Bathers’ Pavilion, Balmoral

The ladies who lunch rang the changes this week and breakfasted instead at Bathers’ Pavilion, Balmoral Beach, as a bit of a special treat for Ann’s departure. And it was a slice of pure heaven.

On arrival in the large, light, airy room we’re seated at a rustic wooden table with comfortable wicker chairs and mismatched deckchair-stripe canvas cushions and napkins. Initially overcast, it feels a bit chilly right next to the open floor-to-ceiling windows, but the sun soon comes out, warming our skin and reflecting off the serene, flat water in the bay, full of morning swimmers.

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach

With prices in the low twenties for a ‘main’ breakfast dish, Bathers’ Pavilion is pricier than most places, but there are two star attractions here – one is the beautiful water view which you just can’t take your eyes off, and the other is the beautifully prepared, really delicious food. It’s the breakfast of beautiful people and we’re all accordingly frocked up for the occasion today! Of course I say that with tongue firmly in cheek – there’s actually a very laid back, casual atmosphere here with fresh, colourful, beach-shack decor and relaxed service. The small clientelle this morning (it’s quite early still) is made up of a couple with a small child, two older Mosman ladies (an assumption, I know) and a young man on his own.

Bathers' Pavilion

Bathers’ Pavilion

Very nice coffees to wake us up after the early start are followed by savoury dishes all round. My eggs Benedict are perfectly poached with dark yellow runny yolks, perched on a split English muffin with short bacon and the best hollandaise sauce I’ve ever had. Light and aerated, almost but not a foam, it has all of the flavour you want without being too rich and cloying.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict, Bathers’ Pavilion

Amanda has rye toast topped with tea-smoked trout and chive scrambled eggs.

Tea smoked trout with chive scrambled eggs

Tea-smoked trout with chive scrambled eggs, Bathers’ Pavilion

She finds the trout quite subtly flavoured, a bit overpowered by the side of Serge’s oven baked beans with ham hock she simply had to have. And I can see (or rather taste) why – actually made with lentils rather than beans today, it has a fabulous treacly, smokey, barbecue sauce flavour and is generously filled with big chunks of tender pulled ham hock. The bowl is so big, too, that we’re all able to dig in and we still can’t finish it all!

Serge's homemade oven baked beans with ham hock

Serge’s oven baked beans with ham hock, Bathers’ Pavilion

Clare’s and Ann’s poached eggs come with slices of sweet, earthy Bathers’ blood pudding and thyme-roasted plum tomatoes on a bed of mushy green split peas, topped with translucent-thin, curly strips of pancetta. Clare also orders a side of fried whole field mushrooms to share which I find a bit lacking in flavour.

Poached eggs with Bathers' blood pudding and mushy peas

Poached eggs with Bathers’ blood pudding, mushy green peas and pancetta, Bathers’ Pavilion

We could happily sit here all day staring at the view, having more coffees and sampling some of the sweet things on the menu – verrine of winter fruit compote with yoghurt, granola and blueberries, or fresh mango and papaya with black sticky rice and coconut cream – but sadly these ladies who lunch (or breakfast) have to get to work!

Bathers' Pavilion

Bathers’ Pavilion

Bathers’ Pavilion
4 The Esplanade, Balmoral
Visited 27 September 2012


My Marrickville: favourite food shops

Such is my love of living and eating in Marrickville I’ve decided to do a series of pieces entitled ‘My Marrickville’, where I’ll write a little bit about each of my favourite food shops, cafés and restaurants in this marvelous suburb. This one, as you’ve probably surmised already from the title, is going to be about food shops.

(Incidentally, the ‘My’ of ‘My Marrickville’ is a fun little poke at Mr T who is constantly bemoaning the current fashion in advertising where everything is preceded by ‘my’, e.g. My Bank, My Insurance, My Healthcare, as if these two little letters were sufficient to kid us into thinking we’ve got any control, autonomy or choice! My Marrickville, however, is a different matter.)

