I'm a bit of a bargain hunter. Although I love the luxe life, I like it on a budget, whenever I can. I'm that person who's signed up to just about every sale email you can find, am constantly jumping on to airline sales and warehouse shopping sales, in fact I just picked up a couple of pairs of White Suede jeans the other day. From $189 each, to 3 for $50. Booyah!
So when I found out that Virginia Plain was doing 50% off it's food menu, on certain nights, booked via Dimmi in October…well, I made the booking first, then found the dining companion after.
Fortunately my dear friend Shamim, an awesome beauty portrait photographer, is always down for yummies and happens to live in the city, so anywhere within the grid is good for her (to her the suburbs are 'so far away!')
And so we found ourselves in Virginia Plain on a balmy Tuesday evening.
I had been to Virginia Plain for the industry launch, but at the time, it was packed shoulder to shoulder with people. This visit, it was quite a bit quieter. I'm still kind of amazed at how big the place is, as it definitely does not look that big from the look of the doorway.
Dark wood, soft easy-going vinyls playing and a long bar that extends to the open kitchen at the end of the restaurant, with a touch of evening light, it was a very soothing place to be in the middle of the week.
Westwinds gin, come to me baby!
Shamim can't really do alcohol very well, so the bartender came over to feel out what flavours she liked and crafted a very low alcohol level fruity little drink for her. She loved it!
The bread was served in a peasant style bag, love this, so rustic and cute. I'm just a sucker for texture.
The menu is pretty generous, and has you hopping from one section to the next, inviting you to not go for the standard three course meal, but to play and pick what may fancy you on the whim.
And so we started with the pig trotters stuffed with black pudding, served with scallops and a parsnip remoulade. Scallops and black pudding. Rich heavy stuff, but balanced out with the fresh parsnip. The scallops in particular were buttery and tender, and the black pudding not too strong or overwhelming.
An artichoke salad (with what I can't remember) provided the perfect interlude between the scallop dish and our main, a pile of green crunchy goodness. It was quite earthy.
Our main was a parmesan crusted sea bass (I believe) with some more seafood goodness around it. I just love the smell of freshly melted cheese and this smelt just like that when put in front of you. It's mouth watering. I had thought the portion looked fairly small initially, but it did surprisingly take a while to get through, as it was quite rich and quite heavy.
Our side was a veggie dish with bacon foam. Not as bacon-y as I imagined, but the you definitely got a good hint of it…it kinda felt like a healthier way to eat bacon? Kind of? All flavour but not so much fat? Maybe? I'll take it.
Desert time came around.
Shamim and I were both stuck on two desserts each. I longed for a tarte tartin, the cheesecake with mandarins and oranges had caught Shamim's eye, and we both were spying on the self saucing chocolate fondant.
We tousled around with the options, trying to figure out what we could compromise…until I realised there was one option we hadn't considered.
Why not have all three?
The cheesecake was adorably plated, almost like a deconstructed dish, in one row you had neat little bite size pieces of cheesecake, the other row, mandarins and oranges served up in different ways. Gel, gelee, drowned in alcohol...etc. The dish was fun and quite novel, but it didn't quite hit the mark for me. The cheesecake I felt was a little lacking, it didn't seem very creamy, which is what I generally prefer.
The tarte tartin was a beacon of glossy caramel goodness. Dusted with icing sugar, the pastry was crunchy and flaky, giving that satisfying crunch when bitten into. It was a sinfully sweet dessert, and whilst it does have rustic elements, it's taken into a whole new level of sweetness! Watch out waistline!
To finish off, the self saucing chocolate fondant. I loved how it was served on a little round wood board, kind of looked like a tree stump in a forest. A very delicious tree stump though. This dessert kind of took the cake, it oozed delicious chocolatey lava, making each mouthful of cake swirl and melt into your mouth in a cocoa-y haze of goodness. Can you tell I liked it? Can you?
Amazingly, we managed to finish everything! Although it did require a bit of pushing and shoving to get ourselves out the door afterwards.
With our 50% discount off the food, our total bill came to just about $100, or $50 a head, which of course was amazing value.
Would I return? Possibly, the food was pretty good, although I feel as though the menu (at the time I visited) was still finding it's steps in determining it's personality, a mix of old school and new world, I feel as though it's still finding it's balance between the two. Our meal would have been pretty pricey if we hadn't had the discount, so I can't decide if at full price I would find it as good value. Although I guess if it had been at full price we might've only had two desserts as well…maybe.
I've heard from others that the atmosphere on a weeknight can be a bit dead at Virginia Plain, and it certainly wasn't bustling while we were there, but it made for a nice and chilled out dinner for two girlfriends catching up, so I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing, unless the former vibe is more what they are after.
But all in all, a cute little spot to pop by int the city I reckon, it seems the menu has changed since I last visited and is looking more streamlined, so will be interesting to see how it has further evolved!
31 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, Vic 3000