I had an impromptu drink late last year at Council House, after dinner elsewhere, and was very impressed by the wine list. The menu looked worth trying, and I assumed food bloggers would have already reviewed it so I did some research. Nothing. No reviews. I asked the Melbourne food mafia for their opinions of the food via Twitter and got the following responses: ‘not particularly memorable’ and ‘meh’.

From previous experience the social media consensus about a place, whether positive or negative, is usually reliable, accurate and trustworthy. So would I go against the prevailing opinion and try it? I procrastinated. It’s been reviewed by the Age, but their bland diplomacy is rarely informative. And the ‘coming soon’ splash page only website is usually an instant deal breaker for me, particularly if it remains like that months after the business has opened (I wrote this sentence in January, and it remains unchanged in April).

Maybe it was new year goodwill, or being seriously relaxed, or maybe I’m getting old and soft, but I decided to eat there and drink some more wine. But then the months went past, and it was April before I got there. All the while, dinner remained unreviewed and I thought I’d still publish the first review. But then a newish site Food men and love beat me to it. And then I found another review from I’m so Hungree.

Melbourne gastronome was not impressed with the breakfast but I enjoyed dinner. I chose from the tapas (as in smaller dishes, not authentic tapas as such) side of the menu, and the pork belly with orange and bok choi was sensational. A huge serve of cauliflower fritters was an excellent accompaniment, and very good but not quite as good as those at Supermaxi. My girlfriend loved her risotto with mussels, which was fragrant with basil, lemon and mascarpone. The service is good too.

Council House is worth trying. Try the wine first and, if that wins you over, stay for dinner. As I’ve noted before, food bloggers don’t work in a coordinated organised manner. We swarm at random over the city, too often influenced by hype, marketing campaigns and freebies. A random distribution is not an even distribution. Some places get reviewed repeatedly, and some are never noticed.

The average food blog reader could assume that the absense of serious reviews of Council House from high profile Melbourne food blogs is a coincidence. Fellow bloggers may read more into the situation, based on the Twitter comments I mentioned, and interpret an absence of reviews as an unwillingness to spend time writing a negative review of an indifferent experience.

But I was not sure the negative experiences really existed, and I’m glad I took the time to find out for myself. The consequence is that some pleasant surprises await us when we open our eyes to see what we have previously overlooked.

dinner at Council House, Little Collins St

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