Not another review of the Aylesbury


These are the doors to The Aylesbury. Beautiful aren’t they, guarding the space that until it closed was the lovely pizza restaurant Barbagallo Trattoria E Pizzeria.

It wasn’t any pizza restaurant but one started by Pietro Barbagallo who brought us, and sold, the much loved I Carusi in Brunswick East.
It just goes to show how tough it is on this corner, 103 Lonsdale St.

The original crew at Seamstress a few doors away found it similarly tough and went into administration with massive debts although the venue is surviving under new owners.And by all accounts there are plenty of other places in the vicinity doing it tough at a time that consumer sentiment is at its lowest since the global financial hit 3 years ago.

It’s a time when customer service is paramount yet there are a couple of places in town where staff are consistently rude to customers.

The Newmarket Hotel in St Kilda is one, despite chef Paul Wilsons exceptional Cal-Mex spin on food, where I shall not bother to return unless it is unavoidable after some shabby treatment. I was under the misapprehension that it was a pub, but at 6pm on a Wednesday was informed it was a restaurant and couldn’t have a beer with a pal. To be fair Wilson offered me a meal on their tab via Twitter but I didn’t feel like returning.

The Aylesbury is a newcomer to this poor service club.

On a balmy Friday night, the venue didn’t look that full but two of us were rejected out of hand in an abrupt and very rude way.
I know that menu venues have a door policy to keep the drunks, dags and layabouts out. But it is no excuse for rudeness although it takes skill and experience to reject somebody and send them away happy.

You may have read reports on The Aylesbury in the new breed of gushing street mags and websites. When I revisit some of these so-called hot new venues I often think that all that counts now is to be new, not to have any kind of quality or heritage. It’s a real shame as readers are being let down by gushing prose, the kind that belongs in glossy magazine, which by the way you’ll find never post negative reviews.

And just to emphasise it, you should remember that these new media vehicles aren’t critical revues but just writing about places, promoting them.

Early reports on the food at The Aylesbury from people I trust are that it is patchy. Dishes are inconsistent and some some cases poor.
With so many new restaurants opening each month in Melbourne, I have plenty of other choices where the staff are better tempered and the food consistent.

Back in 2008, this precinct was showing promise with celebrity chef Luke Mangan about to join the throng before it was killed by the GFC.

I hope the arrogance of The Aylesbury won’t burn the owners, who opened Anada on Gertrude St to critical acclaim in 2008.

The Aylesbury on Urbanspoon


  1. Impressed,

    Thanks for the comments. Good to hearing they are doing good food. Perhaps next time they’ll even let me in.

  2. Despite these negative comments, I went to the Aylesbury for dinner on Saturday and I was impressed. The food was excellent and the service was impeccable; downright accommodating actually. Maybe because of the comments here but I’m going to believe it isn’t. Wild boar with plums – tick. Lamb ribs – massive tick. Aylesbury garden salad – delightful tick (it tastes like Aesop smells and looks even better). I’ll be back.

  3. Miss T, nice to hear the Seamstress is doing a good job.

    brian, there are a lot of snotty upstarts about all over the place. I take it very seriously when I give criticism and not without good reason. Catch up soon.

  4. Interesting comments. I really like Anada but I despise the kind of staff attitude experienced by various diners so far at the Aylesbury. I’m in no hurry to go.

    I’m also bemused to see your reasonable comments criticised by bloggers who have only been publishing for about 6 months, and whose writing is far from polished. More superfluous attitude…

  5. ah, I have read alot about The Aylesbury. Was at seamstress just this Tuesday and it was beautiful, but didnt venture any further.
    I shall proceed with caution.
    No matter how much money is spent on Greek lighting over the corner of lonsdale and spencer, it wont fix the attitude
    Love your work
    Miss T

