Mr Mason – Death by Chocolate Never Tasted so Sweet

Late Friday afternoon rolled around and the weather was pretty awesome, so my friend and I decided to pay Mr Mason a visit. Mr Mason is a French inspired restaurant located at 530 Collins Street which is quite a bit of travel distance for us.

Although it is not at the glitzy end of Collins Street, we had heard promising things about their desserts and were keen to try them. More accurately, I have a fiendish sweet-tooth and my friend was nice enough to indulge my whims. It’s all semantics here. We were going into uncharted territory so the first thing we hit up was Google maps. To our delight, we discovered that a few trams could deliver us to our afternoon of sweetness. Awesome!

Upon arriving at Mr Mason’s, we observed to our slight embarrassment that we were not as well-dressed as the rest of the diners. These were businessmen and women in their ties, suits or formal skirts and blouses. We looked like two kids in causal attire. They were deep in conversation, their fingers swiping furiously across iPad screens or flipping proposals in thick white files. Our hands held well, practically nothing. The place was packed for a Friday afternoon and we had not made reservations. For a brief moment, I had this horrible feeling that they would turn us away. But they didn’t. They had spotted an empty table in front of the bar and ushered us to our high stools. After settling us, one waitress brought over the lunch and express lunch menus for us. The lunch menu is conveniently divided into small, medium and large categories, so you can order as much or as little as you like. When we explained that we had come specifically for the desserts, she smiled graciously and brought us the dessert menu. Her eyes twinkled when almost immediately we were ready to order the Chocolate soufflé, honeycomb, vanilla bean ice cream and some warm honey madeleines. We didn’t see it on the menu, but took a punt and asked if we could order hot chocolate. “But of course!” She agreed and took off with our orders.

Whilst waiting, we soaked up the sights of Mr Mason. The entire place is decked in warm chocolatey overtones. I spotted classy noir leather sofas at one end in front of a stone-walled fireplace. Imagine sitting there, glass in hand and hearing the roar of bright orange flames as you while away the bitter cold Winter afternoons. Imagine writing a novel, the crime and suspense kind in a place like this. There are Zen-like raw wooden pillars that sprout from the ceiling near the bar, and there’s a large blackboard resting atop it. Beautiful writing etch in white let patrons know the range of beverages available to order. In fine weather, you can even take your drinks outside to the terrace which overlooks a part of the city that is not always classed as beautiful.

Our table was separated from the next row by black grids still wide enough to sneak a peek at what the others are supping on. We looked on as the suits next door make quick meals of scallops and lamb shoulders with swift glides of their knives and forks. Their enjoyment and content clearly evident on broad smiling faces. We could hardly wait till our desserts arrived.  Our anxiousness must have showed because the same waitress who took our orders came by and reassured us that she was going to check on our desserts. We observed as service staff made their way around the place to collect finished dishes, top up glasses and shared a small chat with the customers. Their initiative in ensuring the comfort of their diners is both refreshing and commendable.

Within five minutes, our waitress brought over our hot chocolate, soufflé and madeleines. There is a magic in desserts that has the ability to change a person’s day; and Mr Mason readily confirms this hypothesis. We are quiet for a moment as we gaze at the two desserts. The shell-shaped madeleines are golden hued and sat snugly on top of a linen draped basket. Their heady fragrance of egg and honey is unmistakable, and they make our mouths water. The soufflé is served on a wood-grained board with vanilla bean ice cream in a small round dish. Shiny jagged pieces of honeycomb that look like small gold nuggets decorate the side. Fine powdered sugar is dusted over the top of the chocolate soufflé creating a snowy look. This is perhaps a little ironic because the ramekin is white-hot to the touch. Both desserts are front page news picture-worthy, and it is a pity that I didn’t have a camera on me. The hot chocolate is served in a glass and not a cup. We are both surprised and thrilled when we see three distinct bands of chocolate, ranging from dark to light, capped with bubbly froth thick enough to last beyond the first few mouthfuls. We stir the hot chocolate and take a tentative sip. It is awesome! Silky smooth, it bathes the back of our throats with a desirable amount of sweetness that rivals that of Ganache’s hot chocolate.

My friend who cannot refuse anything with egg and honey has fallen for the pillowy soft madeleines. However, she is still generous enough to half the basket’s offerings with me.

Honey, honey, honey!!!

