The Cliveden Bar & Dining, East Melbourne

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MELBOURNE | The Cliveden Bar & Dining is a restaurant and bar that sits on the ground floor of the hotel Pullman on the Park that is aiming to “reinvent the buffet”. While talk of buffets usually sends us running in the opposite direction, we took up an invitation to dine here partially out of curiosity, and partially because of what was once here.

The site was once home to Cliveden Mansion, the one time largest private residence in Melbourne, built in 1887. Some time later the house was converted into apartments, which had no kitchens, so food was instead prepared in a single kitchen and served in the building’s dining room. By the 1980s and 90s, the apartments had become a hotel run by Hilton, and the dining room, which now housed a fine dining restaurant, one of Melbourne’s places “to be seen”.

The 2017 Cliveden is a decidedly different affair to all of that. As part of Pullman’s $6m renovation of the building, the space has been transformed into a large, airy, light filled 202 seat dining space and an adjacent bar that can seat a further 116 people. It’s a mixed crowd, from hotel guests to people needing a pre or post MCG feed, groups of friends, and families with children and grandparents. It’s all very accessible and there’s something for everyone.

The menu, designed by head chef John Ross, is a buffet of fresh local produce in Mediterranean and European-inspired cuisine. Forget bain maries with uninspired slop. Here it’s food on proper plates and trays, with hot dishes Le Creuset cookware. There are stations for seafood, salads, hot dishes, and desserts along with a carvery and kitchen where a number of meals are cooked to order.

We started our meal in the bar section, where we sampled two of the Cliveden’s cocktails along with some bar snacks, which are ordered a la carte from a separate bar menu. The bar menu features a number of tapas style dishes, salads, charcuterie and cheeses, and a few larger meals. Hummus is served with whole chickpeas and toasted Italian bread and makes for a tasty snack, while the chorizo, smoked tomato, capsicum & basil is exceptionally good and packs a nice heat kick.

For drinks its a mixture of local and imported wines, beers and ciders, spirits and cocktails. Cocktails are split into “classics” and “signature”. We were particularly fond of the “The Eastside”, a light and bubbly concoction of Melbourne Gin Company Gin, Grapefruit syrup, and Santa D’Sas Prosecco.

Moving to the dining room, and there’s a lot to choose from. We visited during a weeknight, where the set price is $59.50 per person for the buffet plus a glass of selected wine, prosecco or beer and a serve of coffee or tea. On weekends the price jumps up to $95.50, with the main difference being a greater availability of seafood options. There’s also a breakfast and lunch buffet.

We tried a bit of everything and overall were quite impressed. It’s clear that the quality of ingredients is higher than what one usually expects from a buffet, although we did find it odd that more effort isn’t made with the descriptions to let diners know about where all of the produce is from. Given the quality of the produce, we’d love to know more about it rather than be told no more than “SA oysters” or “Victorian ham” – both of which, incidentally, were very good. The other seafood like mussels and prawns, along with the cheese and charcuterie is all tasty.

On the hot station, we loved the Rangers Valley wagyu roast, which was tender and full of flavour, and were also fans of the puy lentils. Cooked to order options include things like steak and mushroom, which we didn’t try (there’s only so much that one can fit in, even at a buffet) and a very tasty gnocchi with napoli sauce. On the downside, the lamb that we tried was overcooked and slightly chewy, and the salads weren’t particularly inspiring.

Moving on to dessert, and the hero is undoubtedly the chocolate fountain. A selection of fresh fruit and sweets like marshmallows and brownies are laid out to be skewered as you wish then lathered with molten chocolate. Delectable. There’s also a variety of cakes to choose from too.

We approached the Cliveden with an open mind and are glad that we did. There are a lot more hits than misses, and while the weekend price of $95.50 is probably pushing the limits of what we’d pay for a buffet, $59.50 is very good value for what’s on offer. It’s not often we say this, but this is a buffet we’d return for.

The Cliveden Bar & Dining

192 Wellington Parade
East Melbourne
Victoria 3002
Australia

Telephone: (03) 9412 3013
E-mail: [email protected]
Website

Open
Mon – Fri: 6:30am to 12:00am
Sat – Sun: 7:00am to 12:00am

The Cliveden Bar & Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Paul
Paul
Paul founded The City Lane back in 2009 as a place to share photos of his travels around Europe with friends and family. The City Lane might have changed quite a lot since those early days but one thing that’s remained constant is Paul’s passion for food, travel and culture, and a desire to photograph and write about his experiences. Paul has a strong inquisitive nature that drives him to look beneath the surface in order to discover what really makes a city and its people tick, and what better way to do this than over a good meal or drink, with a city’s locals, at places that people who live in that city actually frequent. Paul is also a co-host of The Brunswick Beer Collective, a podcast that may or may not actually be about beer.

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