Wednesday, June 26, 2013



Hooks @ Yarra is located in the quiet side of Docklands - South Wharf. Honestly, I have no idea why they have dinner time restaurants over there. If I was your average restauranteer, I would be setting up boutique lunch cafes, serving finger foods and alcohols in the afternoon for after-work drinks, given its proximity to the ANZ and Myer buildings. They seem to be an Italian seafood restaurant. I say seems, since their menu is littered with pasta, risotto and pizza amongst mains that don't seem to have a single consistent or coherent theme.

Hooks @ The Yarra on Urbanspoon

How I went there.

Recently, during my late night internet surfing, I saw a deal for Lobster Thermidore on OurDeal. I hadn't had Thermidore since I went to Thailand a couple of years ago, and I quite like a well done Thermidore, so it was obvious I was going to be interested. The deal included: 2 x half lobster thermidores, 1 x chips, 1 x salad, 1 bottle of wine (or 2 pints of beer/cider/whatever) for $39. Pretty good value, right? Well, I was happy with the price point, so I bought it despite my wife's ravings about how annoying it was to go to Docklands just for dinner.

Primary offering

Since we have the baby, we generally order more food than before. You'd be surprised how much a baby eats... especially my healthy young boy. I'll post a photo of him one day. Anyway, on to the food. We ordered the Eggplant Lasagne for my little boy, and for the drinks, got 1 pint of beer and 1 pint of cider.

The meal started with some complementary bread and olive oil. Yes, you read that right. Not butter. Not salt and olive oil. Not balsamic and olive oil. Just olive oil. The bread seemed to be a decent artisan bread, just left out for too long without a covering cloth, and rather dry... too dry to eat without the oil.

Once we were done with the bread came the lobster, salad and chips. So how was the Lobster, you're asking? I don't know if I was expecting too much, but, in short, it was... Not good. The lobster wasn't very big, and I should say that a normal person should be able to eat one by himself, not half. Plus it wasn't the freshest lobster I've had. But more importantly... the sauce... WTF is this. It was more of a Mornay than a Thermidore... Well, the flavour was Mornay but the texture was Thermidore. Am I making sense here? I hope not, because it really didn't make any sense to me. Given the greasy and cheesy flavour of a Mornay, the liquidy texture was rather disgusting and didn't work well with the lobster. The "Thermidore" sauce did work OK'ish when used as a dipping sauce for chips, which was totally unnecessary, given the chips were served with "aioli". It's spelt that way, but I would say it's just kewpie mayonaise. Did I mention that the chips do get a passing grade? No? Well, the chips were the highlight of the meal, since everything else failed to deliver. The salad was boring. There was nothing in there apart from greens. No tomatoes. No onions. Not even a mixture of greens such as rocket and green apple. Just some rocket and lettuce, in a very mild vinaigrette. Well... the leaf quality was decent, so not too many complaints... just a bit boring.

The eggplant lasagne came when I was done with my lobster. The timing worked well for me, since I was free to feed the baby who had been munching on the chips, and refusing to have lobster, salad and rice. However, this had to be the worst lasagne I've seen in my entire life. There was a stack of lasagne sheets, presumably with eggplant inside, and covered with cheese on the middle of the plate. The plate itself was flooded with napoli sauce, as to drown the lasagne stack for 75% of its height. It was more of a soup than a pasta dish. To keep an open mind on the matter, lets just say I was unfamiliar with this style of lasagne. So how was the taste? I really can't call this dish lasagne. I would be committing some kind of crime. It would be like calling tomato soup with abc pasta spag bolognese. The only thing I could taste was napoli sauce.

Primary Offering Score 04/10

Secondary offering

Service was OK, but not fantastic. However, I have to deduct some marks here for the ambience, and more for the booking process (explained below in the Coupon experience section). The ambience wasn't right for a restaurant at this price point. They had a big screen LCD... and what did they have on it? The footy. That's just a no. And the owner? Manager? was watching the footy while eating at one of the customer tables, since the place was so deserted. Another no. It might be OK if it was a pub type venue, but this place charges significantly more than a "normal pub". It really tries to be a mid-upper restaurant. You don't expect to see this kind of thing at a mid-upper price point restaurant.

Secondary Offering Score 05/10


Just no. Not worth the money. Why the hell is this place charging $9 for chips? Why is it charging $15 for tomato soup lasagne? If the food tasted better, the price would be competitive. But it isn't. This place should charge $6 for chips and just scrap the lasagne off the menu. They should also scrap the lobster, since no sane person will pay $45 for it. They really need to re-think what exactly they're trying to do, and who their target market is, because the show is all over the place.

Full-Price Score 01/10

The redeeming factor of the coupon really is the alcohol. 2 pints of craft beers will cost you ~$20. So for $19, you're getting a low quality lobster meal. It's not bad at all. The price point can't be beat if you think of it that way.

Coupon Score 06/10

Coupon experience

I'm rather mixed on this one. The coupon experience was faultless when we went. There were no discernible difference in service delivery between full priced and coupon customers. However, it was hard to go in the first place. What do I mean? It was hard to book. Despite the fact that when we went, there was only one other table of paying customers. I'm really going to have to knock 5 points for this one... Really... if you can't get a booking even when the place is empty, then how can you redeem the coupon at all?

Coupon Experience Score 05/10

Overall recommendation.

How can I justify eating here at full price? I can't. It's just not possible. Lets look at the various vectors that may invite me to eat here. 1. Is the food good enough to make a trip to the Docklands? No. 2. Is the service magical? No. 3. Does the price increase its attractiveness significantly? Not at all. 4. Is it somewhere I want to take a date? No. 4. Would I be close to here if I was in the CBD or Docklands to take care of some other business? No, but even if it were, there are sufficient alternatives around to justify giving this place a miss. So how can I recommend this place? I can't.

