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.
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.
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
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
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
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.