Level 1 Crown Entertainment Complex, 8 Whiteman Street Southbank
Something about the word ‘buffet,’ just makes you drool that little bit more. Is it the thought of an endless amount of food on offer for the one price? Is it the thought that rather than agonise over the seemingly endless food choices in the menu, you can try a little bit of everything? Or are we a gluttonous breed that just wants to nom nom nom?
Does anyone actually realise that our stomachs can never digest more than our eyes can absorb?
With high hopes of a banquet feast, we ventured off to The Conservatory on a Sunday for lunch, to celebrate our 6 year wedding anniversary. Awww. I had booked in advance, and upon arrival we were immediately seated at a table with high chair for baby girl ready and waiting. Superb.
The room was amazing. We weren’t seated near the windows, but even so you could see the city skyscrapers and the Yarra River below. Sun room indeed. It was an amazing location. The interior had great high cathedral-like ceilings, and though everything, from the white décor to the staff presentation to the customers themselves, were of a very high and poshy standard, there was a warmth to the atmosphere too. Maybe it was the surprise of the glorious sun shining through on that Autumn day.
It was a very nice feeling to know we were going to be there for the next few hours.
Our lunch buffet session was to last from 12:15 – 3:00pm. I had plans to have little plates and try to taste a little bit of most of the dishes on offer there. I certainly couldn’t try a bit of everything, not only because not everything is to taste, but really? It would be a difficult job stomaching too many flavours together.
As I haven’t food-blogged recently, and having the wonderful bonus of our daughter getting cranky in her high chair, I forgot to photo my first dish. So I kind of had it again for this posts’ sake.
Following are the photos I took on the day, with some brief descriptions.
My lovely wine, with the unmistakable white background and Hubbie’s meal.
No I don’t eat prawns, cheese and bread together – the bread and cheese were for baby girl. The prawns were lovely and fresh, really enjoyable.
She didn’t like the cheese, I think it was a bit of a rich, heavier cheddar, so I later brought back bocconcini which she loved.
I had a kind of sweet chilli chicken salad, which had a decent kick to it – I liked that. I had a few rice paper rolls, which also had a bit of bite due to the lemongrass I think, and I chose those specific ones because I was on a prawn-fest and was craving seafood.
The sushi had cucumber and prawn with some kind of paste, and also not pictured I tried a mussel which had spicy oil flavours drizzled over it. All were great. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the chicken salad though, considering there were no carbs in it.
I next had food from the Indian/Asian station, which comprised of vegetable and pork dumplings with soy sauce, a spicy papaya salad, tandoori chicken, a mild potato curry, and I think what was saffron rice.
I loved the vegetable dumplings – I should have gotten more of those. The papaya salad surprised me too with its spices, whereas the chicken, potato curry and rice were warm and comforting.
By this stage I had had 4 plates. Some were small, some comprised of light seafood, but still four plates equalled a bit of consumption. I took that opportunity to give myself a needed food break and try to find a change room for baby girl.
*Parents, take note.* By all means, take your nappy-wearing children out with you, everywhere, anywhere you dine, much like we do… just be advised that if eating at the Conservatory, you will have to jump on a golf buggy to find the nearest suitable toilets.
I went through two levels before I found a very kind Crown employee who discovered there was a baby change table in the disabled toilets of The Waiting Room, one ground below Conservatory. Take note parents!
It was probably a good half hour by the time I came back to the table, to see Hubbie brimming with happiness over his half-eaten smorgasbord of a dessert plate, telling me he’d just ordered a latte. So I had to catch up.
So did baby girl.
Above dessert plate: A raspberry tart, brownie, goats cheese cheesecake, macaroons, and some fruit with chocolate-dipped strawberries in the middle.
And I seriously thought I was going to go back for more! I couldn’t. The dessert station was a work of art in itself, my God. There were so many things I wanted to try, that I just couldn’t after I’d finished my plate… sigh.
I actually enjoyed my raspberry tart the most, although everything tasted great. Baby girl had bits of dessert here and there as well as some fruit, and then of course she had her babycino which looked great.
