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.
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.