Lunch at Money Order Office is a gloomy, macabre kind of dining experience.

The hidey-hole entrance is on Drivers Lane, off Little Bourke Street, and a set of stone steps descends into the dungeon (I mean restaurant) via an automatic door which opens on your approach with a creepy squeeeeak. I expected Lurch from the Addams Family to greet me rather than a smiling waitress.

I can only describe the décor as a glamorous haunted house – simultaneously plush and ghoulish. One side of the room is lined with intimate 4-person booths, leather couches abound and I seem to remember a claw-footed bathtub (with a skeleton?) the last time I visited years ago.

Given that the restaurant/bar is an underground cavern it’s not a venue that naturally comes to mind for lunch, particularly when the sun is shining bright. However, they offer a 3 course lunch for $35 which is good value in terms of filling your tummy but varies in quality. For dinner it turns into a tapas bar.

The menu has 3 options for entrees, 3 options for mains and 2 desserts and you can order each dish a la carte if you don’t fancy all three courses.

C and I chose a poached pear salad with wild rocket and valderon with lemon vinaigrette ($14) and the roast pumpkin and pomegranate salad with toasted almonds, goat’s cheese and pumpkin puree ($12). Neither of those dishes was particularly impressive and were more suited to being a side dish to a main meal than a course in itself.

My salad was as a pretty pedestrian combination with no hint of the advertised dressing.

C described the other dish as ‘pumpkin on pumpkin’ which would have benefited from a handful of the wild rocket from my plate for some colour and textural contrast.

I can never go past pork belly when it’s on the menu so I had twice cooked pork belly with jamon, savoy cabbage and cider foam ($18). The meat was tender but the skin was not at all crispy (though not chewy, thankfully). The cabbage was too soggy and overcooked for my liking and the cider foam was ignored after one exploratory mouthful – it was like eating cold, alcoholic shaving cream.

C fared better with her tempura monkfish ($16) which was lightly crusted and juicy inside and accompanied by saffron aioli but a slightly weedy watercress salad.

Things picked up with the last course. A large slice of chocolate truffle cake ($9) was a familiar and filling dessert with lots of chocolate and a thin biscuit base, while the vanilla and goats curd mousse ($9) was a standout, a dense mousse (like cheesecake filling) served inside a miniature preserving jar with some spiced orange and figs and crumbled nuts.

All in all, C and I agreed that Money Order Office didn’t offer a bad meal. Overall the food was ok and the service attentive and it was easy to get a table for lunch. But the experience wasn’t so good that we’d be tempted to return, even to try the tapas, or necessarily recommend it to others given the myriad of other, better options in close vicinity.

But if you’re a vampire, Goth or albino Money Order Office might be just your kind of restaurant.

Money Order Office , 2 Drivers Lane, Melbourne  +61 3 9639 3020

Tuesday – Friday 12pm-3pm
Bar: Tuesday – Saturday 5pm-late
Tapas: Tuesday- Thursday 6pm, Friday-Saturday 5:30pm

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