The warm insides of the madeleines are fluffy and not overly dense. Perfumed with whiffs of sweetness, they are incredibly addictive and we find ourselves asking if we may take a serve home with us. Our waitress is not sure but goes to find out and later on is happy to accommodate our request. We fall in love with Mr Mason’s a little more. But it is the chocolate soufflé that steals the show and very nearly our hearts. Unlike the ones served at Madame Sousou in Fitzroy, you do not eat chocolate air. The spoon cracks through the crispy dark exterior and plunges into molten richness a notch lower than scalding hot. The moist gooey chocolate is capable of inducing one of the seven deadly sins so consider yourselves forewarned. We pour the real vanilla, vanilla bean ice cream into the chocolate fountain and spike the concoction with shards of honeycomb. It is death by chocolate, and quite possibly, the most delicious death ever. The combination of hot and cold in our mouths at the exact same moment is absolutely potent; and we can almost hear Katy Perry singing the MasterChef song. Not fans of honeycomb, we are again surprised to find that the honeycomb at Mr Mason’s does not stick to the roof of our mouths. They are deliciously crunchy sweet – and we become honeycomb converts.

Mr Mason is the kind of place where you see lawyers, businessmen and bankers walk in – which sounds like a joke, but it’s true. We walked away in awe of their desserts and very impressed with the professionalism of the service staff who take obvious pride in their work. Our experience with Mr Mason has been very positive and we look forward to the next time where we can try new desserts and enjoy old favourites.

Mr Mason on Urbanspoon

The Burgers are Sexier at Merrywell

I recently announced my intentions to become an Olympian in the 2016 games in my previous post. So it is important that I start training by eating healthily. I expect that my friends would support my dream, perhaps even cheer me on to a medal. However, one of them seems hell-bent on distracting me from my goal. It’s literally gut-wrenching when your friend is trying to derail your plan, and it’s pretty evil too. She told me of a place called The Merrywell which is located at the corner of Clarendon Street and Crown Riverside. She also told me that The Merrywell is an American outfit headed by two legendary chefs, Sammy De Marco and Grant Macpherson, and that their food had received good reviews. She repeatedly told me that for over a week and eventually my bad eyes prompted me to google pictures of heavenly looking burgers. So I did what every good, focused athlete would not have done. I gave into temptation, shelved my Olympic plans and dragged my friend to lunch at The Merrywell. Any guilt I felt, any regret I had have since vanished. The Merrywell is bringing sexy back with their burgers and fries.

Funky vibes from The Merrywell make it difficult to resist.

We walked into the glass house that is The Merrywell which comprises two levels: downstairs and upstairs. There are also two different menus for downstairs and upstairs. Seeing as how we visited in the afternoon, we ordered from the downstairs burger bar menu which also features daily specials. If you visit after 5pm, you get to order cute nosh from the upstairs menu such as piggies in blanket and lollipop buffalo wings. Sunlight streams in from the outside to illuminate the tall ceilings, bright decorative pop-art paintings and high tables with classic wooden finishes that are immediately noticeable and attractive. There is a comfortable spaciousness so you do not feel cramped but nor do you feel that the service staff are so faraway that they are out of reach. We were invited to sit anywhere we wished to, so we hopped onto the high chairs at the tables in front of a TV. It also gave us a great view of their extensive range of alcoholic beverages available to order at the bar. It is easy to see why The Merrywell may be an ideal choice for afternoon drinks. Far from being a grungy pub, The Merrywell is a clean-cut classy venue that offers $15 burger and pint deals from 4pm – 6pm everyday. This has to be one of Melbourne CBD’s unbeatable value combinations and not just for well-heeled businessmen. The causal vibe at The Merrywell is a big draw card for Melbourne’s young trendy crowd eager to unwind and catchup with friends.

Everyone knows that it is not enough to impress with the surroundings, the real bacon so as to speak is in the quality of the food offered. After glancing through the menu which featured friendly salt and peppers shakers against a red background, we decided to share two different burgers: the Bistro Burger (slide in fries, au poivre sauce) and the classic burger called The Merrywell (lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, tomato, special sauce, bacon and fries). I was keen to try The Merrywell Spider or the Cherry Coke Float, but then I remembered that whipped cream would really sink the boot in my Olympic preparations. Instead, I settled for the lemon, lime and bitters whilst my friend stuck true with Adam’s ale. The pink hue of the lemon, lime and bitters came served with a wedge of green lime – kind of cute but I didn’t squeeze the lime into my drink because it was sour enough.

