An antidote to miserly Melbourne restaurants, the sleek Gramercy offers fabulously HUGE American desserts.
Occupying a corner space under the boutique Cullen Hotel, the Gramercy slinks and lounges in in trendy black. It’s a breezy bright place nonetheless. At the entrance, a small area furnished with warm timber stools overlooks the road, and adjacent to this is a bar with a backdrop of glistening bottles and a bench on which are set platters of voluptously proportioned muffins. A troupe of wait staff are headquartered at this bar and are perfectly positioned to call out in warm greetings while maintaining a constant, vigilant watch over diners. The Gramercy seamlessly flows into the main dining area of stark lines and square shapes, opening out at one side onto a very lovely covered al fresco area. It seems at once quintessentially Melbourne, but with a polished, rather than dilapidated or grunge, edge.
Decompartmentalised into “appetisers, main course, grill, vegetables and desserts,” the Gramercy’s a la carte menu was a traditional three course-style menu, but could be negotiated with flexibility if one preferred shared dining. Although American in focus, an Italian-accented contingency plan also made a presence on the menu. We followed the American path and indulged in the Grilled Prawn Tacos ($15) which could have done with a more powerful salsa dressing, and similarly, the Southern Fried Chicken Ribs ($14). More memorable for savouries was the juicy Wagyu Burger ($20.50), served with a golden field of crispy shoe string chips. Can’t say it was the best burger we have had, but it was extremely satisfying. On another occasion, the miniature burger version ($5 each) were good too, but we always feel that if you are going to have a burger, why bother with a Lilliputian one? A burger isn’t a burger unless you struggle to fit it into your mouth. 😛
There were five desserts available at the Gramercy. Bypassing the lemon tart and sundae, we managed to sample four desserts (including one rotating special), all gargantuan in size. The first irresistible selected was the “NY Baked Cheesecake” ($12.50), a large wedge evocative of all our New York memories. The texture was textbook-perfect — dense, but with a consistently smooth, creamy, firm mouthfeel. The biscuit base was good too. Not dry, not flavourless and not crumbly. It was served with a luxuriant swirl of berry cream and scatterings of brittle. This seemed a little unnecessary because the cheesecake itself stood well alone, but we liked its presence nonetheless. Although we do prefer our NY Cheesecake with a slightly more pronounced flavour, the Gramercy’s rendition is arguably the best we have had in Melbourne thus far. It demands a repeat order on our next visit.
Brownie and Pistachio Ice Cream Sandwich” ($13.50). A jaw-dropping dessert. On a glassy pool of warm molten chocolate, two huge discs of dark chocolate brownie biscuit (not a slice because it is quite dry) were cemented together with pistachio ice cream sandwich. We repeat, HUGE. Lightly flavoured, the ice cream relieved the intensity of the chocolate components, rather than overpowered the whole dessert. Heart stoppingly good. We could not finish it even with three persons, it is that big!
The third sweet irresistible was the “Apple & Rhubarb Pie” ($13.50). More homely than the previous desserts, this pie was filled with stewed apple and stringy rhubarb, both of which had lost most of its flavour, taken on a baby-food blandness and therefore seemed overcooked. The custard was a slight disappointment too, a little elusive in flavour and lacking its desired creaminess. A pity because the pastry was good in texture and ideal in thickness.
The fourth irresistible from the Gramercy was a weekend special. Sitting on a chocolate brownie-biscuit base, a velvety milk “Chocolate Mousse” ($15) was cloaked with a liberal sprinkling of luridly-coloured crystalline sweets. Hello pop rocks! It deserved to be a permanent fixture on the dessert menu.
From the brunch menu, our savoury-minded dining companions loved their medallions of Sweet Corn Zucchini Fritters ($15.50), the potato pile of the Breakfast Hash ($16.50), and one continues to dream of the serious sandwich stack of the Reuben ($14.50). For MoMo & Coco, the Gramercy catered for us sweet-tooths on the quest for a sweet breakfast with a french toast and pancake offering. Take our lead and order the all-American goodness of the “Buttermilk Pancakes” ($14). At the Gramercy, they were served in a trio dusted with icing sugar, laced with lemon curd and studded with berries. By contrast to other Melbourne cafes, pancakes at the Gramercy were lighter in texture, a little cake-y, and more generous in serving size. The lemon curd was nuanced in its sourness, rather than explosive. We would love to have seen a bigger sweep of it on our plate, but an overall good breakfast dessert.
Over our visits, we cannot fault the wait staff at the Gramercy. It was rare to experience such warm friendliness and professionalism. They brought back the meaning to hospitality in the hospitality industry.
Named after a leafy, quiet New York neighbourhood which surrounds an exclusive park of the same name, the Gramercy in Melbourne is set in an inner-city suburb of a similar nature, but it exudes no pretentious exclusivity. Nothing is more American than a wholly open generous spirit and the Gramercy has just that. The service is consistent and warm, the setting refined yet modern, casual and versatile. The food does not contrive to cross any technical boundaries, nor is it overtly domesticated. Most appealing because it is somewhere in between, it is honest, accessible in price and exceeds expectation in size. No desserts are presented like a Petri dish here. Overall, the Gramercy is a most welcome antidote to the miserly portions, lackadaisical service, unfinished interiors and sponsored hype pervasive across today’s Melbourne dining landscape. Your Dessert Correspondents dare say that the Gramercy has become a new favourite. The only thing that it is missing we think is some dessert with peanut butter and/or a rotating sweet pie menu — key lime, pecan, pumpkin, whoopie pie, anyone? 😀
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Gramercy Bistro and Bar, 162 Commercial Road, Prahran, Vic 3181.
- ☑ Budget: $$ -$$$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Restaurant dessert. Neo-classical American.
- ☑ Must-eat: The New York cheesecake.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: An antidote to miserly Melbourne restaurants, the sleek Gramercy offers fabulously HUGE American desserts.