That time of year has come and gone again where pros and recreational players from all around Australia (+ those game enough to travel from anywhere else in the world) came together for the Aussie Millions Poker Championship in Melbourne. It’s always a different experience for everyone who comes: some grind a tonne of cash, some play all the tourneys, some just the Main Event and others stop by just for the fun non-poker related activities. For me and the group of friends I was staying with it was mostly a few tourneys + a lot of non-poker related fun. This included a bunch of fantastic meals, a trip to the aquarium and a road trip to Philip Island to see the penguin parade not to mention some more off the beaten track Melbourne exploration. Well I say “off the beaten track” but in reality it was still all very central and beatenly tracky. The thing is — at least when it comes to poker players — anything further than a 5 minute walk away from the casino is basically the outback. So we hopped on our kangaroos and discovered (or re-discovered where others had told us to go, and by others i mean the internet) a few funky bars and one particularly awesome coffee/breakfast joint (ok, this one was recommended by a real person, thanks to Jay “seabeast” Kinkade for recommending it on 2p2!).
We had rented a 3br apartment across the road from Crown where we all stayed. It was Puneet and I, Gavin (Gavz101) and his gf Olivia, Mike (gordo16) and his lady friend Emma and Daniel (he plays euro sites so he has no screen name) and his female counterpart, his 27″ monitor.
Puneet and I were only there for eight days, as were most of the others, so that in itself didn’t leave for a lot of time to fit in cash games, tournaments + other stuff. I personally restricted myself to two tournaments and zero cash games. It wasn’t so much a planned restriction but when there were other amazing and more fun things to do the prospect of grinding live poker just wasn’t high on the list. Besides, I was able to at least muster together the motivation to put in a few hours playing online each day. Daniel and I found ourselves waking up at 7-8am most mornings, walking down to St. Ali for some breakfast + amazing coffee then returning home to put in a few hours of poker. Those sessions definitely stemmed my already limited desires to play live cash.
I played the $5k Chinese poker event as well as the $2.5k PLO. I failed to cash in either but both were fun events and I had swapped 5% with both Daniel and Mike who placed 6th and 7th respectively in the PLO. Also congrats to Mike for placing 2nd in the Chinese poker tourney. I forget Mike, did you get a trophy for that? (excuse the inside joke). The only other notable result was Gavz bubbling the main event by a handful of spots.
On the food and drink side of things we managed to hit up quite a few places: Flower Drum, Spice Temple, Movida, Movida Aqui, Lucky Chan, The Atlantic and St. Ali. I’d like to review them all but that would take forever so I’ll start with one or two and add the rest either as smaller/quicker reviews and/or will post them later as I have more time. Let’s start with The Atlantic:
The Atlantic is a restaurant specialising in seafood (surprise surprise) within Crown along the Southbank side. I went here three times, all for lunch, and all were excellent. In addition to the restaurant part of the venue they also have an oyster bar and a downstairs cocktail lounge called The Den. I didn’t try either but Puneet and Emma went to the cocktail lounge one night while Mike and I were in tourneys for a drink and said it was very nice. Despite not trying the oyster bar per se, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to order oysters off the menu each time I went. They had four options: Cowell Bay (South Australia), Duck Bay (Tasmania), Cloudy Bay (Tasmania) and Moreton Island Rock (New South Wales). They varied in flavour and texture but all were excellent, very fresh, and perfectly shucked.
The food was consistently very good. Twice we ordered individual dishes and the third time we ordered a bunch of their sharing plate options, the food was great in all instances. The Smoked Slow Roasted Quail with grilled figs, rocket salad, quail egg and blasamic jus gras was my favourite starter and of all the mains that I had and tried the Steamed Wild Barramundi with confit fennel, blood orange, fennel foam and pink peppercorn powder was the best. Drinks went off without a hitch too with all the wine we ordered being great not to mention the excellent cocktails. I’ll give the food & drink an 8.5/10.
Service was a bit of a mixed bag. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t exceptional either. A couple of times we had to wait exceptionally long to place our orders or ask for something else but for the most part it was decent enough. On one occasion our waiter or the manager deduced we were poker players and it was a lunch right before the Chinese poker event Mike and I were playing so he immediately ran to ask the kitchen to rush our food out – that was a nice touch. Overall I give the service a 7.5/10.
The Ambiance of the restaurant was incredibly pleasant. Everything from the decor, layout, lighting and presentation of the space to the indoor/outdoor seating areas and individual rooms that gave you a very private dining experience worked wonderfully together. I sat in three completely different areas each time we went and none were even close to the others. They have a large space and use it very well — it’s not just one giant seating area with a bunch of tables. It’s far enough away from the gaming floor that you could convince yourself you’re not even at a Casino, especially if you enter from the Southbank side. I give the Ambiance a 9/10.
Value for money is always a tricky one. You can usually expect to pay a premium for any restaurant located within or in close proximity to a casino (especially one as prestigious as Crown which prides itself on offering high-end dining). The Atlantic is no exception but it certainly doesn’t use this fact as an excuse to unreasonably inflate their prices either which is refreshing. It’s definitely not a cheap eat, or a “cafe style” lunch but for a bit of a splurge and consistently good food it lives up to expectations. I’ve definitely had worse food for the same or more money and comparing it to the other options available in and around Crown it fares well. Oysters will set you back $3.50 to $4.50 each with a dozen ranging from $38 to $48 depending on the variety. Starters hover around the $25-$30 range and most main courses hit around the $40-$45 mark. Exceptions are the crayfish platter or “today’s catch” which are both sold at market price. All things considered I give The Atlantic an 8/10 for value for money. If the food wasn’t as good as it was this number would definitely drop quite quickly.
Verdict: I give The Atlantic a 33/40. If you’re in or near Crown and you like seafood, this is the place to go. I’ll definitely be returning.
After the Aussie Millions we returned home and Gavin and Olivia came too to spend a few days in
sunny rainy Sydney. We made it out to the Hunter Valley one night where we hit up some wineries and had an incredible meal at Muse (more on this later). On the one day of sun we had we took full advantage: an afternoon at Bondi Beach, evening hanging out in our local park by the water and by night we had a feast. I BBQ’d some chicken wings then cooked my infamous rib-eye’s inside. Gavz and Liv made one of the best chocolate cakes in existence and Puneet was on cocktail duty. A pretty much perfect night.
I have much more to say and share but for now I’ll wrap this post up. My plans for the immediate future are more online grinding for a week until I head to India for 8 days for a cousin’s wedding. I haven’t been back for a few years (far too long!) and i’m sure the wedding will be amazing so i’m incredibly excited — i’ll have to remember to take plenty of photos and post some up when I return. Hope everyone is well – Cheers!