An Accidental Lunch at the Moomba

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I suggested going to the Moomba for lunch with friend, thinking that it was a place for wraps and fancy sandwiches.  I’d mixed it up with its sister establishment, the Moomba Tuckshop. When I got to Circular Road, I realised my mistake. It’s a modern Australian restaurant, more fine dining than fancy sandwich. Luckily, my friend was happy to play along and, having no preconceived notions of what the food should be, we had an unexpectedly good lunch at the place.

The restaurant was pretty expensive, with appetisers going from $24 up, mains $25 up and desserts $12 up.  Since neither of us were big eaters, we decided to share an appetiser, two mains and a dessert. Swift mental calculations told me that the best deal was the 3-course lunch offer ($42) plus an a la carte main.

The appetiser was three Hokkaido scallops on a bed of watercress salad ($24). Each scallop was lovingly seared so it had a smoky crust giving way to the juicy still-raw interior. The seafood freshness really hit the spot. The accompanying salad was well executed as the spiciness of watercress was well balanced by incredibly sweet cherry tomatoes. The chef evidently chooses his produce very carefully.

The mushroom risotto ($25) was another winner. The risotto itself was studded with mushroom bits and perfumed with just enough truffle oil to tantalise. Covering half the risotto was a giant portobello mushroom, grilled to meaty perfection. Point to note: this dish was served at the edge of al dente, so you need to get to it fast before the rice grains go soft. We made the fatal mistake of chatting for too long before coming to our senses. Then we fell upon it and polished it off to the last grain.

Grilled kangaroo ($36) came next. It was surprisingly good medium done and could easily pass off as beef. Tasting somewhat like a cross between beef and venison, it was slightly more gamey than beef and had less of an iron tang than venison. The kangaroo was set on a pile of what looked like asparagus stems and had a few coins of purple sweet potato on the side. It was all faultless, so we could just focus on enjoying the food and the conversation.

Being on an adventurous streak, we went for the poached pear with blue cheese ice cream ($13). The ice cream tasted at first like baked cheesecake, with the accompanying mouthfeel. The only difference was that it had an extra savoury aftertaste.  It took another few spoonfuls before the blue cheese flavour came through. It was odd but somehow worked. Good for those who don’t like their desserts too sweet. The poached pear in red wine was too sweet for my liking. Having the pear and ice cream together, we felt that there was too much going on at the same time: soft grainy pear, sweetness, a hint of red wine, cold unctuous cheese and the salty pungency of blue cheese all together was  too overwhelming. While I’m unlikely to order it again, it was a fun experiment and I’m glad to have tried it.

Final notes: This place, like most chi-chi establishments, checks if you want still or sparkling water. They’ll pour  you tap water from pretty herb-sprigged bottles if you ask. Service was generally good: unobtrusive and attentive. One thing they need to work on is the pricing of their set menu. We expected to be charged a la carte prices for the cheaper mushrom risotto and pay for the kangaroo as part of the set, but the bill came otherwise. They were good enough to make the change in our favour, so kudos to them for saving us $20!

I’d definitely come back here again for its inventive food. The set lunch is good value since you get to choose anything from the a la carte menu, the produce is fresh and of good quality, and the cooking is top notch.

The Moomba
52 Circular Road
Tel: 6438 0141

P.S. Apologies for the lack of photos. It was a happy accident that I got to eat here so didn’t bring my camera.