The Lobster Cave and the confusions of confusions


by Pam and Ed

Imagine you were going to spend $330 on a meal for two.

You could go for a four course a la carté at Vue de Monde for $150 a head (subject to the day and time of the week). You may bust your budget when you order a glass of wine each. Still, you get the full Vue De Monde experience. And the view.

Or you could visit the Tuesday night Chef’s Table at Attica for $125 a head for five course meal and find plenty of options for the remaining $89 wine budget.

Or you could leggit down to Beaumaris to the bizarro world of the Lobster Cave and for $329 a three course meal complete with two glasses of boutique wine included.

Luckily Pam was there on a Groupon Deal and the $329 meal cost $69. Yes, you heard it. $329 of value for $69 and about 1,400+ people bought this deal.

How do they do it?

To visit the Lobster cave is to enter an alternative reality zone. I’m not talking about the illuminated fish tanks or the star-like down lights but the strange place it occupies in people’s minds. And the strange field of numbers its pricing belongs to with set menus, deals, vouchers and memberships that make it all but impossible to work out the price of anything on the menu.

The latest Groupon offer I looked at is a “$59 Three-Course Seafood Lunch with Wine for Two People at The Lobster Cave (Up to $180 Value)”. For that you’ll get to “Feast on mains like the crispy duck leg and scallops, whole seared lobster tail and sirloin mermaid 300g”. And there is the bonus of a $50 return voucher and membership to the Gold Medallion Club – worth $149 according to the paperwork Pam was given.

Pam’s offer, a birthday gift from a girlfriend, despite being a more expensive deal and featuring a picture of lobster tail, did not feature lobster to eat. Of course, she was given the Gold Medallion Club membership and a $50 discount voucher which I guess means the $329 of value equals about $130 of food and drink.

Pam’s first and only other visit to The Lobster Cave was, maybe, 15 years ago. She recalls little more than fishing nets on the walls and plastic lobsters. Or maybe that could have been somewhere else completely, a fantasy Lobster Cave.

It’s famous for the 9/20 review in The Age back in 2005 and in nine short years little has changed. Apart from its Urbanspoon rating which has rapidly risen somehow from under 50% to about 65% though still littered with complaints about the costs and the quality of produce.

Some reviews are obviously fake. Others fawning over it appear to be genuine. It’s all really odd.

This is where Pam takes over:

The reservation was for 5:45pm on a Sunday evening. My friend called the day before to confirm the reservation and was told that we should show up at 5:30 so as to avoid congestion at the door and in the kitchen. Picturing lines around the block we times our arrival for 5:27pm. There was only one group ahead of us.

We were greeted by three waiters in the doorway and as we entered the restaurant there were two more greeters. The décor had changed dramatically from my recollection. It is a large room split in two by a wall of fishtanks. The pathway between the two sections is lined with a giant tv screen displaying swimming fish.

We were shown to an immaculately laid table. Our chairs had padded seats and comfortable backs. We settled in for an evening of catching up and lots of food.

Our menu arrived. The relevant page had six choices of wine by the glass naming only the region, seven choices of entrée, eight choices of main and four choices of dessert. And large red text stating the menu was an indulgence package for 2 valued at $329.00. Wow! We couldn’t wait to try the food.

Lobster-cave-beaumaris18

We each ordered a glass of wine from the King Valley and decided to share our food; salt and pepper squid and smoked salmon as our entrees, scallops and steak as our mains (no lobster on offer in the indulgence package) and crème brûlée and chocolate tart for dessert.

We mentioned we were sharing and our waiter said they would tell the kitchen so that the food was served in the centre of the table.

The first course arrived and was presented to us by a white gloved waiter, who true to description placed the enormous dishes in the centre of the table while another waiter brought us each a plate. I started with the calamari which came with a brown clear sauce which tasted a bit like vinegar. The calamari itself was thick and cut into strips the same depth as the thickness and then crumbed and deep fried. It had a soft texture and tasted exactly like crumbed fried calamari dipped in a light vinegar.

There were five lacklustre slices of smoked salmon with a touch of garnish and a lemon to squeeze over it.

The scallops arrived in a creamy cheesy sauce. I went back and looked at the photo I’d taken of the menu. Mornay. Oops. They were accompanied by a pale yellow rice which I didn’t try. We gamely tucked into the scallops and were confounded by chunks of feta. Another look at the menu. Dodoni. Oh well.

Next onto the steak which was topped with something wriggly and brown – onions. There was also a piece of toast with something yellow on one end and a chunk of bone laid across the toast. Maybe the yellow stuff was marrow? We didn’t eat it.

My favourite part of the meal was at the other end of the plate. It had been described to us as mash but turned out to be a small pot of cheesy gnocchi. Unexpected but its chewiness was fun and it had a cheesy crust and I love cheesy crust. The steak was just okay.

