WJL (risotto queen), EK (the vegetarian), KYC (eyelash specialist), SC (our resident chick magnet) and I found ourselves struggling to find a decent place that would take a last minute booking for dinner on Friday night after work. Luckily, while browsing the internet, I had come across Time Out Melbourne’s Five To Try: Dessert Degustations, and was reminded of Mr Hive’s in Crown. I was also motivated to find a restaurant that was guaranteed to have a good air conditioning system – the forecast for this Friday was 38 degrees...
Getting a booking was easy enough – they were able to fit us in on short notice. Even when we were there on the night, I noticed there were still a few empty tables around – perhaps business hadn’t picked up yet, or else most people are still on New Year break.
The restaurant was still quite vacant when we arrived, but we were early for a 6.30 dinner. The surroundings still looked very much the way it did when it was called Maze – except now with live music (a guy with an acoustic guitar in the nearby dining room) and a tad noisier; it exuded a much more relaxed, casual vibe. As the evening went on and tablets filled up, I also noticed a few families with young kids seated nearby – definitely a more relaxed, family friendly bistro.
Our waiter went through the menu with us, and recommended that we order 5 starters to share, as well as a few sides for the table to go with mains. He briefly touched on dessert, merely mentioning that there was a dessert degustation available, but only for the whole table ($75, if I recall correctly).
We queried which dishes were vegetarian, and he not only pointed those out, but also kindly offered to check with the chef if any of the other options could be made vegetarian, should we wish. I was impressed by this, but EK said she already couldn’t decide which of the 2 vegetarian mains she wanted (admittedly they both looked amazing) – she’s so used to having only 1 vegetarian option at a restaurant!
Luckily WJL, our risotto queen, decided for her (by picking the vegetarian risotto for herself!), leaving EK to order the leek and artichoke tart tatin – sharing is caring, after all!
None of the mains stood out (on paper) for me, so I decided to go with the ‘Crispy little pig’ starter as my main.
Linseed crackers with goat’s cheese (complimentary amuse bouche)
Chilli corn bread & honey butter
Foie gras & chicken liver parfait mulberries / toasted sourdough
Jicama ravioli / avocado / pistachio
Traditional smoked ham & mustard
Of the starters, I particularly enjoyed the complimentary goat’s cheese that accompanied the linseed crackers – it was deliciously creamy. I may have used some of the sourdough (from the foie gras) to dip the excess cheese we had...
I enjoyed the corn bread, but thought there was nothing special about the ham. The ravioli was very different from any other ravioli I’ve had before – I probably prefer the usual (yellow) pasta sheets, rather than this pale type...perhaps it was a tad too different for my taste buds; it wasn’t hearty enough and didn’t satisfy me or give me the warm fuzzy feeling that eating a carb-loaded pasta dish usually does.
I didn’t enjoy the black pudding, and while the foie gras and liver parfait was tasty, I couldn’t help but compare it to the foie gras that I’d had recently, at Cumulus Inc...to which this one cannot even begin to compare...the mulberries did give it a nice kick though, I’ll give them that.
Roasted blue eye cod / baby vegetables / chicken broth
"Rangers Valley" (NSW) BBQ Tri tip steak
Leek & artichoke Tart Tatin / goats cheese / spring leaves
Risotto / orzo / lemon / fennel / peas
Crispy little pig
Hand cut chips
Green asparagus & smoked egg
My crispy little pig ‘main’ was very very good, and I enjoyed it immensely. There was no description on the menu, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What arrived was a gorgeously presented plate of crispy crumb coated pork cubes, accompanied by what appeared to be large diced beetroot pieces and round radish drops. When I bit into it though, the ‘beetroot’ turned out to be watermelon (purely from the texture) – it was delicious, tasting of balsamic vinegar, and I’m pretty sure there was a beetroot flavour to it as well. It was like fake beetroot – it looked and tasted like beetroot, but had the texture of watermelon. I loved this idea. The pork cubes were crispy on the outside, and I particularly enjoyed the sticks of crackling that came with it. I was very happy with my dish.
