Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

11.4.10

How to run a truly bad restaurant.

When Shannon Bennett announced he was moving his Vue de Monde restaurant to the 55th floor of the Rialto building, he told the papers, "(British critic) A.A. Gill said no restaurant with good views has ever had good food and I plan to prove him wrong."

The opposite might prove the rule. The meal I had at Stefano's viewless cellar restaurant at Mildura's Grand Hotel was as good as any I've eaten. The down side is it's a 1,076 round trip for dinner from Melbourne, although you could break the trip each way and stay mid-point at Wycheproof, where you'll hear the lonesome midnight whistle of the late goods train as it rumbles down the main street in the dead of night. You'll think it's the garlic snails and the cheese platter you ate, but it's not, it's a real train. They built a track down the middle of the main street for some reason lost in the mists of history.

Then again, Lake House in Daylesford has stunning views and a good reputation for its food. I've never eaten there.

Let's refine the theory. As well as views, a truly bad restaurant must also have two other key features, which are:

(a) A floorshow, and
(b) It moves. The restaurant, I mean.

That brings us to the most appalling restaurant in Melbourne's history: Rob's Carousel. The entire place was built on a circular platform. It was one giant lazy susan. As you ate your prawn cocktail entree and steak diane main course washed down with a bottle of Porphyry Pearl or a couple of fluffy ducks, you could watch the lights of Queen's Road slide by your window every five minutes. Great for the digestion. Or, if you were queasy, you could direct your attention inboard and watch the floorshow at the pivot of the circle. Veteran waiters tell of unsteady patrons walking through the wrong door and stepping off into Albert Park Lake in the darkness. Other veteran waiters tell of opening wrong doors to patrons who hadn't left a tip. The place was big in the 1970s. It didn't last of course. People kept falling over in the carpark.

10 comments:

White Dove said...

I'm here with my sil....As far as he's concerned Rob's Carousel was the grooviest, funkiest thing in the 60's when everyone else was being deadly serious...he loved the swizzle sticks, fancy match books,saucy waitresses in leotards offset by patrons in grey cardigans and patent shoes....He wishes those days of unselfconsciousness would return so he could get to wear his cardi again!!!

White Dove said...

My daughter says Shannon Bennett should wash his hair.....

kimbofo said...

Hahahaha, that's hilarious. I had forgotten all about Rob's Carousel. As a kid I was completely fascinated by that restuarant and always used to bug my parents about going... I don't think we ever went. The fact that it had huge appeal to kids probably speaks volumes!

Dr. Alice said...

I can think of two rotating restaurants in the States: the Space Needle restaurant in Seattle, and the Encounter Restaurant at Los Angeles Int'l Airport. No idea what the food is like at either one. I did eat once at the Encounter, but my parents took me there thirty years ago and I can't remember what the food was like. They are both well above ground and accessible only by elevator.

kitchen hand said...

WD, are you sure that wasn't McClures in St Kilda Rd, where you ordered from a telephone on your table?

Kimbofo, you must have seen its television commercial - and that brings to mind a third qualifying feature for truly bad restaurants - a television commercial with a dreadful jingle. (Remember The Swagman?)

Dr. Alice, I think Sydney has a similar raised restaurant. Melbourne has a tramcar restaurant but I've never been on it.

whiteyangel2002 said...

Have fond memories of going to Rob's Carousel, loved the atmosphere and the view of Albert Park lake. We used to enjoy having the cocktails there with the swizzle sticks,it was a different experience to other restuarants.Still have my memories of going there.

Anonymous said...

Yes I remember Robb's Carousel Restaurant in Albert Park very well - went their frequently on dates trying to impress a new girlfriend (the technique worked as my wife of 5o years and I went their often during our courtship.) Also went to McClure's on St Kilda Road - where you studies the menu, then picked up a telephone that was on your table and placed your order. Mr McClure owned a pie company (Four 'n Twenty?) and on return from an American trip introduced the concept to Australia - it did not take off.

Anonymous said...

Rob's Carousel in the 1960's was excellent.

Anonymous said...

Robs Carousel was brilliant..I went there as a kid and it was always great. as was McClures where you ordered your meal from a phone booth at your table..bring them back i say..restaurants today are so boring and uptight..

Anonymous said...

Witty piece. Although, talk about sticking the pointy – toed shoes into a much – loved local eatery. Personally, I can't remember anything about Rob's that was even remotely “appalling”! “...no restaurant with good views ever has good food” ? You mean like the Caprice at Rose Bay in Sydney ? Rob's Carousel “.. didn't last .. of course” ? Not sure about that one either. Had a pretty impressive run as I recall. We first went there in 1963 and I was still, happily, enjoying the culinary fare and, yes, the view in the ' 80s. In fact, isn't it still operating in some way, shape or form as of this week ?