Melbourne has a great variety of food, but sometimes you are stuck finding fodder in the hours between lunch and dinner, or later in the evening, say, past 10pm. There are a handful of eateries that can help to fill that gap, open to feed your hunger 24 hours a day, including stalwart Stalactites, Shujinko, and, as we discovered, Butchers Diner.
We came upon it as we were heading somewhere else for dinner. At the Parliament House end of Bourke Street, it is tucked away behind an arch entrance that reminds one of being under a railway bridge. The interior, like the exterior, is low-key. The decor is retro-casual, with orange and off-white floor tiles in a checked pattern, and a matching orange-topped long communal table taking up much of the main floor space. Wooden stools are fixed to the floor at intervals along the table. Domed pendant lights hang from above, providing adequate, but not warm lighting.
Food orders were taken at a service area at the far end of the communal table. Note that this is a cash-only establishment. Menus were displayed on the wall behind this, listing breakfast options, available until 11am, then other items available all day (24 hours, so truly all day). The selections are certainly carnivore-inclined, which is unsurprising given the name of the eatery. We picked a couple of simple things, as this was a quick meal before a flight. The hamburger and cheeseburger seemed like easy items that wouldn’t take too long to make or eat.
While waiting for our food, we had a gander at the meat cuts ageing in the refridgerator. This was what had originally caught our eye on the initial wander past, and we had taken it as a sign that this was a place where they knew their meat. The name, Butcher’s Diner, like the other institution in the city, the Waiters Restaurant, implied it to be a place where the insiders of the industry eat, where the really tasty, if not done up and fancy, food is.
On the table was a tray of condiments that patrons can help themselves to, with more typical accompaniments like BBQ sauce and mustards, to slightly less typical ones (for a western-style diner) like jalapeno sauce and chilli oil. Promising again.
When our food was brought out though, we were grossly underwhelmed. For the prices, they were small burgers. The presentation was also lackadaisical. While, as previously stated, we had anticipated that they wouldn’t be the most beautiful things we had seen, at least having the meat patty and the sauces in the centre of the bun rather than all slopped to one side so that most of it was dribbling out one end would make it a better eating experience. It seemed to have as much care in it as a McDonald’s burger.
As a positive, the meat patty in the cheeseburgers were relatively thick (though not wide) and well-cooked so that they were still pink and juicy in the middle. The same could not be said for the meat patty in the hamburger though, which was thinner, and no wider.
The burger buns were soft, and well-browned on the outside. The lettuce, tomato, and pickles were, well, lettuce, tomato, and pickles.
Perhaps the other dishes are where the Butchers Diner excels, but we would certainly not go back for the burgers. At $9.50 for the hamburger and $12.50 for the cheeseburger, they were expensive for what you got, and unimpressive. We also found service to be perfuctionary. We don’t need to be fawned over, but staff didn’t smile, weren’t welcoming, and really seemed more interested in talking to each other. It felt like us being there was a bother. If you’re in Melbourne for only a limited amount of time, go elsewhere.
Price point: Burgers $9.50 to $12.50. Varying prices for other items like rolls, toasties, beef brisket, or duck.
Value: For burgers, poor.
Address: 10 Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 03 9639 7324
Website: Butchers Diner