Having been lucky enough to eat at Le Restaurant about a year before it closed (interestingly enough, with the same chef as the current chef – Stuart McVeigh) we had high hopes (literally!) for The Sofitel’s re-entry into the fine diner category – the aptly named No 35.
We had been very eager to see what The Sofitel had done with the space that had been a function room since Le Restaurant’s demise. Situated on the 35th floor of the hotel, with huge floor to ceiling windows that make the most of the bay views, it’s still unquestionably one of the best dining views in Melbourne.
The interior is quite modern – the main part of the restaurant floor is lined with marble tiles, whilst a more secluded area is carpeted and feels a bit quieter as a result. This is where we were seated for our dinner.
About two months before we dined, we booked a package that included accommodation in the hotel, a 3 course dinner at No 35, and full buffet breakfast. The package included free sparkling mineral water and, we thought, was quite reasonably priced.
Upon arrival, we were swiftly shown to our table, in the smaller, carpeted area of the dining room. Unfortunately we were given a severely cut down version of the restaurant menu, which was a far cry from the 8 entree’s, 8 mains, and 6 desserts on the regular dinner menu. There was only a selection of three entree’s, three mains, and three desserts on our menus – and then we realised that this must be the “Package” menu. Cue disappointment.
We ordered our food, and were given an appetiser, compliments of the chef. It was “Cauliflower soup with porcini, chicken liver parfait, chocolate dust” – and was absolutely spot on. I could have had a big bowl of that for entree!
Entree’s (or as they are called here, No 1) then came out – I had the “Slow Cooked Veal, Cultivated Mushrooms, Porcini Soil, Shitake Viniagrette” which was a very nice, earthy, and quite generous entree. The veal was so tender that it fell apart in my mouth, and the mushrooms were a great match.
Ritsy had the “Atlantic Salmon, Compressed Cucumber, Fennel, Sorrel” which was a much lighter dish than mine, but equally generous and just as delicious.
For “No 2”, I had “Rangers Valley 300 day grain fed wagyu rump cap, new season onions, potatoes, caremelised bone marrow” – it was beautifully cooked, simple, that and really let the rump cap speak for itself.
Ritsy had “Suzuki Mulloway, Sweetcorn, Chicken Wing, Cavolo Nero”, which was also thoroughly enjoyed (except for the crispy skin, but Ritsy never eats fish skin!). The chicken wing was surprisingly good – and, thankfully, not presented in it’s original form.
Desserts, unfortunately, were bordering on inedible. Some would call the desserts at No 35 “Avant Garde” – I think they are just trying too hard. My “White Chocolate, Green Tea, Ginger Cake” had about 10 grams of the aforementioned white chocolate, and was swamped by an enourmous puddle of revoltingly strong green tea foam (it was shaped like a tree).
Ritsy’s dessert didn’t fare much better (Coconut Tapioca, Passionfruit, Mint)- the crystallized ginger was far too strong (it tasted like pickled ginger that you put on sushi) and the presentation was pretty careless.
All in all, a great dinner marred by horrible desserts – perhaps that’s why the portions of No 1 and No 2 are so big – so that nobody has room for the dessert, and accompanying disappointment. Still, I thoroughly recommend dining here – both the savoury food, and the view, are sublime.