KYC’s blue eyed cod arrived looking remarkably like chicken (see photograph above – did you also think it was chicken?!) Even after tasting it, she wasn’t sure whether it was chicken or fish...even though she was pretty sure she ordered fish. When KYC gave me a bite, I knew straight away it was fish; however it was wrapped in crispy chicken skin – hence the confusion.
Our resident Chick Magnet's steak wasn’t very nicely present, but he’s a boy – I’m sure he was happy with it, pretty or not. I personally thought it should have come with a sauce of some sort, but SC didn't mention anything so perhaps it was sufficiently flavoured.
In regards to the sides, while our chips were very crispy, the asparagus with smoked egg failed to impress – it was basically that, asparagus with egg that was chopped up into tiny squares...I felt that $9 should have taken us further than this...plus, it was tiny.
We all agreed that the main dishes were quite petite in size – some were about equivalent to the size of the entree dishes. I was quite happy with mine, because this meant I had plenty of room for dessert! I think most people do struggle to eat a full sized entree, main and dessert anyway, particularly with rich, heavy food.
We were then faced with the highly difficult decision of which desserts to order. There were 7 choices (6 on the menu, 1 special) and only 5 of us...and ordering all 7 would just be piggy...
Finally, after much deliberation, we eliminated the 2 that looked the least appetizing to us...but then we were still tempted to order 2 servings of the praline soufflé, since 3 out of 5 of us had originally wanted that dessert. However, we decided on 5 different desserts to share.
Mrs. Hive's chocolate bar / peanuts / caramel
Lemon tart / raspberry sorbet
White chocolate / mango / basil / coconut
Praline souffle / jasmine & coco nib ice cream
Panna cotta, madeleine (specials)
The overriding consensus from the table was that the praline soufflé was BEST. Totally awesome. Mind-blowing. Heaven in a ramekin. I really enjoyed the lemon tart, but it was tarter than usual – the others either weren’t lemon tart fans, or didn’t think it was too special – however if you’re a lemon tart fan then this one is quite good, especially with the raspberry sorbet.
But I guess I do agree that it wasn’t too special, when compared with the panna cotta with jelly and granita (it had a gingery and fruity flavour to it that I had trouble deciphering) and the white chocolate mousse. The white chocolate dessert was a lot more amazing than we expected – the flavours all worked marvellously well together. I initially tried only the basil sorbet on its own, and thought it was too distinct, however once I ate it with the other components, it balanced out very well. The madeleine that came with the panna cotta, while pleasant tasting – like at Cumulus Inc – was not something I’d remember or rave about. Perhaps I’m just not a madeleine connoisseur...
Mrs Hive’s chocolate bar with peanuts and caramel also didn’t stand out for any of us, I think purely because it was too similar to Philippa Sibley’s Snickers dessert, which we’d all had at Albert St Food and Wine a few weeks back. If Philippa’s Snickers was a 9, Mrs Hive’s version would only be a 4. Normally, it may have been quite a pleasant dessert. However, when compared to the Snickers, and eaten in the same sitting as the awesome desserts mentioned above, this chocolate bar could not measure up.
Everyone I’d spoken to previously had mentioned that Mr Hive’s is quite pricey, however when our bill came – thanks to our 2 entertainment cards – it came to only $50 per person (including tip). Considering the number of dishes we’d eaten, I thought this was a very reasonable price. It would have totaled about $65 per person without the discount.
I would highly recommend this restaurant for anyone who loves dessert. While the savoury dishes were pleasant, I probably wouldn’t remember too much about them next week, whereas the desserts were amazing. I think this would be the perfect place to drop by for after dinner drinks and dessert – when I come back, I’d like to sit at the dessert bar, and watch the chefs at work.
I also immensely enjoyed the casual, relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant – it was fine dining, but without the stuffiness and pomp that sometimes accompanies those types of places. Comfortable vibe, family friendly, well lit and not too crowded, and we were never pressured to order more drinks or to hurry up and leave after finishing our food – they were perfectly happy to let us continue chatting happily for a couple of hours afterwards.
Ratings (based on my own experience, on this occasion):
Food – 7 ½ / 10
Service – 7 ½/ 10
Value for money – 7 ½/ 10
OVERALL CONSENSUS: 3.5 bags (out of 5)