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I have been wanting to visit Verge for quite a while now, even more so since it featured in the recent The Age, Good Food Guide. So, what better time to visit a nice restaurant than for some one's birthday and that's just what we did for Rach's Birthday on Saturday night. We booked a week in advance, and managed to get the last table in the place for Saturday night - a table for 2.
When you walk into Verge, you walk through the bar area downstairs to the pass area outside the kitchen. This is where the waiters take you to your table upstairs. Upstairs, Verge looks like a modern warehouse apartment conversion, with an exposed concrete roof and a view looking out over Fitzroy Gardens. It's quite a small space, with many tables squeezed into the space. We were directed to the area at the back of the restaurant near the Waiter's Bar. Next to us was another table of two people and another table of about 10 people. Normally I wouldn't even bother mentioning these tables, but they come into play later on... trust me.
The menu at Verge is predominately Japanese, mixed with influences from other parts of the world, Italian and French being the obvious ones.
To start, we ordered the Zensai moriawase - Assorted Japanese hors d'oeuvres ($13.50 p.h.). This was a plate of various tastes, some interesting, some nice, some not so nice. I really liked the interestingly shaped Scallop Tempura, as well as the Beef Tartare, which was as red as could be. One that didn't quite hit the spot was the Soy Panna Cotta with Jelly on top. It had tiny little mushrooms (shitake I think) set in the Jelly, which was quite cool, but there was very little taste to the Panna Cotta, but for some reason it was very hard to swallow, this was the only one I couldn't finish - and I'm usually one for trying new things!
As we were working through the tasting plate, we were distracted by a commotion on the table next to us. There was a man on the previously mentioned table of 10, who had lost the plot and was literally yelling abuse at the waiters over the fact that the entree he was given, wasn't what he thought it was. This continued on for quite sometime and got to the point where half of his own table was so embarrassed by him, they actually left the restaurant. Then the couple dining on the table behind us, stood up and explained to the guy that he had wrecked their night and left also. We were contemplating leaving also, but because it was Rach's Birthday and that fact that we had basically just got there, we thought we'd stick it out, while the rude guy still went on and on. We thought about asking for a different table, but as it was a full house, there was nowhere to go.
Now, if this was my restaurant and I had someone going off at a table in a particularly smallish room, I'd do something about either calming the guy down, so the rest of the patrons could enjoy the night, or getting the nutter to leave. The waiters did neither and left the guy to go off and left us to sit there and listen to him.
Our mains arrived after a bit of an expected wait (due to the commotion, I assumed there would be a wait.) I ordered the Tea smoked duck breast, gobo choucroute, braised figs ($34.50) and Rach ordered the Roast lamb rack, neck canneloni, pea and purslane (34.50)
Apart from the fact that no longer did I feel like eating nor enjoying my night due to the psycho sitting next to us... my meal really wasn't that great. The duck was dry and overcooked (don't let the pink in the middle of the pieces fool you in the photo), the prosciutto it was served with was also dried out. The figs however were the saviour of the dish and once I'd run out of figs to eat the meat with, I couldn't eat anymore... it was just too dry.
Rach's meal did look very interesting and she did think it was very tasty. The lamb rack was tender and the sauce was delicious. The 'neck cannelloni' was an interesting addition to a somewhat Japanese influenced menu. (Psycho next to us is still rabbiting on about something...)
Now I come to the next disappointment of my evening. About 3 days before we were to eat at Verge, I called up and spoke a guy and asked if they could do something nice for Rach's birthday. Now, I know that this is a bit of extra effort for a restaurant to go to, but I was giving them notice. I was told they they could do a nice little dessert plate with 'Happy Birthday Rach' written on it. I said 'perfect!!'
So, when it came to dessert time, we were definately sick of the psycho next to us and really wanted to leave. Rach wanted to leave too, but I had to convince her to stay for my special sup rise. The waiters bought over a dessert menu... so I wasn't sure how this whole thing was going to work, but I thought they would have it sussed. We ordered one dessert to share; Millefeuille of cherry and pistachio, Maracaibo chocolate sorbet ($15.50). I was hoping to get away from the table to maybe remind the guys about the 'special' dessert, but was unable to without Rachel seeing me speak to the waiters.
When the dessert arrived, it was just your plain old Millefeuille with no writing on the plate or anything!! Like I said, it's a bit of extra effort on the restaurant's behalf, but I was prepared to pay and if they didnt want to do it, they could have told me. When I called to request it, they knew they were going to be busy that night.
Overall we had a very average night. My dinner wasn't that special, we had to put up with the Psycho next to me going nuts at his family and waiters and the disappointment of the birthday treat not arriving.
It would have been nice if the waiters could have apologised regarding the guy next to us. I know it's not their fault, but when you're paying lots of money for a nice meal, you want your environment to be pleasant and I'm sure it is most nights, but unfortunately, we dined on the wrong night. The service was pleasant enough, but they could have went the extra mile for us to make up for the unpleasantness, but it wasn't mentioned once, not even when we were leaving. The waiters knew it was an issue though, because every time they walked past us or away from the psycho guy, they would make a disgruntled face at us.
I'm sure the food must be good most nights, because it's a 2 chef hatted restaurant... why did it have to all go pear shaped on a special night for us?