Dessert. My friend enjoyed the tart and I thought the crème brûlée was very sugary. We were presented with complementary Irish cream and lollies and biscuits.

Our laughter at this point appeared to frighten off the family next to us who we’d been trying to make friends with.

My conclusion. The service was really excellent. My second glass of wine was an outrageous $15 and I think for that price they should tell you the brand you are drinking.

The food was really ordinary but was decent value at $70 for two people including a glass of wine. I cannot imagine how that could be priced at $329. But the Groupon offer is still available, maybe not the same one exactly, but then again maybe the one you buy might just include actual lobster. Or not.

Melbourne’s top 200+ blogs April 2014

It’s been a long time since anybody has updated any listing of blogs in Melbourne publicly and I’ve collaborated with Thang Ngo at
Noodlies in Sydney
to create a list based on Alexa ranking.

Thang has incorporated the Melbourne listings with his Sydney listing to create a ranking of 595 Australian blogs.

Inevitably as this is the first time for Melbourne we have accidentally left out a few people and perhaps included a few shouldn’t be here.

If you think we’ve got something wrong just let me know in comments and we’ll get it fixed for the next version to be published in May.

If you blog doesn’t have a number it is because there is no Alexa ranking or you have very low traffic.

Also, I’d would only take the listing as a rough indication of ranking. For example, Alexa gives me what I think is an unfairly high score compared to more prolific bloggers. There again I have some 950 posts on this site over 9 years. All these rankings are imperfect but at least we have something here to talk about.

You’ll also see some blogs that aren’t exclusively food but have a high food content.

Anyway, debate your hearts our and let us know where we’ve stuffed-up.

This list may be a bit different to Thang’s as I spotted a few duplicates and interlopers this morning and removed them.

