoky chilli and garlic bread
The flavours of the beef tartare were good although the smoked chilli was very subtle and I wouldn't have minded a touch more. The texture was a little strange - not quite slimy but very very smooth and slippy - almost like sausage meat or beef paste. We ate it all so obviously was good if a little strange.
- Kurobuta pork rib eye, spinach gozleme, creamy freekah with pumpkin and pearl onions
- Quail in dukkah crumbs, cardamom bacon, mushrooms and beans in verjuice
Side dishes were:
- Salad - e Shirazi with edible flowers
- Goat's milk halloumy fritters, almonds and leatherwood honey
- Warm melting leek salad, shankleesh cheese, bastourma and pumpkin seeds
- Whipped Dutch cream potatoes, French butter and pine nuts
- Seasonal fruits, pear and juniper sorbet, pistachio halva and dried grapefruit
- Persian saffron tart, passionfruit curd and mascarpone cheese
- Rich hot chocolate and Kahlua cake stuffed with whipped Medjool date
- Lemon and orange flower ice cream, dried rose and hazelnut crumble
The pastry of the tart and the passionfruit curd was delicious. The chocolate fondant was a bit too heavy and rich and I couldn't taste the Kahlua which in Steve's case is a good things as he doesn't like coffee. The ice cream and crumble dish was a bit meh to me and I couldn't taste the real flavours of the ice cream. It was just cold and creamy and a bit citrussy.
The overall opinion of the meal is that we appreciate Greg Malouf's work and combinations of flavours. We have to concede that it's not our preferred flavours but we still enjoyed it. We found the wine quite pricey and the wait staff a little affected and luvvie like which means we never quite felt 100% at ease.
The biggest gripe I have is the length of time between courses. Whilst waiting for our mains, one of the waiters (the one who served us the majority of the time) came to inform us that "the kitchen was having a small melt down" which although the place was full, it wasn't overly full seems a little bit strange and you'd think a two hatted establishment charging the prices it does would have a well oiled kitchen team but I guess there are always off nights and bad nights!
Whilst waiting for dessert a different waiter told us that the chef had had to re do our chocolate cake as he wasn't happy with the first batch which on the one hand is a positive as it means nothing sub standard leaves the kitchen, but on the other hand should professionals have to re do things? I'm not really sure but it did mean I was getting pretty sleepy by the time dessert came and I just wanted it to arrive so I could eat, leave and head home!
During our wait time, the waiter who had served us the most was nowhere to be seen so I assume he'd finished for the night. The number of wait staff around had dwindled and they were pretty much tidying up, replacing table cloths, polishing glasses etc. Whilst I don't have a problem with this activity happening after I've had my meal and am just relaxing with a post dinner drink, it feels strange when it's happening and I'm still waiting for food.
I'm really glad we went and we experienced some really good dishes like the fish soup, duck and mashed potato. If we were given the money we'd spent on the meal again, we'd probably head to Ezard instead where the Asian flavours are more up our street and the wait staff more on our wavelength.