I thought this place was called Mr. Hyde. Which I considered appropriate because it’s taken over the space formerly occupied by Dr.Jekyll. Mr Hive is where Gordon Ramsay opened his much-vaunted but short-lived restaurant called Maze as part of the Crown complex.
I went to the opening of Maze, stayed overnight in one of the Metropol’s fantastic, Japanese-themed glass and dark wood rooms and still remember the plushness of the dressing gowns. Potty-mouthed Gordon was there that night and the food was stunning in a dark, from memory, fairly masculine room.
Next morning we went back to Maze in the harsh hours of daylight and was struck by the unappealing aspect of the place. It looked out over a grubby part of South Melbourne with a grimy car mechanics joint the main feature of the view.
I didn’t go back, and I guess most of Melbourne didn’t, because as a regular to Crown, that end of the complex didn’t emit a siren song when you have places like Rockpool and Bistro Guillaume and the Atlantic and Nobu down the ritzy end.
We started at the bar end of Mr. Hive’s and it is welcoming and practical with comfy stools, honey-comb tables and couches if you like.
The impact when I first walked into the actual restaurant was a positive one. Somebody else had obviously balked at the boulevard of broken parts outside and hidden them with curtains and knick-knacks.
Mrs. Nosebag and I dined as guests of Crown with some stalwarts from the previous night’s Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal including Jennifer Kyte and Kerri-Ann Kennerly.
These days I’m getting used to boy chefs like Ben Shewry from the world class Attica at Ripponlea so I wasn’t too surprised when I met exec. chef John Lawson. He’s all of 29. He put on a great showcase of his French-inspired dishes.
I’m still on the pregnant woman’s diet [post liver transplant] but I was tempted to try a chicken pate that others raved about. I did have a delicate slice of poached salmon and made a rare excursion into the world of roast pork. Small cubes of pork crisped and caramelised with, to me, a sort of Japanese touch. The chunks were served with cubes of watermelon that had had something done to them that made them stunning. Plus some white balls that I enjoyed but couldn’t at first tell what they were. Not onions, not white radish. They were turnip.
For a main, I had beautiful pile of golden prawns served on mashed white polenta with snap peas. Next to me, Club 23 honcho Ishan Ratnam, was faced with a big succulent steak on a wooden platter. First time I’ve been tempted to eat steak in yonks. Other diners tell me the steaks are as good there now as they were when a feature of Ramsay’s tenure. And their slow-cooked lamb is a signature dish.
They’re big on indulgent desserts at Mr. Hive. Even have a dessert bar to hunker down at. The star dish is a raspberry soufflé with a dollop of raspberry sorbet dive-bombed into it at the last minute. We went for what can only be described as a log of dark chocolate with caramel and crunchies [like the bark they serve at Rockpool] and a scoop of peanut ice cream.
And just when you thought it was over, out came a post-dessert dessert. A great gimmick. Miniature milk bottles full of chocolate milk, topped with a choc and caramel ball as a ‘cork’ and served with a straw.
Mr. Hive is good. It deserves to be a hive of activity. You can even go to the bar and have a pie and mash or mini-burgers. It’ll be a pity if it is ‘wasted’ only on people who are staying at the Metropol. Because of its location it’s a bit of a secret. It’s worth a culinary game of ‘hive and seek’.