1 food rehab: the tastebud diaries 539,298
2 gourmet chick 624,518
3 wandering spice 1,085,567
4 mel: hot or not 1,136,596
5 tomato 1,163,044
6 the last appetite 1,254,899
7 the food coach 1,395,512
8 the hungry excavator 1,402,941
9 kitchen wench 1,416,120
10 petit miamx 1,480,925
11 burger adventure 1,498,971
12 little eats 1,514,781
13 sarah cooks 1,620,644
14 sharking for chips and drinks 1,654,393
15 let’s get fat together 1,694,543
16 the whole pantry 1,750,305
17 the world loves melbourne 1,810,312
18 melbourne gastronome 1,931,872
19 a rhubarb rhapsody 1,991,728
20 dine whit me 2,050,082
21 fitzroyalty 2,130,471
22 mab vs food 2,150,178
23 gourmanda 2,168,118
24 melbourne australia 2,275,779
25 food lover’s journey 2,319,514
26 parmadaze 2,384,256
27 lisa eats world 2,487,914
28 footscray food blog 2,492,210
29 poppet’s window 2,663,566
30 green gourmet giraffe 2,745,966
31 food on my dog 2,759,032
32 where’s the beef? 2,778,218
33 food made with love 2,794,581
34 the very very hungry caterpillar 2,878,101
35 nourish me 3,071,653
36 i eat therefore i am 3,326,611
37 meet me there 3,464,036
38 chit chat chomp 3,575,562
39 my wholefood romance 3,685,661
40 1 fat cow 3,701,782
41 1001 dinners 1001 nights 3,701,782
42 asian restaurants in melbourne 3,701,782
43 confessions of a food nazi 3,701,782
44 cooked and bottled in brunswick 3,701,782
45 cooking down under 3,701,782
46 fare dinkum 3,701,782
47 foxs lane 3,701,782
48 gourmet girlfriend 3,701,782
49 miss sage sugar 3,701,782
50 piecey num nums 3,701,782
51 to stay or to go 3,701,782
52 the melbourne coffee review 3,959,874
53 james ridenour 3,993,670
54 consider the sauce 4,017,734
55 typical food blog 4,037,543
56 spatula, spoon and saturday 4,210,312
57 mishka la mushka good food blog 4,499,188
58 the hangry bitch 4,516,748
59 brunch addict 4,624,031
60 i’m so hungree 4,957,510
61 melbourne food snob 5,144,077
62 peach-water 5,222,848
63 boy meets girl meets food 5,460,632
64 melbourne patron 5,509,187
65 confessions of a little piggy 5,521,630
66 gluten shmooten 5,525,078
67 melludee 5,642,242
68 foods crazy 5,894,040
69 i spy plum pie 5,915,318
70 food for thought 6,662,466
71 judging your breakfast 7,349,434
72 almost always ravenous 7,488,127
73 the food society 7,560,492
74 gastrology 7,707,505
75 the melbourne foodie 7,797,572
76 bunnybloggers 8,164,107
77 hungry cookie 8,166,785
78 the indolent cook 8,188,132
79 the smiling foodie 8,580,456
80 happee monkey 8,665,637
81 the quest for noms 8,714,388
82 tammie jonas 9,207,360
83 melissa ting: life and i 9,404,590
84 pigging out around the world 10,303,026
85 eat and be merry, for tommorow we die(t) 10,536,030
86 dessert correspondents 10,821,269
87 new international students 10,884,887
88 should you eat that? 11,292,322
89 fika and kuidaore 11,394,998
90 mff 11,514,504
91 michalogy 11,677,844
92 the glutton’s diet 11,711,960
93 la roue de hamster 11,815,220
94 let me feed you;melbourne 12,039,902
95 gourmet husbands 12,471,717
96 imasticate 12,542,180
97 the good hearted 13,243,170
98 spaghetti blogenese 13,263,645
99 the modern con 13,499,434
100 eat melbourne 13,697,922
101 couture foodie 13,954,340
102 cook (almost) anything at least once 14,180,496
103 melbourne din(n)ing blog 14,213,776
104 my town,melbourne 14,303,513
105 melbourne food blogger 14,742,076
106 doublecooked 14,781,309
107 food in focus 15,308,107
108 a sheepish food blog 15,395,653
109 the blue macaron 15,458,576
110 ohdenny 15,541,275
111 in the mood for noodles 15,735,677
112 sweet and sour fork 15,777,693
113 malt mileage 16,157,725
114 i just ate it 16,670,288
115 food with thought 16,698,089
116 amys town 16,704,486
117 lunchosaurus 17,456,655
118 secondhelping 17,772,215
119 keller and spon 17,832,989
120 missy ness’ food train of thought 17,839,180
121 hold the peas 18,039,560
122 unwakeable 18,051,007
123 the dodgy end 18,055,387
124 jp and melbs 18,079,545
125 champaign for the pain 18,139,959
126 edible posts 18,150,296
127 melbourne seasonal eating 18,163,484
128 3 hungry tummies 18,262,191
129 grazing panda 18,264,795
130 the pink leopard 18,297,742
131 it’s an expensive but delicious habit 18,304,453
132 nouveau potato 18,377,277
133 glutony, glutony 18,387,169
134 gluttony gluttony 18,387,169
135 the hungry traveller 18,390,380
136 chasing a plate 18,406,361
137 lady lunchalot 18,581,918
138 gatronomical ramblings 18,674,472
139 eajguide 18,868,623
140 barley blog 18,933,321
141 sweet cherrie pie 19,696,860
142 string of events 19,763,476
143 forsake 19,840,480
144 curious charlie 19,993,310
145 geelong (good) food hunter’s blog 20,183,441
146 the domestic traveller 20,497,787
147 stephen downes 20,818,434
148 what i cooked last night 21,130,385
149 fresh bread 21,677,422
150 mairead doyle 21,877,542
151 expat gourmand 22,629,412
152 52 melbourne weekends
6lumens
a beautiful mishmash
a chronicle of gastronomy
a food fable
alex in wanderland
an airy fairy’s adventures
an australian kitchen
blk’s food blog
cassiekay
conversation with jenny
couch foodies
dammit janet i love food
daylesford organics
doughnut forget me!
eat (almost) anything at least once
eat.play.shop.
essjayeats
everything goes with cream
fill up on bread
flagrant food fawning
food candid
food of the soul
foodie about town
go to bread, not bed!
gourmet reveller
grub town
half-eaten
hookturns
howie’s melbourne food blog
i talk too much my mouth hurts
imelda eats
incrednibbles
jordan’s food baby
kek’s good food blog
kit and kafoodle
kran and nina
lipstick and brunch
little wanderings
lizzie eats
makanmakan melbourne
mango macarons
melbourne delicatesses
melbourne girl at heart
miso for the soul
miss muesli
mon’s adventures
msg: the melbourne social guide
msg:the melbourne scial guide
munching (in) melbourne
my diet starts tomorrow
my edible life
my melbourne food blog
never trust a duck
off the spork
olive sundays
on tip-toes
ordinary girl, extraordinary dreamer
out of my kitchen
peanut butter jelly
pho real
please sir, can i have some more? by oliver
popcorn & toast
ravenous
ravenous melbourne
seasoned plate
seeking victory
steak me out
stuck in transit
super(ficial)man
sweet enough
table to paper
the librarian and the kitchen
the melbourne local
the new epicurean
the owl’s nest
the sheona experiment
the spoon directory
think mebourne
thoughts of a moni
tldr food
tuesdayswiththao
two bears and a fork
vanhell’s corner
veg food diaries melbourne
wandering mint
what’s my next meal?
wilunga wino
yellow eggs