Essence Restaurant at the Marriott

Posted on | April 3, 2011 | 16 Comments

Disclosure: Alastair and I dined courtesy of Essence Restaurant.

I was invited in for a meal at Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel recently – the publicist said they were inviting bloggers because they wanted to find a new photographer for two (paid) shoots for their 2011 menu. Sounded good to me, so I headed down to check it out with Alastair.

The entrance to Essence Restaurant is located to the side of the Marriott Hotel foyer. It’s a large room, with polished floor boards, and big floor to ceiling windows looking out to Exhibition and Lonsdale Streets.

To start with, we shared some oysters, one of the specials they were running that month. Half of the oysters came out with smoked salmon, feta and dill. Being a person who generally prefers oysters natural, I found the salmon and feta too overpowering for the oysters – it detracted from their natural flavour.

The other half of the oysters were better – coming with a splash of salty, vinegary dressing and a dollop of roe.

For mains, Alastair ordered steak (I think it was the grain fed scotch fillet), which was served with a roast portabello mushroom, vine ripened tomatoes, hand cut fries and red wine jus. He requested it medium rare. Unfortunately, it was cooked to past medium and strangely bland.

I ordered the lamb rump, served with potato fondant, mushroom ragout, green beans and truffle oil. The lamb was nice – the meat was tender and I enjoyed the mushroom sauce that came with it.

However, the potato was strange. It was really gluggy and tasteless. Poor potato. :(

On to desserts. Alastair’s dessert, a chocolate fondant with macerated strawberries and ice cream, was a special that month that the waiter recommended. A different waiter brought it to the table and tried to give it to me. I had to hold back a snicker, because I’m not surprised they thought it was mine – it was a rather girly looking dessert!

As you can see, when the fondant came to the table it was still in the silicon heart mould, which I thought looked a bit strange. And the centre of the fondant was cooked through – sadly, no flowing chocolate core for Alastair.

I had the baked cheesecake with cinnamon poached pear, sticky wine syrup and a dollop of cinnamon cream. The cheesecake tasted nice, however I found the texture was very heavy and dense – too much so for my tastes.

Overall, I thought the food was okay but not terribly exciting. While the presentation of the food was good, unfortunately most of the dishes we tried had an aspect that marred them. And with mains at around the $30 mark, I would expect more consistency if I was paying.

Alastair remarked that our meal reminded him of eating at hotel restaurants on business trips, and it does have that hotel restaurant ambiance and feel. To be fair, it could be completely different on a busier evening. We were there on a Tuesday night and it was VERY quiet. We were seated by the windows, and besides us there would have been literally three other tables. During our meal, only about four other diners came in – people who were obviously lone business travellers. Essence is quite a large restaurant and I felt that the atmosphere suffered because it was so quiet. I wonder if there is a way to screen off parts of the room on quieter nights to make it seem cozier and less like sitting in an empty restaurant.

I’ve found it very hard to write this post because I don’t want to be unduly harsh but nor do I want to gloss over the negatives. I know that running a restaurant is hard work, and I applaud people who cook night after night for others – I couldn’t do it! However, I do feel that Essence could be improved. More consistency in what comes out would be a good start. Beyond that it would be nice to see more innovation in the food, or something more to spark some interest, to elevate it past an average hotel restaurant.

For other opinions, check out these blogs:

  • I Eat Therefore I Am
  • Almost Always Ravenous
  • 1001 Dinners 1001 Nights
  • Gastrology
  • [googleMap name="Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel" width="600" height="300" directions_to="false"]Corner Exhibition and Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia[/googleMap]

    Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel
    Corner Exhibition and Lonsdale Street
    Phone: (03) 9660 1183

    Essence Restaurant at Melbourne Marriott on Urbanspoon


    16 Responses to “Essence Restaurant at the Marriott”

    1. Thanh
      April 3rd, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

      The steak was grain fed, which I’ve now learnt is actually the poorer cut of meat. Always, always choose grass fed if available as that is where the flavour is. And that potato was not good at all.

