For the first time in my memory food critic John Lethlean from The Weekend Australian magazine awards a restaurant 5/5 stars. And given it’s only a hop, skip and jump from my home it would be remiss of me not to visit Moon Under Water, the fine dining side of the revamped boozer Builders Arms Hotel.

If you’re short on time then the conclusion is that everything that Mr Lethlean says in his review I heartily concur with. Under Andrew McConnell’s guidance, Moon Under Water is sophisticated and confident, creative and intriguing. The prix fixe menu of $75 for 4 courses is value for money in my view and as the menu changes weekly to fortnightly depending on the season and availability of produce you could go for repeat visits and not eat the same thing every time. They also cater very well (and very politely) for any dietary requirements.

The all-white dining room could be termed stark but I prefer to think of it is calming and serene. All that wood panelling combined with Bentwood chairs is very Nordic and a far cry from the multi-coloured Saturday Night Fever-esque flooring which I used to dance on (showing my age!). The whiteness does not make the atmosphere clinically sterile – there are dots of colour in the form of a greenery or a bowl of zucchini. Also the staff slip around in semi-scuffed white Dunlop volleys and the tables are covered in butcher’s paper for a casual feel.

On my most recent visit the menu was as follows:

  • Cheese biscuit
  • Rottnest Island scallops, cucumber, fennel
  • Shaved jamon, fresh curd, raw and grilled zucchini
  • roast chicken, celery, leek and hazelnuts
  • peach, lemon cream, blueberries
Inside what looked like a camping enamel soap container was the most delicious salt/olive oil bread I’ve ever eaten paired with slices of lightly pickled cucumber and a hunk of good butter. That bread outshone even the shiitake mushroom croquettes for me (which curiously were not mentioned on the menu).

On a summer’s day you can’t go too wrong with perfectly seared scallop, the freshness of cucumber and a lemon aioli. The presentation was painstaking too – you could just imagine the tweezers in action placing each miniature fennel frond precisely around the plate.

More freshness, this time in the form of zucchini, goats curd and an intensely fragrant tomato highlighted with a sliver of jamon. The dish really showcased what you can do with humble vegetables – a dish full of colour and flavour and a pleasure for the senses.

The meat course was a perfectly roasted chicken breast with celery, softened leeks and a square of crispy chicken skin. It was accompanied by a simply dressed bowl of lettuce – again highlighting the finesse you can demonstrate through the use of a humble ingredient.

Dessert was what I consider a typical McConnell dish – a bunch of torn up ingredients tossed together in what seems to be a haphazard way but is actually a carefully considered combination of flavours. And I’m sure that jumble of summer flavours is not accidental plating either as every plate looked the same on our table.

To end – thin dark chocolate shells housing an oozing salted caramel and mousse. Otherwise known as a fancy-pants Rolo!

As you can see the servings are modest so while you will be full at the end of the meal don’t expect to feel like you’re rolling out the door. If you enjoy that I’ve-just-had-a-degustation-and-can’t-move feeling then I suggest filling up on the delicious bread!
I like Moon Under Water so much I have been twice in 2 weeks and would happily go again and again. Given the hype around the restaurant I was surprised to be able to get a booking easily and at short notice (once for a large group of 10 people). Must be the holiday season I guess.

My advice? Book now and enjoy.

Moon Under Water, Builders Arms Hotel, 211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy +61 3 9417 7700

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