Restaurant Review: Virginia Plain (now known as Mercy bar + eatery)

Location: 31 Flinders Lane,  Melbourne
Phone: 03 9290 0400
Cuisine: European
Overall Impression: 7.5/10
The fruit of Marco Santucci’s vision, Virginia Plain is anything but.

Under the guidance of head chef Andy Harmer (ex Vue de Monde group head), the restaurant serves modern European cuisine in a tasteful, relaxed environment. The dining room (which can only be described as vast) is framed on two sides by a long bar and an exposed kitchen. The mood lighting is perhaps a little too "moody" in places, but those with better than average vision should be able to make out what is on the menu.
We were so impressed by our first visit to Virginia Plain that we decided to return a mere 2 weeks later. Unfortunately, our return visit was a little disappointing (but more about that later).
Quite simply, our first dining experience was brilliant. Andy Harmer's pedigree was obvious, serving flawless dishes in comparatively unassuming surrounds. The food was innovative and stylish, cooked with the skill and precision usually expected from restaurants with much higher price tags.
Unfortunately, our second visit revealed that Virginia Plain is not perfect. One of the dishes we ordered was a steak (a 500g Free range Gippsland grass-fed Black Angus rib eye with bone marrow sauce). Despite it's appetising appearance, the steak was completely inedible due to it being comprised entirely of sinew, gristle and fat. It is no exaggeration to say that we were unable to consume any part of the steak.
Disappointed, we informed our waitress who listened attentively to our concerns and took the steak back to the kitchen. She returned shortly afterwards and informed us that the chef had acknowledged that the steak was not acceptable. Unfortunately it had escaped their quality control processes due to the apparent difficulty in assessing large pieces of meat. We were immediately offered a replacement dish.
We were very impressed by the way the kitchen handled our dissatisfaction. There was a clear acknowledgement of the error (which was by no means deliberate) and they did their best to rectify the situation. It is also worth noting that this particular cut of steak appears to have been taken off the menu now.
Fundamentally, Virginia Plain is capable of greatness. Whilst we have had 2 contrasting dining experiences, the restaurant must be commended for its consistently flawless and friendly service. We are excited to see how Virginia Plain evolves and develops over time.

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