Eating with the AU: Taxi Dining Room – Federation Square, Melbourne

I head down to Melbourne several times a year and always stop off at Federation Square for one reason or another; the latest exhibit at ACMI, a meeting at one of the area’s cafes, a concert in the square or a beer at Transport. But never had I had the opportunity to experience the much acclaimed upmarket cuisine that is served at the Taxi Dining Room, located upstairs from Transport. That is, until now.

The reason for my visit is that Taxi has recently re-introduced the Bento Box lunch special to the menu; a $40 meal, which you can see in the header of this article, that is accompanied by a beautiful Gin Tea cocktail. But more on that later. I started things off with a Little Creatures Bright Ale; certainly one of Australia’s most refreshing beverages. Or perhaps I was just exhausted from a day of interviews at Oz Comic-Con, which is what had brought me to Melbourne this time around in the first place. All the same, not a bad way to kick off my lunch.

Food wise, things started off with a warm grain bread roll, accompanied by butter and chilli salt. The grains on this roll literally explode across your table as you break it open. It’s a messy but satisfying starter, and a sign of what’s to come: far from your standard lunchtime cuisine, let alone your standard bento box.

The elegant cutlery…

My first dish was a sample of three appetisers that are sold separately to the standard bento box. Included was a selection from their current sashimi entree, a mouth watering piece of Bonito, with tofu marinated in ginger and raw tuna cooked lightly in tempura.

The bento box, meanwhile, was a mix of traditional Japanese cuisine with international flavours. It featured, clockwise from the top left: pork belly with a cucumber and mint salad, a cauliflower soup drizzled with truffle oil, a scallop lightly fried in a string batter and served with chili mayo, a freshly shuckled indian oyster, a piece of teriyaki wagyu served over rice with a touch of wasabi and tuna sashimi.

The tuna melted in your mouth, the wagyu was beyond perfection, while the scallop was the highlight of the selection with an addictive chili mayo, and an impressive batter. The pork belly felt a bit out of place, but mixed in with its salad was a fine inclusion. All in all, this is the sort of dish one should certainly treat themselves to once in a while, with ingredients of the finest quality, prepared with precision and style.

The gin tea cocktail which accompanied the dish, meanwhile, saw the flavours of the jasmine tea outweigh that of the alcohol. It’s a refreshing drink that you’re not going to feel too guilty about enjoying before you head back to the office, or over an extended lunch meeting.

My meal was finished off in fine style with a perfect raspberry souffle, accompanied by a dollop of pistachio ice cream. It’s quite an extravagant lunch to say the least, but whether for the overworked professional or someone with a spare hour to kill at lunchtime, it’s something you deserve to treat yourself to once in a while. I know I’ll be back…

The Bento Box is served for lunch only, Monday to Friday, accompanied by the Gin Tea cocktail. It’s priced at $40 per person, which provides the six pictured Japanese inspired appetisers. The other items reviewed are priced separately and additionally.

For more details visit:

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.