No. 1
Bourke Street Bakery
2 Mitchell Street

The sourdough bread is our pretend reason for popping in here on a Saturday morning; favourites include green olive and rosemary (delicious slathered in taramasalata), fig and cranberry (divine with butter and honey) and the plain white sourdough. Often it’s hard to resist a little sweet treat – I’ll go for a sticky macadamia and honey bun, a perfect ginger brûlée tart, or a pain au chocolat, while Mr T prefers an apple galette or a rhubarb and almond tart. The sausage rolls (lamb, almond and harissa or pork and fennel) and pies (the beef and mushroom in red wine, especially) are fantastic too. Add to all that slices of rustic pizza, gourmet sandwiches, great coffee and fast, friendly service and this place is a winner every time.

Bourke Street Bakery

Bourke Street Bakery

Bourke Street Bakery

Bourke Street Bakery

Bourke Street Bakery

Bourke Street Bakery

Bourke Street Bakery

Bourke Street Bakery

No. 2
Lamia Super Deli
270 Marrickville Road

You’re hit by the aroma, when you first walk into this Greek treasure trove, of all things brined, cured and dried: a dozen buckets of glistening olives and peppers, whole salt cod and rib racks on hooks, and salamis, sausages and hams aplenty. As well as olives, Lamia specialises in Greek cheeses: kefalograviera, feta, haloumi and many more. Shelves groan with dried beans, pulses and seeds, pastas and polentas, imported bottled and tinned goods, and the fresh section includes trays of homemade moussaka and dense spinach and ricotta pie. Personal favourites are the fresh dolmades (drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil at home), taramasalata, and halva sliced to order from an enormous dome, swirled with chocolate and studded with almonds.

Lamia Super Deli

Lamia Super Deli

Lamia Super Deli

Lamia Super Deli

Lamia Super Deli

Lamia Super Deli

Lamia Super Deli

Lamia Super Deli

No. 3
Paesanella Cheese Manufacturers
27 Gerald Street

This award-winning, Italian, family run institution has been making Italian fresh specialty cheeses in Australia since 1956, but has 300 years of cheese-making history under its belt. These days they supply multiple delis and shops around the country, but it’s well worth getting to the factory and counter sale outlet in Gerald St (beware the opening hours of 6am to 1pm, Sunday to Friday); nowhere else will you be able to pick up a half kilo or kilo tub of daily made ricotta that is still warm! Also made on the premises are buffalo mozzarella, bocconcini, burrata (balls of mozzarella filled with cream), fior di latte, mascarpone and more. Of the many imported cheeses they stock, my favourites include pecorino pepato and gorgonzola.

Paesanella Cheese Manufacturers

Paesanella Cheese Manufacturers

Paesanella Cheese Manufacturers

Paesanella Cheese Manufacturers

Paesanella Cheese Manufacturers

Paesanella Cheese Manufacturers

Aside from the fact that these three shops are all objectively fantastic, I feel I ought to declare a sentimental attachment that I’ve just recalled. The meal at Mr T’s and my Australian wedding in 2010 (as opposed to the one we had in the UK) featured an antipasto course that was sourced almost entirely from these three places: a selection of breads from Bourke Street Bakery, prosciutto and salami from Lamia, and bocconcini, pecorino pepato and gorgonzola from Paesanella. Bottled olives, semi dried tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines and red peppers came from the also fantastic Oriental & Continental Foods in Artarmon.

What are your favourite food shops in Marrickville, or your suburb?

Bread & Circus, Alexandria

I’m instantly won over by the mismatched stripy canvas deckchairs outside Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen. We lounge and luxuriate in the sun for a few minutes before deciding that sitting upright will be much more conducive to comfortable eating – and that’s why we’re here, after all. Inside, this cafe takes up a light, airy corner of an as yet otherwise almost empty warehouse-style space – apart from the coffee shop serving Campos coffee next door.

Bread & Circus

Bread & Circus

The overwhelming impression is of an abundance of produce everywhere: in front of the long counter there are stacked up boxes of oranges and tomatoes, hessian sacks of organic potatoes and trays of avocados. The counter itself is also brimming with bottles and jars and boxes of yummy things, punctuated by the odd aubergine or head of garlic, and a display of beautifully packaged dark chocolate bars flavoured with lavender, orange or earl grey tea. There’s a jungle of succulents and pink-green foliage in bottles and jars as well, which also adorn all of the long, rustic wooden tables, and a bookcase full of more produce, propped up against which is a 10kg bag of Callebaut Belgian chocolate.

