On Friday night, Michael and I found ourselves in the city looking for dinner. My headache rebuffed Michael's suggestions of cocktails and tapas. I was in no mood for the sophisticated bars tucked in the alleys of the CBD, or the crowds of posing professionals spilling out of them. The Waiters' Restaurant was a promising alternative: Michael had read about this restaurant in Cheap Eats 2006, I in Mellie's blog. (As well as Mellie's fine review, this is a nice article about the Waiters' Restaurant's history.)
Having been duly warned about the unsigned entry and rickety staircase, Michael and I were game to climb up and give it a go. At a little past 6pm we still struggled to get a table for two, being slotted right next to the door. Our waitress was outgoing and friendly, speedily fetching a bottle of water, and a tumbler of the house white for Michael. Now our task was to decipher both the standard menu and the specials, both displayed on blackboards around the room (no prices). I was initially distracted for quite a while by the decor. Wood-look panelling on the walls and curtains that would be retro if they hadn't been hanging in the same spot for three or four decades. The most luminous object in the room was the Pepsi machine. Even so, this restaurant was packed with boisterous customers, many of them Italian. Clearly they were all here for the food rather than the ambience.
Eventually Michael and I both chose dishes from the specials board: porcini risotto for him and gnocchi for me. Only the tiniest prod from our waitress had us agreeing to a garlic bread starter. She plonked it on the table within minutes, but was onto her next customer before I had a chance to order a drink. The bread was crusty, buttery and delicious, and the mains soon followed my last mouthful of bread. These were generous servings without any garnishes or other frills, and I would guess that this reminds many customers of what mamma or nonna used to make at home. In this spirit I did my best to finish my plateful, but failed and therefore didn't allow myself dessert. Michael succeeded but was in no state to pick at the remains of my meal, as he often does. Both meals were hearty, filling and had a fairly one-dimensional flavour. I thought that at $15-16 each they were a bit over-priced: I'd prefer to have paid $10 for a smaller portion and then tried dessert. This might have sweetened the experience significantly!
Given the small proportion of vegetarian meals and the super-sized servings, the Waiters' Restaurant isn't ideally suited to my dining desires. Nevertheless I appreciated its fast, no-fuss attitude and the homely, hearty meals are certainly loved by many other Melbournites.
Address: 20 Meyers Place, Melbourne city
Ph: 9650 1508
Price: mains ~$15