Hotel restaurants are, more often than not, a last resort dining option. In my experience it’s usually where you end up going when you’re in a foreign place and can’t be bothered going out and trying to find something. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a hotel restaurant willingly, let alone eaten at a restaurant of a hotel I’m not even staying at. That’s why dining at Terminus was a strange first – we weren’t even staying in Flinders itself, but in Arthur’s Seat, some 17km away. Awarded one hat in this year’s The Age Good Food Guide, Terminus’ modern French and North African-influenced menu had caught my attention.
We arrived to a simple but pleasant dining room. I was surprised to see both tablecloths and carpet: a rare sight in this day and age. We were thankful for this when we realised we could actually have a conversation at regular speaking volume.
I quite liked the unique menu design: it was bound to a wooden board with a strip of coloured rubber, complete with vibrant cover art.
We started with anise bread, served with housemade butter in both plain and black olive varieties. The olive butter was worth eating for the striking colour alone. A nice change from ordinary butter.
We were then presented an amuse bouche of broad bean soup with a mushroom cigar. The soup was silky smooth, garnished with a nice slick of extra virgin. Crisp, salted pastry and juicy porcini filling complemented the mild-flavoured soup quite nicely. I would happily have eaten this as an complete entree.
Sauteed mushrooms, asparagus, brioche, poached egg
Bob’s entree read a bit like a cafe brunch option, but arrived with all the finesse one would expect of a one-hat restaurant. Buttery, garlicky mushrooms and just-tender asparagus sat on a delicate disc of toasted brioche. Hell, I wouldn’t mind some of this for breakfast.
Organic pork belly, scallops, black pudding and potato pancake, apple salad
I opted for a rather meatier entree. Two perfectly seared scallops with a slightly nutty crust were accompanied by some sort of herb emulsion. The round of black pudding enclosed by a thin wall of mashed potato was rich and savoury, with the apple slaw cutting it well. I was a little disappointed with the pork belly, however. There was no crackle and the meat was quite dry.
Wagyu brisket, prunes and apricots
The North African inspiration was apparent here with the tender brisket accompanied by a sweet, cardamon-fragranced jus and topped with pistachios. It was served with a salad of red quinoa, couscous, pine nuts, pomegranate and currants. Finely chopped mint and orange zest gave the salad a nice lift. I appreciated the sparing use of quinoa; it added a bit of a textural contrast to the couscous without imparting too much of its usual overpowering (read: yuck) flavour. The salad was perfect for mopping up the sauce and balancing out the hearty beef. I enjoyed this dish enough to get through the entire brick-sized portion.
Lamb rack, braised shoulder, Merguez sausage, raisins, almonds
Bob likes lamb. I don’t. He loved this dish. I didn’t try any. You’ll just have to take his word for it.
Dark chocolate fondant, white chocolate mousse, butternut sorbet
This aesthetically pleasing dessert didn’t fail to satisfy. The soft-centred fondant was sufficiently chocolatey without being too rich. Smooth, light white chocolate mousse was a nice accompaniment. The pumpkin ice cream was surprisingly mild and didn’t feel as out of place as I expected. I guess I’ve only really had pumpkin in desserts that are heavily spiced.
Turkish delight souffle, halva ice cream
Of course I couldn’t possibly go past a Turkish delight dessert on any menu. The flamboyantly pink rosewater souffle was light as air and filled with chunks of semi-melted Turkish delight. The sesame-based halva ice cream provided an interesting contrast and orange blossom-scented creme anglais added yet another dimension. My only complaint was that it was tooth-achingly sweet. The sugar level in the souffle could have been dialed down a quite a bit, considering the amount of Turkish delight that was in it.
We had booked for our Friday night dinner but saw that a number of people were able to walk in and get tables. If you need something last minute, this is your place!
The food was definitely interesting and for the most part worked very well, with few faults to find between us. We got three courses for $84, but a $65 two-course option was also available.
Despite being the Melbourne Food Snob, I do appreciate that there is plenty of good to be found outside of the city. The Terminus is a shining example of why it’s worth going on holiday every once in a while. Highly recommended.Terminus at Flinders Hotel Corner Cook and Wood Streets Flinders