Whilst waiting for our burgers, we talked about the latest experiments and some interesting findings of the week. We didn’t have to wait long for our burgers, and our stomachs fluttered in excitement every time we saw the serving staff nearing our table. We were third time lucky. With a friendly smile, our waiter placed the temptations in front of us. Both burgers came served with knives and forks. But everyone knows that the proper way to eat burgers is with your bare hands to get all the finger-licking goodness. Don’t worry about making a mess because there are tissues packed into a cute red holder that looks a little like a jukebox on the side of every table. You can mop up later, just dig in first!

The Bistro burger sat on a white-beige plate reminiscent of ones you get when you fly in the air; whereas the classic Merrywell was served in a red basket giving it a fun carnival feel. Fries were slid into the bistro burger allowing them to soak up the juices of the beef patty as well as the au poivre sauce. I suppose Merrywell might have gotten the inspiration from watching generations of kids do that at McD’s. In contrast, perfect golden, crispy shoestring fries were served in a slightly crumpled brown bag alongside the classic burger. I imagine that little potatoes in farms across Australia grow up dreaming of become fries in The Merrywell kitchen, because then they would have been sacrificed to a noble cause. They make the fries at McD’s look shabby and they are so well seasoned that you do not feel as though you are licking a salt pillar. You have to take our word for it on how good The Merrywell fries are. Both of us normally do not like fries all that much, but we inhaled these ones greedily. Even when we were so full, our hands could not help reaching out to those delicious shoestrings. Clearly, it’s mind over gut.

The classic Merrywell burger looks like the van Gogh of burgers. It is beautiful in a way that will tease a smile out of the most carnivorous of us. It’s magnificence is clasped between two toasted buns that incredibly retain a soft crunch. The buns do not taste sweet like the ones at other burger joints, however, they do taste like a cross between a brioche and the traditional white buns. Sweet rings of onions coupled with tomatos and tangy pickles enhanced the overall taste. I’m not sure what the special sauce is, but it works well with the beef patty. I think it tasted slightly spicy. Where to start with the beef patty? The cheese has melted over the top such that it looks almost translucent yellow. It made all the other patties I had eaten to date look like wimps both in terms of size and flavour. The pink beef is minced to a fine point where it still provides a “bite” so that you can enjoy the feel of sinking your teeth into its juiciness. A burger cannot reach the heights of perfection unless it has bacon, and the guys at Merrywell are well aware of this universal truth. Bacon makes everything taste better, and it makes my world go round. Whenever I have to finish something yucky, I drown it in bacon bits. Crisp where it is not in contact with the rest of the elements, the bacon retained its succulency and fried oil-fragrance. There is an art to eating this burger, and it cannot be rushed. If you find it a little difficult to eat it all in one go, simply deconstruct it and sample the thrill of each component.

Having had the best burger of my life so far, it seems a little unfair to rate the Bistro burger. It contained a lot less components that made me love the classic burger and so it just couldn’t measure up. In hindsight, I should have eaten this one before the classic. I wasn’t fond of the sauce and the flavours were muted compared to that of the first burger. However, my friend really liked the au poivre sauce and mixed in a little Tabasco sauce with her half of the burger to add a slight kick to it. There are condiments such as mustard, ketchup, and HP sauce on the side of all tables, so you can essentially flavour your burger to taste as you like it.

We were so full by the end of the two burgers and fries that we could not contemplate ordering dessert – something that we regret. At only $5, you could have your pick of chocolate mousse, mango pudding or lamington trifle. As painful as missing out on dessert is, it gave us the opportunity of returning to The Merrywell to sample more of their creativity. The burgers and fries at The Merrywell are not for the fainthearted. They are good-size manly feeds. There is a give and take to everything. The burgers served at The Merrywell may battle your arteries, but your tastebuds will thank you for every morsel. If you dare to try them, I wager that they will make the top three burgers in your favourites list. If burgers are not your thing, The Merrywell offers an interesting selection of sam-wiches as well as homely feeds including onion rings, cup o’chili, chicken tortilla soup, and chicken fingers.

Going for Gold with the onion rings at The Merrywell – a more achievable dream for mere mortals such as myself!

Come hang out with the friendly guys at The Merrywell, the outside view is awesome and food is all-American goodness. Oh, and all the cool kids come here ;)!

The Merrywell on Urbanspoon