  6. Ed, I read your post with interest and have been twice in the last week. Last Fri we went upstairs and ate what I thought was incredibly flavoursome reasonably priced tapas meal, with a nice (albeit half-sized) bottle of wine. I was told you can’t book a table upstairs, this was fine, we found a spot, we went a little later at about 8pm and both really loved it. I went last night again with a group of 6 without a booking, they told us we could eat but would have to leave after an hour, so we opted to all sit at the bar, and we did their tasting menu which is $65 per head. A few things on the food, I concur it is patchy and I don’t understand why some of the dishes available upstairs are not available downstairs. The wagyu with blood sausage and marrow crumble was incredible and the favourite of the night. The chef came and talked to us about the duck, the rare breed Ayelsbury and whilst I appreciated his enthusiasm it wasn’t my favourite dish. The lamb ribs were great, but the sides: asparagus, cauliflower and potatoes all done with their respective dressing/herbs etc were all a bit ho-hum. There was one female member of the wait staff that was incredibly nice and engaging and a very young bartender that was overly enthusiastic, the others okay. Whilst I enjoyed the bar more than the restaurant when I asked the waiter about the ingredients for the mussel dish her reply was “herbs and spices”, which was disappointing. In summary, the tasting menu is great value, but it doesn’t include a dessert, I would have liked an option with a dessert (it was 6 patisserie students so clearly we wanted to try dessert). In regard to dessert they were really very good, we tried the single origin chocolate bar with saffron ice-cream and the deconstructed strawberry cheesecake. I think the staff are young and seemed to be a little inexperienced, but I agree other than the 2 mentioned not very warm or welcoming. The space itself, especially the rooftop bar is really well done. But for me, the rooftop bar is working the best, and I’ll definitely go back, the restaurant probably not. I’m also not convinced about the wine list, but I’m no wine expert.

  7. I’m afraid my first experience with the Aylesbury has not been a happy one.

    Tonight my three work colleagues and I were denied entry, summarily advised by the young lad on the door that the rooftop bar was at capacity. However three other people were promptly admitted less than a minute later. It was 6:30pm on a Friday.

    I really hope that the current owners or managers understand their market and just who is paying for their food and drinks. If you are not going to admit professionals who are well dressed, right after work on a Friday night, I struggle to understand who you really want up there. Perhaps there’s a flaw in the door staff training as it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one to be shown this sort of disrespect. It is a staggering approach to take in these uncertain economic times.

    As it turns out, I have a business lunch reserved for the restaurant next week. Six people, food, wine – maybe not a huge amount in the overall scheme of things, but after this treatment it is very unlikely I will direct corporate accounts your way. There are many other quality and more welcoming dining and drinking options in the vicinity.

    • Hi Scaramanga,

      It sounds very similar to our experience. I think they are favouring a fashionable lot rather than the people who pay for good food especially in such a competitive district.

      It will be interesting to see how it fares.

  8. Oh that’s a really good response Ed – I understand that they cant always control their staff.
    And I *have* been to Anada and quite liked it there.
    Maybe the Aylesbury would be worth another shot if I was going with a smaller group of people. There’s some interesting politics that come into play when you’ve got a larger bunch that want food short notice.

  9. Billy, I heard that from Jess. Such as shame. Maybe if I do try again I’ll go in a few months when they’ve ironed the issues out, especially in the kitchen.

    Esz, I got a really nice letter from Jesse one of the owners so hopefully it will improve:
    ” really sorry to hear your first experience with us was not a positive one.
    The girl on the door that night obviously did not handle her role very well. We have since had a good talk and look to improve this.
    It would be great to have you in and try the food and experience the restaurant. We don’t have any door policies excluding people. As with Anada, Jess and I want everyone to feel welcome and have a great night. We have strived to pass this onto our staff but unfortunately some things happen that we don’t agree with and we can’t alway control. We are looking into ways of improving this.”

    Photomonkey, Thanks for the comments. It will be interesting to see how it develops but based on the above from Jesse maybe it will improve.

    Momo & Coco,
    All I’ve said is that I’m not planning to return because the girl at the dor was very rude to myself and my girlfriend quite unreasonably so. On that basis I made my decision not to return.

    I haven’t denigrated The Aylesbury for lack of heritage as I know the owners’ other very successful venue Anada well and they have a great track record as it’s one of the most popular spots on Gertrude St.

