15 July, 2008

Hotel Lincoln II

91 Cardigan St, Carlton; 03 9347 4666

Bernard: 'What did you order?'
Manny: 'Ah, a pint of lager'
Bernard: 'I got you....creme de menthe'

Our evening at Hotel Lincoln didn't feature quite so much imbibing of alcohol as in the average episode of Black Books, but, like Manny in the extract above, we were a little surprised at what was served up.

The Lincoln has two eating options: the bar menu or a high-end restaurant menu. It has two eating locations as well - the bar and a fine-dining room - and in between the two is an extra space that accommodates diners from both. On Monday nights the bar menu is reduced to $12, and by booking you find yourself with table service, good cutlery, bread and imaginative food at a budget price.

Beef involtini - normally $18 and hence one of the better-value dishes on a Monday - comes with a buttery parmesan and polenta mash. The meat is cooked to softness but holds its rolled shape well.
My meal order was for the whole grilled silver whiting, with fennel and avocado (normally $17). When our plates arrived, the involtini was served, then the waitress turned to me, plate in hand, and said 'I'm really sorry, but we were out of the whiting, so the chef has prepared the whitebait for you.'


There's a pause there to represent my momentary speechlessness. I still struggle to believe that a chef just decided to whip up a completely different dish (yes, they're both seafood, and indeed even share a similar name, but a whitebait pattie with chilli jam is a long way from a whole whiting). Disappointment was added to my shock, since this was a dish I'd already eaten. I won't write it up again - it was very much the same, but this time stuck a little on the way down as I kept harrumphing with incredulity. The photo did come out rather nicely, however:
I don't discredit the Lincoln's food at all: both bar and restaurant menu offer excellent meals, the latter in particular making great use of seasonal food (how good does chestnut and mascarpone ravioli with sherry mushrooms sound?). Having eaten there twice before I know this was an aberration in service, but one I've never heard of before and still has me shaking my head, asking 'what were they thinking?'


  1. This happens all the time in China.
    'Excuse me, I didn't order bacon. Why do I have bacon on my plate?'
    'We don't have potatoes so we give you bacon.'
    'But this is the vegetarian meal...'

  2. Fair statement - I think bacon for potatoes is a worse outcome than whitebait for whiting! That was part of what amazed me though - these days so many people are incredibly finicky about what they can/can't have on their plate, as a chef it would (to me) seem to open up way too much liability to unilaterally swap meals.

  3. Manny... I can feel bits of my brain falling away like wet cake...

    Truly bizarre that the staff did not consult with you first before cooking up the whitebait.

  4. Bernard: 'It's like looking into the eye...of a duck...'

    Yes, bit bizarre all round really; hard to figure our their thought process.