New vegetarian restaurant Spinach opened last week and we anticipate this will be a top-rating venue in Melbourne. Located on the hipster end of Fitzroy, between a vegan shoemaker and an up-market jewellery designer, things looked promising.
Owners Beatrice Duvet and gardener partner Cynthia Green had collaborated before with their first venture, Peanuts, being extremely well-regarded and earning two Michelin hats in its first year of operation. Hence, I eagerly anticipated my visit to this new venue. Traditionally, the standard of vegetarian restaurants in this city has been variable, but I thought with Beatrice’s award-winning flair in the kitchen that all would be well. Cynthia is an expert vegetable gardener and regularly appears on ABC radio giving advice on all things veg.
The waiter ignored me for several minutes while he finished his conversation with one of the kitchen staff. Only then, did he notice this prospective diner and proceed to usher me to a decidedly dark corner of the room that made reading the menu an interesting experience. Thank goodness for my torch-pen!
I was very surprised by the prices; entrees ranged from $30-$40, while mains started at $80 for a simple courgette slice with a green salad. Desserts began at $50 and kept climbing while beverages were also inflated. As the chart below shows, average prices in Fitzroy are significantly lower than at this restaurant. My request for the wine list met with a blank stare from the waiter who informed me that there was no wine. Spinach has a ‘no alcohol’ policy. However, that information does not appear anywhere in the venue or on their website.
I opted for corn chowder, followed by the courgette slice and a green salad. Seeking more information regarding the contents of said green salad, I learned it contained baby spinach leaves, rocket, several types of lettuce and a garnish of coriander.
While waiting for my meal, I had time to focus on the décor. Surprisingly, for a vegetarian restaurant, there were pictures on the walls of various farm animals, gamboling in green fields. I wondered if it was to make diners feel a sense of relief that no innocent baby animal was harmed in the making of their meal. Generally, lighting was dim, but I decided that was fortunate as the walls were painted a dirty version of ‘pea green’; most unappetising.
After a wait of well over three-quarters of an hour, the soup arrived and it was cold, so it was sent back to the kitchen for a re-heat. On the second attempt, the flavour reminded me of the unmistakable difference between fresh corn and that from a can. The main course slid into place immediately the soup disappeared, with most of the green salad landing on my lap and the floor. I took this to be inexperience on the part of the waiter, but I later learned that he had been in the business for 25 years.
Failing to find a dessert that enticed, I decided to order coffee and was greatly surprised. It was the best cup of freshly roasted and ground coffee I have had for years. When I asked the barista where the beans originated, he gave a comprehensive dissertation on not only the provenance of the beans but also the method of preparation and grinding, including details of water temperature and Ph.
In conclusion, Spinach is a very mediocre, overpriced eatery, with a dull menu and off-putting ambiance. However, if coffee is what you crave, I recommend it as the best place Melbourne has to offer.