Originally the fine dining component of the Transport Hotel, these days, Taxi Kitchen serves a more relaxed take on Modern Australian fare. However, the one thing that remains the same is those fabulous views from the panoramic windows overlooking the Yarra and back to the CBD.
Location: Fed Square, Flinders St & Swanston St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 9654 8808
It really is a fabulous dining space.
The Transport Hotel, though a distinctive feature of Fed Square, isn’t necessarily the most attractive building in the development. Granted, the ground floor Transport Public Bar is a great spot to grab a Beer and a Chicken Parma ($28.5) and split your attention between the Footy on the screens and the commuters flooding to and from Flinders Street Station.
What’s more, the Transit Rooftop Bar is hard to beat for a post-work drink on a Friday night. Melbourne has more than it’s fair-share of rooftops bars, but the Transit Bar is a tad special. Although only 3 floors up, it gives a unique vantage point over the Yarra River, with Southbank across the water as Fed Square and the CBD loom off to the side.
Yes, it looks a bit shabby in the cold light of day, but hey? Don’t we all?
And there, sandwiched between these 2 Bars sits the striking Taxi Kitchen. A many-windowed prism of a room with both views and glamour.
Previously called the Taxi Dining Room and a fine dining oasis in the more tourist-focused surrounds of Fed Square, these days it’s more casual.
But whatever you eat or drink, the real drawcard is still the location and the banks of glass framing Melbourne at her busiest.
Getting to Taxi Kitchen isn’t the most inspiring of experiences. The lift up from the Ground Floor is pretty basic.
However, when you step out at your destination, the expansive volume of the restaurant and all it’s many windows is impressive.
An open kitchen runs along the left and a well-stocked bar sits in front of it. The rest of the space is filled with a mix of wooden tables, chairs and banquettes.
But honestly, the dining furniture comes a very poor second to the drama outside the floor to ceiling windows. And those ceilings are high – giving the room a cathedral-like quality.
During the day, sun and light spill across the restaurant whilst pedestrians rush about below, trams groan past and rivercraft slice the Yarra. By night, the spire of the Arts Centre glows majestic amongst the high-rises across the water. Turn to face the other direction and the CBD twinkles back at you. It’s a brilliant space and a must-visit if you have visitors in town.
Why not nip across Flinders Street and try the authentic Tapas Bar charms of MoVida Next Door?
As befits such an iconic address, the food is Modern Australian. Dishes make the most of Australian produce, with flourishes of Asian flare and European technique.
And in keeping with the more relaxed vibe of Taxi Kitchen to its original fine dining parent, food is designed to share.
If you’re feeling peckish around Noon, the kitchen offers a Feed Me Lunch ($45pp). This gives a choice of 3 Small Plates and 1 Large Plate for a table to share. For Dinner, things move up a notch with the Taxi Kitchen Feast. This covers 9 dishes split into 4 courses and comes in at ($105).
When we dined, we decided to dip into the a la carte menu.
Despite Taxi Kitchen eschewing it’s fine dining tag, it’s still classy enough to offer guests a complimentary Amouse Bouche. This was a wee cup of fabulously complex spiced duck broth. It was lip-smackingly fine.
What’s more, you know you’re in a decent venue when they serve Baker Bleu Country Sourdough ($8). So of course, we began there.
Next, we tried a Special of Hot Smoked Trout with Sauce Gribiche and a pleasing blast of Horseradish. The pink lobes of Trout worked beautifully with the accompaniments.
Alongside this we ordered the Candy Pork Belly, Pickled Papaya Salad & Red Chilli Dressing ($24). This was a less successful choice. Although the dish was tasty, our piece of pork was tiny and mainly fat. This was disappointing as the salad and dressing were the perfect foil for a rich chunk of succulent pig.
More satisfying was the Tempura Bug Tails, Nori Dust & Sesame Yuzu Aioli ($28). The mineral notes of the nori dust really brought out the sweetness of the delicate bug meat.
For Mains, we split Chinese-style Chicken dish ($45) and another special, this time a T-Bone Steak.
The Chicken was glossy-skinned and came with a delightful chilli-kissed dipping sauce and fragrant salt. Moist and flavoursome, it was all too easy to eat.
The T-Bone was similarly good. And whilst is was grill-crusted on the outside and pink in the middle, we were surprised the – uniformly excellent – wait staff didn’t like us how we wanted it cooked.
One of the best plates we ordered was the Roasted Cauliflower, Caramelised Yoghurts and Grandma’s Pickles ($17). This majestic offering featured a whole cauliflower, oven soft and burnished. We all thought it was outstanding.
Similarly, the Pomme Frites with Sriracha Salt ($12) and the T-Bone Side of Roasted Potatoes, a Herb Salad and jug of meaty reduction were all a great match.
If you love a great steak – and good wines – check out A Hereford Beefstouw in Duckboard Place
Finally, we succumbed to the Dessert Menu.
The Yuzu Souffle, Caramelised White Chocolate & Burnt Orange Ice Cream ($22) was so delicious that it was gone before I had a chance to take a photo!
Fortunately, I managed to snap the Dark Chocolate Creme, Cherry Feuilletine & Coconut Sorbet ($21) before it vanished. Clearly influenced by the much-loved Aussie classic, the Cherry Ripe, the cherries were sufficiently tart to prevent the dish from becoming too sweet.
As ever, the Cocktail List seemed like a good place to start.
Now I’ve enjoyed a drink at the bar at Taxi Kitchen in the past and remember a particularly quaffable spicy Margarita. This time, I couldn’t find the same concoction on the menu, though the Smoky Mescal-based version that I had was very refreshing.
My dining companions put away a bottle of Pinot Noir and were very contented with it.
Incidentally, I’ve popped into Taxi Kitchen in the past and enjoyed a Cocktail and Cheese Platter at the counter overlooking the Yarra. I recommend giving it a try – especially during the week when the restaurant tends to be quieter.
For Modern Australia food with a totally different stunning view, see our review of Jack Rabbit Winery on the Bellarine Peninsula.
As is so often the case in this country, the service was excellent.
I feel that we often under appreciate how lucky we are to live in Australia, where hospitality professionals are the norm. I say this as my dinner guests were from overseas and commented on how uniformly fantastic the customer care is here.
Although the high polish of fine dining has gone from the Taxi Kitchen, the more relaxed ambience works well with the high-spec space.
Tasty food and great service never go out of style. And when they are presented in such a show-stopper of a room, it’s hard to get it wrong.