Hairy Canary, Little Collins Street, Melbourne

Unfortunately, third time wasn't the charm for me and the Hairy Canary. I've visited this busy little eatery three times now and can only praise the food and service on my second visit. If only I had not returned tonight, I might just be writing about their perfect gnocchi and cheerful service, but alas - I did eat there tonight and had to suffer through a increasingly tipsy waitress who didn't do a very good job of looking after us - or more to the point: me.

Apparently, as I have now learned, hearing "There is a _mess_ at the _bar_" is waiting staff talk for "Free shots, hurry up" and that's just what was going on for the staff at Hairy Canary this chilly night in Melbourne. Now I am not one to blame people for drinking at work - Lord only knows there have been times in my life when I would have given a kidney to get a drink to make it through my day - but I can't remember seeing such drinking behaviour so visible to customers and at the expense of service. When a customer (me) has to work as hard as I did to get my waitress's attention to order a glass of wine to only end up having to ask another waitress if that was my wine I spotted sitting on the bar waiting to be served because it was taking so long to get to me; when our table was not even offered let alone presented with drinking water; when we got to watch our waitress bent over the adjacent table (butt facing us) with a customer's hand on her hip, I start to get miffy.

I expect a certain level of attentiveness in a restaurant, I don't expect to be spoon fed, but it is nice when your waitress remembers your order (we almost took bets she'd cock it up but she came back to double-check so all bets were off) keeps an eye out for empty wine glasses and leaves a menu long enough to actually view the dessert list - I do not expect to have to get up from my table to ask someone at the bar for sugar for my coffee to be teased by two of the bar staff "No! you may not have sugar!" (I was grumpy by this stage)

But what about the food Michelle? I ordered the gnocchi - having had this dish a few weeks earlier and declaring the Hairy Canary's gnocchi to be the best in all the land, I was rather disappointed in this week's effort. Although it was still good, it lacked the subtle brilliance of the meal of a few weeks ago. It was heavy with tomato and olive and some of the gnocchi seemed over-cooked. The espresso I had to finish my meal had nice smooth corners though, and I enjoyed it very much.

I am less than pleased with the Hairy Canary this evening, and would recommend it to people only if they understand that the quality of the meals is inconsistent, the service is borders on mediocre at best and was poor this evening even before the waitress got wobbly from all the shots at the bar.

On the plus side, The Hairy Canary is often open when a lot of other places are shut, and considering that they have always managed to find us a table, that's pretty good going.