The Cullen is a glamorous boutique hotel in Prahran which has been inspired by artist Adam Cullen, and it’s one of the series of Art Hotel popping up in Melbourne.

While a hotel is not an obvious location for dining out, a high-end boutique hotel does have a certain reputation for quality to uphold, and that extends to its food options. On one side of The Cullen is the heaving branch of CBD’s Hutong Dumpling, while the other side is flanked by the much quieter Terrace Bar & Bistro.

The Terrace Bar & Bistro offers middle-of-the-road Mod Oz/Mediterranean fare at mid-range prices. The extensive menu spans antipasti, pasta/risottos, pizza and mains and there’s nothing particularly unexpected or unusual about it.

The décor is also uncontroversial, featuring polished floors, screen printed lamp shades and an open kitchen. The vibe is informal, the service friendly, there’s nothing really to complain about.

So why the NOT? Well, because I thought it was all a bit yawn-worthy.

I had the antipasto plate ($18) with items selected by the chef. Normally it comes with cured meats or fish but feeling virtuous I asked for vegetarian items. Very pretty to look at, but no real taste sensations (and maybe that’s my own fault for discarding the meat and fish). Nice toasted ciabatta with drizzled with olive oil.

The mushroom risotto was liberally dotted with mushrooms and looked very hearty. D described it as ‘good’. I have no idea what was dotted on top but given how creamy it looked already I’m not sure whether another dollop of dairy was necessary to add richness.

L had a rib eye with red wine gravy ($35) but had to order sides separately, so she went for the huge mound of buttery mashed potato. Main course meats or fish that come with nothing are a personal pet peeve of mine, but I know it is very common practice.

The baby roast chicken looked the most appetising of the bunch but the meat was a little bit too dry and the plate was drenched with too much oil for J.

We shared an impressively large bowl of fries ($8) with tomato sauce and aioli which unfortunately consisted of mostly soggy chips. I hate soggy chips.

The Terrace Bar & Bistro was pleasant enough but left no real impression on me such that I would be hungering to return, telling you all about my amazing time there. I’m sure many others will disagree with me and tell me how great their pizzas are or their chocolate pudding or whatever, but it just drives a path that’s too safe for my personal preference. It’s arguable that my impression was coloured by the kind of dishes we ordered, but honestly our choices were very typical of the kind of food on offer generally. Just call me a food snob for that night! Meh.

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