Wow, the Builders Arms Hotel has a very strong reputation to deliver on!
The team behind this (relatively) new addition to Gertrude St includes Andrew McConnell, Josh Murphy and Anthony Hammond. Andrew is the executive chef and co-owner of Cumulus Inc., Cutler & Co. (see our review here) and Golden Fields. Josh's CV includes head chef at Cumulus Inc., Three, One, Two, and Circa, the Prince (see our review here). Josh was recently awarded 2012 Young Chef of the Year by The Age. Anthony's past experience covers The Commercial Club Hotel and St Kilda’s Prince of Wales Hotel. You would expect these guys to know what they are doing.
Neon sculptural decor throughout the restaurant
The decor is very Cutler & Co. Minimalistic, mainly black & white, sophisticated. There is a good mix of pub-style high tables and dinner tables spread around, which makes the ambiance bubbly and fun. I felt the Builders Arms Hotel was a great place for a fun dinner with friends or after work drinks.
Complimentary bread and olives served as were seated
Service was unobtrusive and efficient without being too formal. Our waitress knew how to explain each dish was and made a good wine suggestion to go with my risotto.
Black rice, Jerusalem artichoke, sage and pecorino risotto ($23)
I absolutely loved the risotto. Very tasty with big chunks of artichoke throughout. The mild pecorino added lightness and a creamy texture to the dish that went well with the crispy, aromatic sage.
Pork cutlet special ($34)
Hubby chose one of the day's special of pork with artichokes and spinach. He said it was the crispiest pork crackle he's ever tried. I also liked the combination of spices in his dish.
Home made ice cream ($4 each)
We finished our meal with a couple of scoops of their home made chocolate and fromage frais ice creams. I like both, but the chocolate ice cream was definitely a highlight - it kind of tasted more like a chocolate mousse: so soft, airy and rich. Highly recommended.
In sum, I can say that my high expectations for this Andrew McConnell restaurant were fully met. Food, atmosphere and service were excellent AND our meal was very reasonably priced. I'll be coming back.