My coffee was great too, a much needed finishing-line drink after all that food.
Apart from the day being a celebration of when Hubbie and I exchanged vows to each other, it ended up being surprisingly punctuated by more nostalgia when I discovered that my high school homegroup teacher was eating with his family for a birthday celebration, just two tables over. I haven’t seen him for 13 years, yet we recognised each other almost immediately! It was a happy addition to a wonderful day, and it was great to see again, one of the people who positively impacted me during those crucial high school years too. What a (not) coincidence 😉
Food: 8/10. A lot of it, of a great standard, and very fresh. I almost find this difficult to rate, and explain, because usually when you eat at a restaurant you have chosen a meal that has most times been created by the chef, a meal that should be a wonderful balance and/or contradiction of flavours that dance in your mouth and that leaves you feeling satisfied, happy you ate there, and amazed at the creativity of the dish. When you dine at a buffet, YOU create the way your dish looks, YOU decide what is going to go with what and at the end of the day YOU are the responsible one for what you have eaten. Singularly, the dishes at the Conservatory were consistently great-tasting and the presentation of their food in the stations and of the stations themselves, was amazing. It’s the only food-presentation they are in control of, before we come in slap it on our plates and upload it online to show off to our friends.
Coffee: 7/10. Smooth. We discovered that the first round of coffees was free (part of the price you’re already paying really) when you are lunching there, with any subsequent coffee rounds at an additional price. With a coffee/foam each, we left happy about that.
Ambience: Really lovely. Everything looks so polished and refined, the staff breeze on by, and the people dining there are all dressed up and looking so smart… it’s an upmarket buffet experience. With views of the city coming at you through the windows, you kind of lean back in your seat and go “ahh, I could get used to this.”
Staff: Fantastic, accommodating, which I expected nothing less considering the establishment and price we paid. Our waitress in particular was really kind and friendly, explaining everything to us on arrival, and tending to our needs and baby change requests 🙂
People: There were those celebrating milestones like us, and then there were those that are so rich they rocked up an hour into service and left earlier than everyone else because they do it once a month. Generally an older crowd, I would say 30 +. A few families though, and many large groups of people, it seems to be a social gathering meeting ground.
Price: Our Sunday lunch was $95 pp. We ended up paying $212 in total with my $10 wine and Hubbie’s $12 beer. $12 for Crown?! Get your wallets ready drinkers. Children under 4 do not pay, which is great seeing as most toddlers appetites are so all over the place. (I think children 4-12 years pay 50% of the adult price). Baby girl enjoyed her bread, cheese, cheesy pita bread and bits of vegies, and of course the cake. There are things to suit the kiddies, don’t worry, especially from the dessert station – make your own ice cream cone? Hell yeah even I’ll do that!
Advice: Book in advance, no matter what. I booked 6 days in advance and lucky I did, as I hadn’t realised the Logies were on that night at the Crown! Booking wasn’t an issue though.
As for the food, I would suggest two things.
1: eat the things you like, whether they are a tired and true favourite, like in my case the fresh prawns, and the vegetable dumplings. Eat a lot of them too.
2: try different and interesting things that you have always wanted to try. I know this is in contradiction to the above point, but if you take these two things on board, you’ll leave happier. For example, I had the saffron rice, the sushi and then the macaroons for dessert – all great items which I enjoyed, but these three things I eat quite regularly, and if we’re being honest, they tasted about as good as all the other times I ate them. I was happy I tried the spicy chicken salad, because it was a different dish for me, however I wish I had also tried some of the Asian stir-fry and noodle dishes. It had been my intention, I just got too full and then it was dessert time. Also, rather than the macaroons, I should have tried one of the other magical looking sweet treats… you just gotta check out that food station. Food for thought.
In summary of the above, eat what you like but that which you don’t get to eat often!
In a nutshell: I would love to go back. They cater for dinner and breakfast as well, so you can always find a suitable time to buffet there. Taking my above two points in mind, I would go back with a vengeance. A beautiful food-lovers experience.