    Chin Chin which I helped also engaged with people on social media and takes in comments from social media to try and improve service and food.

    The good news it sounds like The Aylesbury is listening.

  10. Hi Tomato,

    Even though you didn’t manage to eat at the Aylesbury, we would concur with your comments about the slight inconsistency of the food, we labelled it as “quixotic quirks” in our blog post.

    However, the rest of your comments read as unfair and somewhat unreasonable. It isn’t particularly fair to write such a review of bad service based on one visit. We have visited 4 times, and as detailed in our blog post, service was consistently outstanding, though the kitchen itself tended to be a bit slow. We are one of the few bloggers who focus heavily on service, and we were impressed.

    Additionally, perhaps you might want to note that the Aylesbury has a bookings policy, so it is not entirely a walk-in unless you are planning to visit only the rooftop. One can also book parts of the rooftop, so there are times that they may not seem full, but they actually will be.

    It isn’t also fair to denigrate the Aylesbury for lack of “quality or heritage” just because it hasn’t a celebrity chef or a major name behind it, or merely because online magazines have been promoting its arrival (that’s their purpose to do so anyway). By contrast, we can use our three visits of Chin Chin as an example of the most atrocious service we have experienced in Melbourne and anywhere in the world – their inconsistent food (though good desserts) and their condescending, patronising staff (excluding the wine guy) are noted not only by us in our blog, but by other bloggers and patrons. That was an establishment that relied on both its “heritage” big name and also its staff connections with bloggers to fire up its hype, and to perpetuate that hype amongst those who engaged in group-think and/or who were not familiar with South-East Asian food, to not realise that MSG was merely replaced with a heavy hand of salt and oyster sauce, that lack of loud flavours was compensated by the loud noise.

    We also note that among our dining companions those who preferred the Aylesbury and likewise Cumulus, did not enjoy Chin Chin, and vice-versa. They would appear to cater for entirely a different demographic.

    We are the same in writing-off a dining venue when there is bad service, so we are unlikely to sway your opinion. It’s a pity your visit did not go through, but we thought that we would let you know that our visits were in great contrast to yours.

  11. This place was originally on the ‘Must Try’ list but the theme of many of the reviews that have come out is that it is just not up to the standard that Anada has been know for.

    Such a pity for the owners who are waving the flag for good food to be let down by a bunch of hipsters thinking that because they are so new – they can do no wrong.

    Unfortunately for them they ain’t anywhere near the standard of Chin Chin who are hitting all the right notes.

  12. Ed – We didnt stay for the food. I think we were all so annoyed about how we were treated that we went elsewhere to eat.
    The only place they had room was downstairs anyway and it was a bit too formal for us.

  13. We went there for dinner a few weeks ago. I actually found the service quite good, but then again we were a boisterous table, so I wouldn’t expect much more than for the staff to maintain a professional attitude. One of the waitresses was actually rather fun and engaging.

    Unfortunately, I have to report that the food was rather underwhelming. Many of the dishes were overly salty, and we had to send our salt-baked fish back to the kitchen, because it wasn’t cooked. We’re a little sure this contributed to our massive pork chop coming out over-cooked next. Hopefully they can iron out the kinks.

  14. Esz,
    I’ve had a few other similar comments about the place. How was the food?

  15. Wow – this is the most timely post! I was there only last night with a large-ish group of colleagues (9 of us)…we booked for dinner but they wanted to put us downstairs right at the back near the kitchen.
    On saying that we wanted to go upstairs to the bar they flat out refused us claiming “full capacity”.
    When a workmate called another workmate to see where she was, we found out she was already upstairs. With great reluctance they let us up, but still adamantly refused to let another of our party up who was a few minutes behind us.
    Upstairs it wasn’t even crowded. It was busy, but there was plenty of room.
    We certainly weren’t dressed like hobos, and were prepared to drop a lot of cash on dinner which they lost in the end because we were all so disappointed over the service.
    It does make me wonder how long such places will last if they’re so unwelcoming in the very first few months of their opening.
    We ended up going to Izakaya Den instead, which was flawless as ever.