Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published August 28th 2011
Equinox Cafe & Bar looks great from the outside. Nestled next to Melbourne Central on Elizabeth St, its trendy outside tables and glass-heavy design make it seem like an excellent place to get dinner and drinks in the city. The reality is somewhat more prosaic: Equinox Cafe & Bar’s resounding mediocrity is broken by a few good decisions and one spectacularly bad one. Despite all this, it’s still worth visiting; but be careful about what you plan to do.
The menu is pretty good, with the usual pub staples – chicken parmagiana, burgers, fish and chips – and entrees that include vegetarian spring rolls and fried calamari. The burgers are decent, if not spectacular (nearby Grill’d is a much better choice), and the spring rolls are palatable but a little bland. One ray of sunshine is the calamari, which has a satisfying lemon tang and comes with a small bowl of aioli. Dessert is delicious, though, and will definitely satisfy your late-night craving for waffles or pancakes. You could do worse than coming to the Equinox for dinner, as lacklustre as that praise might sound.
The drinks are, again, pretty good, with a variety of cocktails at what are actually quite cheap prices. While we’ll get to the cardinal sin of the drinks menu in a moment, the Equinox offers an alcoholic experience that is similar to the nearby Lion in Melbourne Central. However, it’s not as good – there’s no Guinness on tap, for one. On the other hand, Equinox has a nightclub-esque room upstairs, with windows that look down onto the city. While it doesn’t compare with the places on King St in terms of the quality of the DJ or the crowd, you could definitely do worse.
One redeeming feature of the Equinox might be its cheap beer – students get $10 jugs of the house beer at any time. However, in what can only be described as a horrendous blunder, the house beer is Carlton mid-strength. When did it become acceptable to offer non-full-strength beer as house beer? Where, outside sports stadiums, is it reasonable to tout the cheapness of weaker beer as a good thing? Frankly, anyone considering paying ten dollars for a jug of Carlton mid-strength would be better off watering down half a jug of the real thing – it’s cheaper and you won’t feel as used afterwards.
The decor of the downstairs seating (not counting the outside area, which fits about twelve people and is perpetually full) is cafeteria-quality, with plastic tables that are spaced far too close together. Anyone wanting to sit in the two areas which actually look okay – a large wooden table near the bar and a cushioned nook under the stairwell – is likely to be shooed away by the bar staff, who are presumably unwilling to clean anything not made of plastic.
All in all, Equinox Cafe & Bar is a good idea hampered by some seriously bad decisions. With proper house beer and a few less tables in the downstairs area, it would be a serious contender to places like the Lion or nearby Yoyogi. As it is, it’s a mediocre pub surrounded by above-average bars and cafes, and it’s a wonder anyone goes there at all. If you can’t get seats anywhere else, you’ll probably enjoy dinner at the Equinox – but you’d probably enjoy dinner anywhere else more.
Thanks for your constructive feedback Sean. We really appreciate it, we will definitely work on the issues u mention and for your information we do not do mid-strength beer anymore.We got a new head chef looking after the kitchen and we are improving the Meals and The DEALS.
By Anonymous Saturday, 30th of June @ 09:40 am
I have been trying to make a reservation for 2 weeks, to use my groupon voucher however no one has taken my call. You have asked people to call during specific times however you dont have anyone taking the calls. is there another way to make a booking? Online?
By Anonymous Wednesday, 12th of September @ 12:53 am
I haven't been able to make my Groupon booking either. I've been trying 3 weeks, and no one answers the phone, EVER. I contacted Groupon to see if they could help, and they said sorry, try calling Equinox at a different time. Considering taking this to an Ombudsman...