Pinchy’s is the famously pink seafood palace is slinging lobster rolls and oysters, champagne and cocktails, from a balcony overlooking the life and excitement of Bourke Street in the CBD.
Location: Midcity Centre, Level 1/200 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: 0420 783 719
Lobster pink? Salmon pink? We’re not sure exactly what to call this particular hue, but make no mistake – Pinchy’s is very, very…pink.
And although the colour palette certainly accentuates the feminine feel, the overall vibe of the place is definitely more womanly than manly.
Overlooking a bustle of Bourke Street from the first floor of the Midcity Centre, Pinchy’s Lobster & Champagne Bar takes the finer things in life – like champagne and lobster – and offers them in more egalitarian surroundings.
This is the place to come if you like a fruity cocktail and to nibble on a plate of ocean-kissed seafood. The menu is fish and shellfish dominant, with a smattering of vegan dishes. Carnivores need to search out their fix elsewhere and that’s fine by us.
Pinchy’s comprises of 2 distinct areas.
As you enter from the rather unexciting mall-scape of Midcity, it’s like transitioning into a different world. Neon pink hits you from every angle and surface. The only relief comes from touches of gold and copper lighting and calming pools of blue upholstery.
There’s a Champagne Bar along the righthand wall that is a riot of pink-tinged glare. Continue into the dining room proper, and it’s a long, grid-ceilinged space with windows out to an expansive balcony. Seating is a jumble of squishy pink (again) banquettes and pink (of course) painted wooden chairs. It could all be overwhelmingly gynaecological, but thankfully, there are islands of serene blue moored amongst the flamingo tones.
Whilst this room is inviting enough, the real drawcard is the balcony.
Head outside and there’s another bar to the left of the door – though it’s closed on the night we visit. The rest of the balcony is an appealing mix of soft, rattan-framed garden furniture set around low tables and woven-seated chairs framing taller ones. There’s a pleasing amount of greenery and a textural tiled floor.
However, the clear bonus is the people watching. From this height, Pinchy’s commands a great view over the pre-Christmas chaos of Bourke Street and looks out towards one of those wonderful Melbourne facades that you don’t really notice unless you are high up to start with.
If you have a passion for Italian cold cuts and more, see our review of Ombra, just down the road
It should all be fabulous, but something is missing.
One of my companions takes a squizz around and declares that it all looks a bit neglected. And I know what she means. Yes, I know that Pinchy’s is a self-aware shrine to kitsch, but there’s something a tad sad about it.
Maybe we pick a dud night, but it’s 5 days before Christmas, we’re right in the city, and the place is only a third full. Also, Pinchy’s is clearly under-staffed. Both of our waiters are excellent, but the food and drinks – especially the drinks – take AGES to come. Probably as there only seems to be one person manning the bar. Perhaps other staff members are sick this particular night?
Either way, the kitchen closes at 9pm. Not that amazing on a Thursday night, except that it is (as I’ve already said) peak Xmas excitement at other venues – including the pub and bars across the road from us.
Like many of our favourite dinner spots, Pinchy’s has both an a la carte and a couple of Tasting Menus.
For $85pp you can wade into the Made by Sea Menu and work your way through 7 courses. As the name suggests, this is a fish-forward selection. In contrast, the 6 course ($60pp) Made Friendlier Menu is 100% plant-based – right down to the vegan parmesan on the Caesar Salad Tartlet.
Never wishing to be predictable, we swerve the Sets and dive into the Main Menu, which teeems with nibbles and small plates.
Now my fellow diners have been known to dispatch an Oyster or 2 in their time, so we start with a couple of these ozone-perfumed molluscs each. The kitchen is out of the Coffin Bay ones, so we slurp the Moonlight Flat (Batemans Bay) ($6 ea) bivalves instead.
The restaurant claims that their Oysters are opened to order – and we can believe it. Soft, creamy and sweet, they are clearly admirably fresh. To dress them, we have a Green Chilli, Spearmint & Geraldton Wax Mignonette. It’s sounds a bit busy to me, on first reading. However, it’s actually clean and slightly spiky, and manages to enhance the Oysters without swamping their unique flavour.
Fancy cracking lobster claws in the comfort of your own home? All you need is one of these Seafood Tools Sets.
Our zinc reserves replenished, our next plate is the Snapper Croquette (2pc $9).
Although fabulously crunchy on the outside, these golden balls are pretty small. That said, the dollop of Smoked Jalapeno and Miso Emulsion that comes with them is really good with their fishy interiors.
From here, we move onto the Kingfish Ceviche ($15). And it’s disappointing. Now in all fairness, our waitress advised us to get a portion each as it’s ‘quite small and not easy to share’. But we only wanted a mouthful each, so placed a single order. Well, she wasn’t joking about the modest portion size. We end up with a dinky bowl containing a single sliver of Kingfish and a few petals of Pickled Fennel. It’s swimming in a delightful Orange Ponzu & Shiso marinade. But we can’t get away from the meager amount of Kingfish – and definitely can’t divide it between 3.
Next up comes the plate we’ve all been waiting for – the Pinchy’s Lobster Roll ($20).
This take on the iconic luxury sandwich features Chilled Canadian Lobster, Butter, Lettuce, Pinchy’s Seasoning, Mayo, Chives and Lemon. The shellfish is juicy and bouncy and the Mayo and other additions enhance the its sweet, delicate flavour. So far, all is as we’d hoped.
However, the point of difference comes from the bread holding the filling together. Rather than a soft Brioche Roll, at Pinchy’s the baby pink Lobster is encased in a crunchy, toasted Brioche Shell. It’s a bit like a custom-made taco shell made from butter-rich bread. And talking of butter, the whole handful is clearly slathered in the stuff – but not in a cloying way. As we lift our sandwiches from their plates, the scent of warm butter wafts invitingly upwards. It’s truly a mouth-watering experience.
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Of course, a Lobster Roll is merely a posh fish sanga without the right accompaniment. With this in mind, we order the Hand Cut Truffle Fries ($14). Crisp and golden with a generous salting, added pizazz comes from a very more-ish Parmesan and Black Truffle Aioli. They are so good that we splurge on a second bowl.
Another of the finest Lobster Rolls in town is at Supernormal. Read about this superb Asian Fusion Restaurant and more, here.
As is our habit, we gave the Cocktail List is whirl.
The Lady Lux ($22) proves to be a reviving combination of Bombay Sapphire, Rhubarb & Grapefruit Shrub, Rhubarb Bitters and Lemon. Meanwhile, I miss the name of the Special Cocktail ($22) , but love it’s striking violet hue. Floral, but not overly saccharine, with Peach and Lavender, it goes well with the subtle fishiness of our food.
Interestingly, for an establishment that calls itself a Champagne and Lobster Bar, there are only 3 Champagnes and 3 ‘Bubbles’ on the drinks list. Similarly, the other Wine options, along with the Beers and Ciders, are limited.
We love a Lobster Roll and the ones are definitely Pinchy’s are worth checking out. And those Truffle Fries are pretty addictive too.
However, it’s fair to say that we expected more from Pinchy’s. Maybe we were simply there on an ‘off’ night, but the vibe was less funky night spot and more faded glory.
Perhaps going with the Tasting Menus is also a better idea as we felt some dishes were noticeably small.
That said, the staff were delightful and we love a bar that serves it’s own Cocktails.