So the end of the world predicted by the Mayans was the very night we dined at Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar for Mr 1-upper's birthday and fortunately for us, the world didn't come to an end and we were able to dine in peace. Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar is located where Gordon Ramsay's Maze used to reside in Crown Metropol. Stepping into Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar, majority of the former Maze's interior has been left intact with only stencilled logos splayed around pillars to remind you that you're at Mr. Hive now, not Maze. The night we dined there was a live band playing which added to the casual and lax vibe of the restaurant - not quite fine dining yet not too informal. We dined here with Bestie & Mr 1-upper to celebrate Mr 1-upper's birthday as we have all wanted to try Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar, especially for the desserts.
The homely napkins brought me back to Home Economics in high school and if anything, dressed down the table and didn't do the venue justice.
As we were perusing the menu, we were given a complimentary amusé bouche of linseed crackers with goats cheese which we gobbled up as we loved the fluffy, tangy cheese. Mr A took it a step further and used his fork to scrape up every last bit of it.
Drinks were served shortly after. We ordered a bottle of Mac Forbes Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yarra Valley region and Mr 1-upper started with a Crown Larger.
After consulting with our waiter regarding how many dishes to order and quantity in each small plate/starter, we finalised our food order. Starting off the octopus, it was very tender but the rest of the dish was mediocre, as the flavour of celery seemed to overpower the dish and I didn't like the stringy texture of the butternut squash.
Octopus, butternut squash, celery ($12)
One of the favourite starters, the seared tuna had a fantastic charred taste which went so well with the combination of spices and light soy sauce and pickles. The flavour was similar to the seared tuna nigiri at a favourite local Japanese restaurant, Shira Nui.
Black & blue tuna ($14)
The roasted scallops were highly anticipated by me but were lacklustre and lacked any memorable qualities. I typically like my scallops a touch raw in the centre so these were overcooked and texture too firm for my tastes.
Roasted scallops, wild rice and spice ($22)
I asked our waiter to check if we could have four pieces in this serving as normally it comes in three which the chef kindly obliged. Crispy morsels of fatty pig contrasted by the fresh watermelon and pickle and the crackling of pigs ear. A wonderful combo and I could have gone for a few rounds of this dish.
Crispy little pig ($21)
I did not like the ceviche of snapper much as I found it to be plain. Nothing excited our taste buds in this dish.
Ceviche of snapper, coconut and chilli ($18)
Mr 1-upper's lamb belly was extremely tender and melt in my mouth with a crisp layer of crackling which we all found very comforting and perfectly seasoned.
Saltbush lamb belly with squash ratatouille ($32)
Bestie ordered the roasted blue eye cod which was well cooked and I really liked the flavour of the cod but the rest of the elements in the dish let it down and she preferred the tomato essence in my dish over the chicken broth.
Roasted blue eye cod with baby vegetables and chicken broth ($35)
Mr A ordered the pork belly as it rarely fails however sometimes it can be too simple and end up being boring. This was the case that night and although the vegetables were all very fresh, it couldn't save the dish. Mr A did not think it was even as good as the Chinese version of crispy roast pork belly (烧肉).
Crispy Otway Pork belly with dashi, radish and cauliflower ($32)
The John Dory was delicious but vying for attention was the perfectly cooked, tender mussels. They both had beards in them which I had to spit out nonchalantly mid-chew but the flavours of the mussels were beautiful. The tomato essence was not very visually appealing after the waitress poured it but definitely made the dish very fresh and tangy.
John Dory with Spring bay mussel and tomato essence ($34)
After finishing our mains we continued chatting and after a while we noticed that our plates still weren't cleared off the table and no one came back to check on us. A manager came by to clear our plates yet we were hard pressed to find any of the waiters who would make eye contact with us and they seemed to look everywhere else but at us. All of a sudden, we were invisible! Over 30 minutes after finishing our mains, we finally managed to request dessert menus and we quickly decided as Bestie and I were only after a bite so the boys were left to decide. Tracking someone down again to take our order was a pain in the ass and I have to admit, I was getting really annoyed. Desserts took another a while to come out but they eventually came.
The long awaited dessert menu
The chocolate bar was a rich and creamy medley of chocolate mousse topped with caramel and salted peanuts while the peanut butter ice cream alleviated the heaviness of the dessert. A quarter of the serving was more than enough for me as any more would have overwhelmed me. We all debated whether it tasted more like a Snickers or Picnic chocolate bar and in the end, we couldn't agree but I thought it was more like a Picnic bar.
Mrs. Hive's chocolate bar with peanuts and caramel
The praline soufflé was distinct with its sweet and nutty flavours and the texture was cloud-like. The waiter popped a quenelle of jasmine and coco nib ice cream into the soufflé however the flavours didn't overpower the overall dessert.
Praline soufflé with jasmine and coco nib ice cream
After finishing desserts, it took a long time to find someone, again, to request our bill. I thought it was unnecessary and a bit tactless for the waiter to announce the bill total when he brought it over as I was taking my friends out for a birthday dinner. Initially the service was good however in the span of finishing our main dishes, service disappeared even though the restaurant was only half full so we weren't impressed.
Thankfully, my friends and I always experience a lapse in service at someone's birthday at least once a year (most memorable fail was at The Point) so we all laugh about it looking back, and it helps that there is wine involved. The food was great, with some dishes being better than others but the service left a lot to be desired so I can't see myself coming back any time soon.
Will I return? No, first impressions count. Food was good but service drove us away.
Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar
Level 1, Crown Metropol
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006
(03) 9292 8300
Breakfast 7 am - 10:30 am
Lunch midday - 3 pm
Dinner 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm