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One of our recent lab lunch adventures took us to The Mess Hall, with the occasion serving as a farewell to NT who has since left the lab temporarily for greener pastures. Literally, since I hear rainfall is quite frequent in the UK? Unable to make a booking for such a small group of people, we made our way to the restaurant at 12pm with our fingers and toes crossed. Mine were anyway, since the restaurant had been on my to visit-list for a while and I was eager to try their food.
Upon our arrival, we looked in to see a filled out restaurant… save for one table at the back! And with just the right number of spots. Huzzah!
Chicken panini - marinated grilled chicken, avocado, mozzarella, rocket & mustard mayo.
The avocado, mayo and chicken combo wasn’t anything new - I have eaten many variations from different restaurants/cafes. After a while, they all seem to taste the same. And yet I was very impressed and taken with the version served at The Mess Hall. The marinade on the chicken and sprinkle of herbs were very aromatic, matching perfectly to the sweetness from the creamy mayo and the buttery freshness of the avocado. I even enjoyed the thin layer of rocket (this coming from someone who harbors an immense dislike for rocket), and thought that their presence brought a subtle bitterness that enhanced the other contrasting flavours. Throw in a super crunchy panini and you have on your hands one perfect chicken sandwich.
Saffron risotto - with smoked mozzarella & vincotto.
KM thought her risotto dish was quite buttery but bland. I should probably mention that KM wasn’t feeling well at the time, and her taste may or may not have been affected.
Lasagne alla bergamasca.
Polenta chips - with parmesan, herbs & roasted garlic aioli.
Spinach gnocchi - with pork and fennel ragu.
NT said the rosemary stood out as the dominant flavour and thought the fennel was non-existent.
Bread & proscuitto dumpling - with chicken broth.
Nothing like the typical Asian dumplings I was used to, the bread and proscuitto dumplings were essentially balls of flour with herbs and salted proscuitto. I will admit that I wasn’t too impressed when I first laid eyes on them but they turned out to be surprisingly tasty. Thanks to both the strong herbed flavour and the texture of the dumpling, it was as though we were eating balls of stuffing straight from the inside of a cooked chicken! The broth tasted comparatively bland next to the dumpling but when consumed in the absence of dumpling, the bombardment of veggies and the distinct pea+corn flavour combination were quite light and enjoyable.
Overall, lunch was enjoyable but perhaps a little on the pricier side for what it was… I would, however, happily return for that chicken roll.
The Mess Hall
51 Bourke St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9654 6800