6111 Little Collins St
Melbourne, 3000 VIC
I have a few foodie confessions: I don’t like oyster (though I am trying). I don’t drink wine (but I do like vermouth). I adore Nandos and its peri-peri sauce with a conflagration of passion, and I have never had lobster. In my defence, my parents were essentially from the mountains – I mean, try telling someone from Alice Springs that they should have more fresh seafood. And although we’ve increased our seafood intake since moving to Australia’s sunny shores, our diet is mainly limited to fish, and the occasional prawn or two.
So to remedy my lobster-less existence, I was ecstatic to be invited to sample the All About Lobster menu at Harry’s Restaurant and Bar. Except instead of the restaurant, we were led up to the presidential suite of the Stamford Hotel, where we had two chefs waiting to cook up a feast of crustacean for us. Ooh-la-la! The star is the slipper lobster, which have just come into season. There were a total of 5 menu items ranging from $15 to $30, depending on if you’re dropping by for lunch, dinner, or a drink at the bar.
First up, the indulgent lunchtime offer of Grilled Slipper Lobster Burger ($15). This was the quintessential summer fish burger with avocado, tomato relish, and aioli. Except instead of a fish fillet, there was a lightly battered chunk of lobster, giving the simple pub lunch a whiff of elegance.
The full-sized meal was only for display and photos; we were served mini slider versions of the burger instead. Luckily all that meant was that there was a better lobster-to-everything-else ratio, and there were enough left to satisfy anyone who wanted seconds. I wish they gave us some chips on the side though.
Next up was the other lunch option – the Slipper Lobster with Ricotta Ravioli ($19).
First impressions were gorgeous; the smell of butter and parmesan wafted tantalisingly, and each plate was plated as prettily as a garden. Unfortunately the pasta was a little undercooked, the texture tough, rather than silky like I had imagined. But that wasn’t enough to overshadow the delicious combination of ricotta, lobster, mushroom, and generous amounts of butter brought to life by a splash of apple cider vinegar. This one really got the crowd babbling.
I was very excited to try the Char Grilled Slipper Lobster ($19).
Plates upon plates of lobster tails sizzled in the pan, the heat releasing the aroma of the chillies, garlic, and herbs.
Though simple, it doesn’t get much better than pearly lobster flesh that lifted out of the shell in one whole piece, and dipped into garlic aioli. I managed to grab seconds, but inside I was jonesing for thirds and fourths. That said though, would it REALLY kill these guys to give us some of the sweet potato chips?
One of the more unusual offerings was a dinner option – the Thai Dry Red Curry of Slipper Oyster ($28). Fish curries I’m used to, but I thought it was only millionaires that got to have lobster in a curry!
I have mixed feelings about this dish. On one hand, the curry was as good as any you’d get in a Thai restaurant, if not better. The spices were a gorgeous balance between the warmth of ginger and chilli, and the cooler notes of lemongrass and Thai basil. There was a wonderful depth of flavour, accentuated with crisp fried shallots.
So what was my rub? As great as the curry was, I couldn’t help but feel that the bold sauce completely buried the subtle flavours of the lobster. It could’ve been anything, even imitation crab meat, for all of it I could taste. And guys? You need to serve these dishes with their accompanying sides! This would’ve been twice as enjoyable had we had some of the jasmine rice to mop up the dregs of curry.
The climax of the night was the rich man’s surf-n-turf – a Grilled Slipper Lobster with Slow Braised Otway Pork Belly ($30), which I think was what everyone was looking forward to the most. Or maybe I’m just projecting.
This one was a letdown in my opinion. Despite the beautiful plating and tantalising concept, I just felt that the pork belly (a bit stringy) and lobster (a bit dry) just didn’t gel, and it wasn’t helped by the overly sugary and fruity raisin jus. I did however enjoy the very naughty square of pork crackling on top.
And our sweet ending was a plate of petit fours, from which we were encouraged to take as many as we would like. I sent Chris back for seconds so I wouldn’t look like a glutton… except now I’ve just outed myself. Bummer.
For those of you who think lobster is only for the uber-wealthy, think again. Rock up to Harry’s Restaurant any time in August to get your lobster fix without breaking the bank. It’s not haute cuisine, but then again, you get to walk out with a full stomach and a relatively intact wallet. You can’t win it all.