Monday, June 14, 2010

Melbourne Day 2: Lunch at Stalactites

Stalactites Restaurant
177-183 Lonsdale St, Melbourne CBD

No holiday is complete without some kind of misunderstanding with directions. Kat only had one compulsory objective for the trip: buy a mug from a Greek shop. We didn't know where the Greek district was. She remembered it being Lygon St but my food knowledge told me (correctly) that this was the Italian district. I wanted to check out Lygon St anyway for completeness sake so we made our way in that general direction.

We ran into other tourists who pointed out the general direction but then subsequently got very lost.

After backtracking a long, long, long way we found the Italian portion of Lygon St and continued through.

Finally, I Googled the 'Greek District' on my iPhone (arguably, this should have been done prior to setting out) and we came to the realization that we were seeking out the wrong street. Further backtracking lead us, ironically, near our hotel but we did find what we were looking for.

Katherine got her mugs from an extremely Greek-looking store (tonnes of Greek merchandise and authentic Greek shop owner; I was blinded by the degree of blue and white) and we were directed to the best Greek restaurant.

This was Stalactites (having a lot of trouble spelling this) which was conveniently just a couple stores over.

At first I felt excited by how busy it was because like many others I have the opinion that if busyness doesn't always indicate excellence, then at least quietness is a sign of no good. So we took this as a good sign... that is, until we stood inside being ignored for a couple of minutes by a waiter who strolled right past our noses TWICE.

"Um... no, we are not just standing there to add to the shop decor. We do want a table, please."

After being seated, we copped more of the questionable service. Rushed waiters. No one to take our order. Quite meh.

What really got us steaming was the epic wait.

Beverages - coke and Greek coffee

We got our beverages reasonably early on. Kat got a Coke (I won't bother reviewing that for obvious reasons) and I tried a Greek coffee. The coffee was full-bodied but a bit grainy. Kat said that her mum makes it better. She tried to save her Coke for when we got our food but that didn't work out...

40min after we ordered, 3 tables around us whose diners had been seated AFTER us had gotten our meals. Being as malleable as I am, I tried to justify this by thinking that they had ordered simple foods whilst I had chosen more of a 'proper main' that perhaps took longer to cook (even though I picked it off their 'lunch specials of the day' menu so it should have been quickly prepared). However, I stopped making excuses for them... after all, we also ordered a bowl of chips. Surely that could have been brought out first.

There was an issue with the dip we chose... there wasn't enough of it left so a waiter came to ask if we were OK with another dip. Yes, yes, fine. Just bring out the chips please.

20min later, still nothing. As much as I didn't want our food to be spat in, I waved a waitress over to complain. Both Katie and I knew that it wasn't going to do anything. I HATE sounding judgmental but there exists waitressing types that you simply KNOW are not going to do anything about your complaints. She looked at us with disdain and walked off. Less than a minute later (obviously she had not gone to the kitchen), she strolled past our table without any acknowledgment.

Franky P*SSED now, I called our original waiter over (who I have mentally deemed 'the nicer one') and before I opened my mouth, he preempted the question and said 'your food is on the way ladies'. Another wait later, it was finally at our tables.

Mixed souvlaki

Because I've been so carried away with my service frustration, I have forgotten to mention what we ordered. Katherine went for a combination souvlaki off their regular menu. It looks like a gourmet kebab... quite visually appealing with its drippings of sauce. She said it was delicious.

Chips and tarama (homemade caviar and lemon dip)

Kat wanted a bowl of chips. I wanted pita and dip. To compromise, we ordered chips and dip. As I mentioned before, the dip we were going to get was unavailable so we had the tarama instead. This was against Kat's will since she claims she has it at home 'all the time' (Kat's Greek btw). Well I don't have such a privilege but boy, I wish I did! Dip = very moreish and the chips weren't outstanding on their own, but they weren't soggy or cold and did a wonderful job of being perfectly dipable.

Braised lamb in lemons

As for what I ordered... Stalactites also had a lunch specials menu and I chose a main off that, based on the fact that it sounded good despite me not knowing what half the words meant. We all like a bit of surprise every now and again? This was a nice surprise. It was a very homely dish with beautiful flavors. The sourness of the lemon was very present yet not overpowering. The lamb was beautifully tender and melting and the cabbage soaked up the juices.

House bread and butter

What was annoying is that the menu specified that these meals would be served with house bread and butter. I had to chase mine up and once it came, decided it was DELICIOUS bread. The thought of nearly missing out makes me angry!

To be perfectly honest, as soon as I put a fork in my mouth, my negative emotions just oozed off. This is a rare occurrence. I'm usually quite a rageful person, especially with service as bad as we experienced here. I suppose this is the miracle of good food... that it just transports your emotions completely.

Katie summarized it pretty accurately: "this must be one of the best meals I have had with the worst service".

The important verdict is: was it worth it? I thought so. The food won me over. I think Kat was a little less quick to forgive. It should be mentioned though that Stalatcites are open 24/7 so maybe if you go at a quiet hour, you can forgo the wait? When next I'm in Melbourne, I'd probably be willing to give that a shot.

Stalactites on Urbanspoon

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