(17 Market Lane, Melbourne) May, 2022
Mrs. Appleyard says to Mademoiselle in Picnic at Hanging Rock that Bournemouth was “a delightful place. Nothing changed…ever!”
The Varnished Culture says the same for Flower Drum, tucked away in the heart of Melbourne, just off Bourke Street. We have been coming here for years, whenever commitments bring us to Melbourne. Melbourne has become problematic. Its great high style now looks like Srebrenica after the Serbs finished with it, or Paris churches after the Jacobins. A smoking ruin of a one-party state, where everyone is tolerant of lies, the citizenry does not expect government corruption but demands it, tribalism spills out far beyond the MCG, and totalitarian rule advances with a smiley face, it is ironic that a Chinese institution stands firm, and almost alone, against the barbarians. Indeed, the Chief Barbarian is said to do many of his deals here.
The atmosphere is impeccable. The waiting staff, better dressed than most customers, are magnificent. The food and cellar are superb. We add a star from our last review, recognising that quality and consistency in these troubled times is to be cherished.
We had, after some champagne to whet the appetite:
A Sauté Crayfish Omelette that was divinely fluffy; a lovely Quail Sang Choi Bao with Chinese pork sausage, onions, spring onion, water chestnut and bamboo shoots (iceberg lettuce cup, thank heavens); a Seafood Dumpling Soup; and of course, the classic Peking Duck, each pancake individually wrapped for the diner and served with an artistically arranged plum sauce (see below). Some home made ice cream to share for dessert. All washed down with a couple of bottles of Petaluma Riesling.
The staff do not regard the menu as sacrosanct – special requests are no problem. The wine list is dazzling but there are bargains to be found.
Make sure you book, because the place fills up fast. We arrived early for Monday lunch service but were soon joined by a large cohort of diners, including some very impressively attired Chinese-Australians, obviously regulars.[2023 UPDATE: TVC attended Flower Drum in April and are pleased to report that it remains the best Chinese Restaurant in the World.]