      I love how they thought the fondant was yours. Something simple like marking down which customer ordered what and bringing it to the right table would increase the service, as it’s little things like that can be easily improved.

      And I totally agree about the business trip meals. I’ve had meals at hotel restaurants and it totally reminds me of those, not very good or different.

      I think you’re hands down winning the photo comp so far, if we ever email the PR person our posts?


      Agnes Reply:

      I’ve heard that about grass fed and grain fed meat before – guess it’s true! Will definitely remember it from now on.


    2. Fiona
      April 4th, 2011 @ 8:08 am

      I think you’ve made some constructive feedback there, eg the fondant not oozing, the potato being tasteless – things they should be able to tweak if they have the right heads about them :)
      Fiona recently posted..Gluten Free Apricot and Pecan Mini-Muffins GIVEAWAY!


      Agnes Reply:

      Thanks Fiona! Hopefully it’s taken in that spirit :)


    3. Allan
      April 4th, 2011 @ 10:00 am

      yeh agreed with thanh on the photo comp! =)
      love the bokeh hehehe. clearly something my camera cannot achieve
      Allan recently posted..Charcoal Lane- then Cutler &amp Co


      Agnes Reply:

      Haha, thanks Allan! What camera do you use?


    4. Adrian in Food Rehab
      April 4th, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

      Great pics! Yes, agreed, agreed and agreed. The steak was on the eh side and the handcut chips that came with it weren’t cooked properly…
      Adrian in Food Rehab recently posted..International Feast Party


      Agnes Reply:

      Oh, your chips weren’t cooked properly? Gak! Are you going to write yours up?


    5. Hannah
      April 4th, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

      I feel you’re written up your experience really conscientiously and constructively, Agnes. I do believe that restaurants benefit from hearing, in a thought-out rather than hysterical manner, where improvements could be made. After all, if no one tells them but instead simply chooses not to return, that’s only going to end badly overall.

      Poor, poor potato.

      I must add, though, and I’m really not just saying this because of the competition and you being my BFF and all, that your photos are spectacular. So very clear and crisp and colourful!
      Hannah recently posted..Vegan Carrot and Sunflower Muffins- To Thank You


      Agnes Reply:

      Thanks BFF, I can always rely on you to say the right thing :)

      And yes, poor potato!


    6. Iron Chef Shellie
      April 4th, 2011 @ 9:49 pm

      yes… what’s with the silcone mould still being on? is it edible? no…. so why is it there!!!?
      so sad no gooey middle :(
      Iron Chef Shellie recently posted..Italian Egg- Prosciutto and Cheese Roll


    7. Tv Food and Drink
      April 5th, 2011 @ 10:20 am

      Appreciative of the honest review, and the gorgeous pictures! Really well done! -Gary
      Tv Food and Drink recently posted..At Vintage Enoteca- 7554 Sunset Blvd- Hollywood


    8. Annette
      April 5th, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

      Well done Agnes. A difficult review to write, but I think any restaurant would have to say this was very fair, and very thoughtful and helpful. Presentation was clearly good as your beautiful photos show! Good on you….


    9. Queenotisblue
      April 7th, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

      I found it really refreshing to read a review that honestly discussed your experience even though you were there as guests of the restaurant, so thank you. You’ve provided some great constructive feedback so hopefully it will be taken on board.
      Queenotisblue recently posted..Cookbook Challenge 6 – American


    10. Peter
      May 21st, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

      Interesting that so many people seem to like noisy, crowded restaurants. I travel for business a lot and love hotel restaurants for their relative quietness on most occasions. I would much prefer average food in a quiet restaurant than superb food in a noisy restaurant. I suppose it’s good that we are all different!


    11. love2dine
      May 3rd, 2012 @ 1:37 am

      awesome dishes… i am so hungry right now…


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