Full-Price Score 01/10

I've already mentioned the redeeming feature of the coupon. The problem is that it only makes sense to eat if you think of it that way. Otherwise, I am hard pressed to justify the purchase of the coupon given the problems I've outlined.

Coupon Score 04/10


  1. Dear Friend: We are regular customers at HOOKS ON THE YARRA and from the very openning last year. Wonder HOW MANY TIMES YOU HAVE BEEN? AND WHAT ARE YOU COMPARING TO? If alre;ady you have a problem in "making a trip to the Docklands? well, makes us all wonder from what part of the world you are coming from. On the other hand, pls take the time to update on the many lunch specials and also go few times to see how busy they are. The "bad" Lobster Thermidor is an invalid statement: funny enough : my husband catches fresh lobster in season and has done not only in Australia but, in many other countries: we found the dish suitable: now if this is not good enough to you.....and you cannot afford this Restaurant: as said...tried others: we go to many : e.g.Lobster Cave and yes, they have many offers to choose from. It is unwise to come to conclusions from your poor experience and quick judgement.By the way, remember that you also got a bottle of wine and 2 x lobster thermidor with chips and salad with your voucher for $ 20 p/p: may be you should go to Malayssia ....or Vietnam and eat in many good outdoor restaurants and pay little with the Ozzie dollar: of course, you have to cover the airfare and the hotel accommodation. Cheer up and go back to Hooks on the Yarra....By the way: what do you do for living? just asking
    Best regards
    Mila Giganti
    Safari Corporation Pty ltd
    Carrum Victoria

    1. Thanks for your comments.

      Please note the following problems:
      1. Docklands is a well known development failure. Why did it fail? Logistics. Given this, the central Docklands business area (i.e. bourke street, new quay, harbour town, etc) is not so bad to get to, as it has tram access that somewhat relieves the parking problem. South wharf is a completely different story. With the traffic flowing out towards the west gate, logistics is horrendous. There is no suitable public transportation, nor is parking easy, and the traffic is a killer. South Wharf building has been suggested by the hooks website, but you'll note you have to cross a huge 8? 10 lane road to get to your destination. With both car and PT ruled out, how are you going to get there? Walk? Fly? The location alone means that to attract customers from outside the direct vicinity, one must have a "hook" - whether that be superior value, superior food, or outstanding service, with the other 2 dimensions meeting minimum expectations.

      2. How can you say the "bad" Lobster Thermidore is an invalid statement? Sure I've only been once, so it could have been an off-night. However, that does not change my experience, does it? And you'll note I complained about the lobster on a number of fronts:
      - The sauce. This has nothing to do with your husband being a fisherman catching lobster. My point of comparison is with Waterfront @ Crown who did a magnificent Thermidore sauce.
      - The lobster itself. It wasn't stale but it wasn't the freshest. Maybe I should clarify this - I detected a slight hint of the flavour of lobster you get when lobster is killed in some way other than snap freezing live lobster or cooking while alive. To some, that may not be considered "not fresh"... when it comes to seafood, I consider anything that isn't sashimi grade "not fresh", and for lobster to be sashimi grade, it must be handled while live.
      - The price: $45 for half a lobster isn't too expensive, but it's not exactly cheap. That's $90 for a whole lobster - which sets some expectations in regards to its quality. You are much better off with a whole lobster (3 pounder, which is a lot bigger) on noodles at Wong's Lucky Bar, or Lobster Cave's lobster tail + something meals for the same $90.

      3. The pricing of the venue isn't a problem if they have everything else right. It isn't really outrageously expensive. The problem is that the things you get just don't justify the price. A good lasagne fetches over $20. A good bowl of chips (i.e. PM24) fetches $9. This place charged $9 for a decent bowl of chips, which is usually in the $5 - 7 bracket, and $15 for a lasagne that isn't fit for a pig (hence less than La Porchetta's $10~ish).

      4. I did note the alcohol and mentioned it as a significant positive in my coupon value mark, and you'll note that the coupon experience and value should have gotten quite a high mark, but lost it all due to 1 huge problem. If you read the "coupon experience" section carefully, you'll note that the majority of the marks were deducted for deceptive booking process. It doesn't matter how cheap the voucher is, if the institution implements measures to dissuade you from redeeming it, does it?

  2. Got your points and excellent to have the opportunity to exchange experiences.
    It is also good to give your personal feedback when one visits any restaurant: actually we do whether is compliment or actually disatisfaction. Any patron is entitled to also send a dish back when not up to the expected standard and, again, gtiving the chef the opportunity to improve on his "artwork" ....even when having ordered a special or when one buys a coupon.
    Personal inter-action is of paramount importance in any human relationship - so, let us also give a chance to the
    people running the restaurant -as in this case.
    Finally, it is practically impossible to have 100% satisfaction from patrons and clients and not only in the Restaurant business. Pity yours was not a good one....may be next time you go to Hooks on the Yarra! & promise you I am not a shareholder!
    Enjoy your meals and have a great weekend John!
    Best regards

  3. I can't be very observant because I didn't notice any protein powders on the counter. There was a telly with no sound so it didn't bother me in the slightest. People actually live in the area so not everyone has an issue getting there. We were staying in the city and walked there to visit someone who lives in the building above Hooks. We found the food and service to be very good. There were five of us, five different entrees and five different mains. All wonderful. I'd certainly go back.