Picture this. It’s a balmy evening. Trees gently sway, creating dappled shadows. You sit by the water’s edge and watch boats pootle along the river, the sunset glistening on your skin as you sip your drink and prepare yourself for a night of feasting.
Queensland? Bali? The Mediterranean?
No. Right here in Melbourne! To be precise, at WTC Wharf, for me an undiscovered side of the Yarra right across from the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, the wooden beams of Polly Woodside and the neon brights of Crown.
As a previous Queenslander it has always seemed remarkable to me that Melbourne has always been an inland-facing, underground-burrowing sort of city, turning its back from the river in the hunt for an unmarked laneway. Granted the Yarra river is not Sydney Harbour but still, there are some beautiful relaxing views which can be found along the water of which I don’t think we take enough advantage.
WTC Wharf is a city-fringe dining precinct hosting three restaurants which make the most of their waterside frontage – you can even reach it via the WTC Water Taxi service leaving from Federation Square. I was invited to try a progressive dinner at the precinct, dining at each of the three restaurants during the course of an evening.
Entrees were hosted by Byblos, a modern Lebanese/Mediterranean restaurant. The food is hearty and rustic and the servings are so large that you’ll be groaning out the door.
Of our selections I recommend the Rekakat – flaky filo pastries filled with feta and mozzarella with a hint of herb and onion in the mix; the very tender marinated lamb fillet and chicken tenderloin flame-grilled skewers served with a punchy garlic and lemon yoghurt sauce; and the labne blended with garlic and mint, partnered with a baba ganoush and hummus in a dips platter.
Less successful were the very dry kebbi (minced lamb and beef balls with nuts and spices) and the over-seasoned batata harra (crispy fried potatoes).
For mains we readied ourselves for a complete change in cuisine – Japanese. Kobe Jones offers a la carte riverside dining and theatrical teppanyaki and we tried two items from their teppanyaki a la carte menu.
First up was a hot salad combining oyster and enoki mushrooms flavoured in a seaweed butter atop mixed salad green. I thought it was quite an odd East/West combination and while it is included in all of the set menus I wouldn’t choose to order it a la carte for $17.
The salmon cooked on the teppan was much more to my taste. For me Japanese food is about fresh produce shining through with simple flavours and in this case the fish was enhanced with a choice of three dipping sauces – a ponzu sauce, miso citrus sauce and traditional teriyaki. I’m not sure whether the teppanyaki set menu normally provides three fillets per person but it was a very large dish – apparently 200g of fish per serve.
With barely enough room for dessert we stumbled to The Wharf Hotel, a casual bar which also serves food in the dimly lit booths at the back of the venue. The Wharf Hotel caters predominantly for a pub-going, sports-watching crowd with bar snacks, pizza, comfort food favourites and huge desserts. Hence we sampled gigantic apple pies floating on custard and topped with a silky cinnamon icecream and slabs of fluffy sticky date pudding with crunchy butterscotch sauce and caramel icecream will set you back only $12.
Of the two I preferred the pie as the pastry was flaky and the ice cream, spicy.
WTC Wharf currently hold progressive dinners at the three restaurants every Thursday night for the reasonable sum of $45 a head. Choose a sunny day after work, eat and drink your fill and enjoy the views.
Giveaway! Thanks to WTC Wharf I have 1 x $100 voucher for any restaurant in the WTC precinct. To win all you have to do is answer the question ‘If you were to go to the WTC Wharf which restaurant would you go to?’ by 5pm Friday 16 November in the comments below. The most creative will win and further terms of the competition are here.
WTC Wharf, World Trade Centre (Riverside), Siddeley St, Melbourne