Tonight we ate at Spice Temple Melbourne. We have eaten at the Sydney sister restaurant twice before, and both times we were thoroughly impressed, so needless to say we had high hopes!
Situated in the same space previously occupied by Bistro Guillame, and next door to a big favourite of ours – Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar and Grill – Spice Temple Melbourne simply couldn’t be any more different to it’s predecessor if it tried.
While Bistro Guillame was all about white marble and bright and airy spaces, Spice Temple is dark, moody, and funky. It shares the same tables and light fittings with it’s big sister in Sydney – and, thankfully, the same delicious food (and zodiac inspired cocktails).
We started off with a “Pig” ($28) – a lychee, gin and sparkling wine cocktail, served in a carafe filled to the brim with ice. It was nice and soothing, especially when the trademark spicy food started to arrive at the table.
Having had the banquet at Sydney the last two times we had been there, we knew that it would take a while to get through all the food – time which we didn’t have as we were walk-ins and only had 90 minutes to eat dinner. We aren’t complaining about that though – in fact we were extremely surprised that there was even any room for us given the waiting lists new and exciting restaurants typically generate.
We settled on two of our favourite sides from Spice Temple Sydney – Pickled Cabbage with Radishes ($8), and Cucumbers with Smashed Garlic and Ginger ($6). Both serve the purpose of cooling your mouth when you can’t take any more of the searing chilli heat.
Our starter tonight was the Stir Fried Scallops with Velvet Noodles and Chilli Paste ($23). The scallops were cooked perfectly, and the accompanying noodles were perfectly al dente. Unfortunately, the hard piece of plastic Ritsy dished herself up (they probably store the noodles in those takeaway containers as that’s the type of plastic it looked like) was not al dente. The spicy chilli paste had both of us blowing our noses simultaneously though 🙂
Our main (and final dish), which we ordered with steamed rice ($3 each, no rice hat to keep it hot) was Hot, Sweet, Sour and Numbing Pork, which consists of tiny pieces of Pork, Chilli, Sugar, Black Vinegar, and Sichuan Peppercorns ($30). This is such a peculiar dish – the sichuan peppercorns numb the back of your mouth, and create somewhat of a saliva wonderland. I kept eating more and more, my tastebuds in a constant struggle trying to make sense of it all. It was awesome. The only thing missing from this dish was a serving spoon – we had to dish it up using our Chinese soup spoons, which was not very efficient.
So, I guess the questions is – does it match it’s Sydney sibling? Possibly… if you can score a table downstairs, it might. Upstairs, it definitely does not.
We were seated in the corner of the restaurant opposite Nobu, which just happens to be where everyone leaves the casino to smoke their cigarettes. Surrounded by 6 people chaining fags like they were going out of fashion, all of them sitting on the ledge right outside our table, it smelled like the smoking room at Frankfurt airport.
We also had bad luck tonight as Crown currently have a marquee opposite the restaurant with live, loud music for the Spring Carnival, so it felt like we were in a nightclub in between two band rooms, listening in one ear to soothing Spice Temple music, and – in the other ear – to cover-band songs seeping through the not-quite-thick-enough glass.
A couple of teething issues aside, we had a “Fab” (as Neil would say) meal at Spice Temple Melbourne. We’ll be back if we are guaranteed a table downstairs, but won’t be returning in as much of a hurry as we thought we would.
Update: Check out the (re)view from downstairs here!