I liked the vibe of the place - unusual lighting, tall ceilings, lots of room. The wait staff or retro kooky with the men in braces / suspenders accessorising with a fedora or a pork pie hat, checked epaulettes and / or a bow tie. There's definitely a folky kind of tone to the place made hip because it's Melbourne!
The menu is wide with something for the adventurous palette but also staying homely and comforting. There's some French influences with the Wagyu Bourguignon and Barramundi cassoulet.
A pretty and delicate dish, the fish went well with the clean, sharp flavours of the pickled veggies and the acidic tang and saltiness of the preserved lemon puree which almost added a bitter flavour to the creamy fish.
I thought cured mackerel would be quite a robust fish given it has such strong flavours when cooked but actually the fish flavours were muted and almost creamy. Although I liked this dish and the way they components needed each other to come together, I prefer mackerel cooked. The texture here was a little too "flabby" in the mouth for me.
The scallops, pigs’ trotters, stuffed with black pudding, sliced intrigued us on the menu. It come on piped mashed potato (winner) and we both loved the sweet scallops and spicy black pudding. The pigs trotter casing was almost squid like in texture and the pairing of pork, black pudding, scallop and some vegetable puree is a classic flavour combination. It was executed perfectly in this dish. Reminiscent of something similar at Cicciolina, it was a little more refined but taste wise just as great.
The beef remained rare and the gravy was delicious. The potatoes had a meaty flavour to them and a great soft texture on the inside but a toasty roasty flavour from the outside. This was a huge portion for one person. I don't know how one person could get through it. We split it and felt it was just the right size!
We shared most of our dishes and it was a great way to dine but our table wasn't big enough to do this on! We felt a little like we were playing real life Tetris with all the plates etc.
Steve went with the modern mandarin cheesecake which was effectively 5 cubes of vanilla cheesecake and each with a different type of mandarin based topping - poached, gel, jelly, puree, mousse...it was all there! Fun and interesting.
Overall we were impressed by the quality of food at Virgina Plain. The portion sizes were generous and the wine list covers every taste and every budget. The service we experienced from our Italian waiter was friendly and enthusiastic. It's a shame it was pretty quiet which made the ambience a little flat but it's still early days. I like the fact that there is something for everyone. Steve and I discussed it as a good place to bring his family as Dad can try the weird stuff and Mum can enjoy braised beef and mash.