They say you get two great loves in your life. We find one at Mr Hive, Melbourne’s first permanent dessert bar.
Southbank has long been dominated by bleary-eyed clubbers and light-fingered gamblers, spotted with a handful of extrovertedly over-priced glitzy restaurants catering for those who had the requisite bling-bling and deep pockets to frequent Crown Casino’s Mahogany Room. That shadow still lingers, but a wave of more refined sophistication increasingly laps at the Yarra River’s southern banks. By contrast to far too many of its Melbourne-born-and-bred fine dining counterparts who have repeatedly adopted an industrial grunge or minimalist bistro decor, Mr Hive has retained the structure of its predecessor Maze. Adopting a more noir edge, Mr Hive brings sexy back to fine dining. Its curved, hotel lobby-like entrance is suited for strutting in with pomp. The dining area has a cosmopolitan plushness reminiscent of New York. It’s all poshness – upholstered noir leather chairs, stained black wood tables, dazzling long window panes. The additional drama of the most enormous cane lighting and metal wall sculptures deservedly belongs in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
MoMo & Coco have visited twice, once on our nocturnal wanderings for the dessert bar, another time for dinner. Mr Hive’s a la carte menu was a pleasing shared-plate, modern Australian-European affair — more evident technique than similarly-inclined newcomer Henry & The Fox (a favourite of ours), and far less divisive than the other similarly-inclined Pei Modern. At Mr Hive, the savoury fare was consistent in refined execution, nothing below average, nothing average, but also nothing particularly earth-shattering. Clean, straight, balanced flavours and textures. Nothing boring, nothing too fanciful. We realise you read our dessert-only journal-blog reviews for our dessert-focus, so let’s skip straight to the desserts! 🙂
Towards the back of Mr Hive, there’s a curved bar at which one perches for some sweet dessert Olympics. Desserts at the dessert bar are split into two categories, 4 modern irresistibles, 2 classical irresistibles. Over two visits, MoMo & Coco have sampled all irresistibles from the former and current menu. However, we will showcase just four that were the unforgettable highlights and which coincidentally, still have a presence on the current dessert menu. Although no longer present on the current dessert menu, keep a look out for the return of a cloud-like raspberry souffle and the simple beauty of a deconstructed eton mess. At present, there is another deconstructed sweet, if slightly strange, thing and another souffle.
Here we go with dessert Olympics! The first sweet irresistible is the “Lemon Tart” ($18). Meh boring, you might say, shrugging our recommendation away. No dear readers, lemon tart may be lemon tart but Mr Hive’s rendition isn’t just any lemon tart that one can easily bake up and plate up at home. A tart of first principles, but with far more electric acidity amid a lush citric creaminess. A palate cleanser, it is a classical partner to the more whimsy lemon tart at Hare & Grace, a favourite restaurant dessert of ours. Do try it.
One of the more curious modern desserts, the deconstructed “Ricotta Cheesecake” ($16) was presented like a fairy’s playground. The centrepiece of the ricotta cheesecake had a tofu-ish mouthfeel. Like four stepping stones, they sat upon a base of crushed nuts over which were strewn droplets of soft ginger creme, piercing yuzu gel and sorbet pods. A light intermission.
The third irresistible, the “White Chocolate, Mango, Basil, Coconut” ($16) was yet another stunner. Of a deceptively simple appearance, a spoonful of the thick white chocolate mousse accented with coconut, together with mango cubes and a bit of that sculpted ball of basil sorbet yielded a poignant cocktail of tropical flavours. Being partial to desserts that transport one to another world, it was a MoMo & Coco favourite.
The last irresistible from Mr Hive is the “Chocolate Bar, Peanuts, Caramel” ($18). Unlike its similarly-constructed counterparts at Golden Fields and the Waiting Room, there was no liability in any of its components. Here at Mr Hive, sitting on a crunchy pralinised biscuit base, a rich chocolate mousse cake was embellished with a careful dash of peanuts, a smooth pod of ice cream sorbet and a fancy twirl of tempered chocolate. Deserving every synonym of decadence, it was the perfectly satisfying climax of our two dessert marathons at Mr Hive.
That’s not the end! Make sure you make space for the freebies! On our first visit, we didn’t and we moaned and groaned our way through, much to the concealed amusement of the dessert-pastry chef of the night. Your dessert bar experience is not finished with the last mouthful of your ordered desserts. Out came little glass bottles filled with shots of warm chocolate milk, stoppered by a caramel truffle that could potentially give London’s Paul A Young a run for his money..and certainly some of Melbourne’s chocolatiers. Simply glorious stuff.
And because Mr Hive realises its dessert bar patrons are very very naughty people who cannot get enough of sugar, the dessert chef also handed us a paper bag of old-style handmade sweeties. It reminded us of two things. First, the exquisite sugarlands found in quaint English country townships where lollies fill huge glass canisters and receipts are hand-written, and where you visit for more sugar after a dollop of jam and clotted cream on fat scones. Second, it reminded us of our old primary school canteens, where one would pass a 50 cent coin over to the old lady in exchange for a bag of eucalyptus drops and twisted raspberry and liquorice ropes. Can you remember this? Ahh, it was just under two decades ago before the advent of silly “health food” edicts from our nanny-state government. But before we start on a rant on the dismal state of Australia’s domestic politics, let’s turn back to Mr Hive’s bag of joys — pastilles, fruit jellies, mint discs, boiled lollies. Imagine how much time and effort has gone into making such delights! A very cute, appreciated farewell touch. 😀
Like its culinary offerings (savoury and sweet), service at Mr Hive is consistent in all the right aspects — friendly, professional, timely, neither pushy nor condescending. Thank God they seem to have managed to throw out the terrible wait staff that haunted Mr Hive’s predecessor, Maze.
They say you get two great loves in your life. Well, MoMo & Coco may have found one great love in Mr Hive. He is the embodiment of everything a great man/restaurant should be. Adaptable for that special occasion as well as for casually elegant catch-ups. A gentleman of great consistency, treating you with care and attention, not hipster nonchalance. Mr Hive moreover straddles between that universally appeasing line between classical and cutting-edge. If Cumulus is the forefather of shared-plate-style Modern Australian/European dining in Melbourne, Mr Hive joins the second-generation with the likes of Henry & The Fox and The Sharing House (review coming)…but it offers just a bit more too. If you have been to London’s Pollen St Social, Mr Hive is quite like that, but without the hype and without the ambience-killing chaotic crowds. Its dessert bar sings like a tightly curated exhibition of fine dessert-craft — no weaknesses, all highlights, a true testament to the idea of a dessert bar (unlike that weak sugar puffery found in Sydney). Secluded behind a vault-like entrance that opens out into a moody gallery space, Mr Hive is a hidden Melbourne secret. Long live desserts, and long live Mr Hive, these Dessert Correspondents declare.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Mr Hive Kitchen & Bar, 8 Whiteman Street, Crown Entertainment Complex, Southbank, Melbourne, Vic 3066.
- ☑ Budget: $$$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Restaurant dessert. Modern Australian/European. Also, dessert degustation.
- ☑ Must-eat: The “White Chocolate, Mango, Basil, Coconut” and the seasonal souffles.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: They say you get two great loves in your life. We find one at Mr Hive, Melbourne’s first permanent dessert bar.