Bread & Circus

Bread & Circus

The images formed make me think of the old Dutch masters, decadent in their saturated colour and overflowing plenty.

Bread & Circus

Bread & Circus

There’s a breakfast menu which we don’t even look at. For lunch the choice is mainly between a range of meat-free salads which you can have alone or in combination in half-, full- or share-plate size, and sandwiches which do include various proteins and come deconstructed (I mean that ironically!) with an assortment of salady bits and two slices of sourdough bread in a cardboard container as a DIY affair. None of us has the salads (next time, for sure), three of us have sandwiches – beautiful rare roast beef with horseradish yoghurt for one and tart, creamy ash-rolled Meredith chevre with basil oil for the other two…

Meredith chevre, avocado and tomato with basil oil and sourdough bread

Meredith chevre, avocado and tomato with basil oil and sourdough bread, Bread & Circus

…and one has black pepper winter congee with organic Inglewood chicken, biodynamic brown rice and ginger.

Black pepper winter congee with organic Inglewood chicken, biodynamic brown rice and ginger, Bread & Circus

Black pepper winter congee with organic Inglewood chicken, biodynamic brown rice and ginger, Bread & Circus

Everything is so fresh and ripe and generously seasoned – and utterly delicious. The others all also have soy chai latte served from a big soup canister on the counter, sweet and spicy and gingery.

Bread & Circus

Bread & Circus

Clare had promised us huge spelt cookies with dark chocolate and sea salt but sadly today they don’t have any, so we settle for coffee from next door, and some of the lavender chocolate Ann has bought, to keep us awake for the rest of the afternoon. Do we really have to go back to the office?

Bread & Circus
21 Fountain Street, Alexandria
Visited 18 September 2012

El Amigo, Glebe

For Ann’s belated birthday lunch last week, the legal beagles and the PAs headed off to El Amigo in Glebe. And a friend it certainly was with its welcoming, smiley service and flavour-packed Peruvian fare. Warm red walls are decorated with a few woven Peruvian hangings, plastic figurines of a guitarist and dancer pose atop the counter ready to burst into action, and there’s just three or four wooden tables at which to sit in this tiny sandwich-shop-cum-cafe.

El Amigo

El Amigo

Amanda’s special of ‘aji de gallina’, a traditional Peruvian chicken stew in a nut-based cream sauce, looks and tastes like a warm coronation chicken with its tangy, fruity flavour.

Chicken stew in a creamy, nut-based sauce

Chicken stew in a nut-based cream sauce, El Amigo

Ann goes for ‘higado encebollado’, beef liver schnitzel with sautéed tomatoes and onions. Mildly spicy and again quite tangy in flavour, the schnitzel is delicious and flash-fried very tender.

Beef liver schnitzel with sauteed tomatoes and onions

Beef liver schnitzel with sautéed tomatoes and onions, El Amigo

‘Cau cau’, which Clare chooses, is a typical Peruvian dish of beef tripe, diced potatoes and fresh herbs. I’ve never eaten tripe before so I try a piece; it’s just like a sort of soft, frilly calamari in texture, but I’m not overly keen on the sauce it’s cooked in here which has quite an earthy flavour.

Beef tripe with diced potatoes and fresh herb

Beef tripe with diced potatoes and fresh herb, El Amigo

My Peruvian ceviche comes about ten minutes after the rest of the dishes (which we were warned about) as it takes a little while for the fish to ‘cook’ in the lemon juice. There’s a very generous mound of tart, clean-tasting fish on a bed of iceberg lettuce, seasoned with cayenne pepper and topped with plenty of thinly sliced red onions and fresh coriander. It’s accompanied by sweet potato, corn and a few kernels of roasted Peruvian corn which are larger than regular corn kernels and have a dry, powdery consistency inside the husk and a pleasant nutty taste.

Diced fish cooked in lemon juice, coriander and Spanish onions with sweet potato and corn

Diced fish cooked in lemon juice, coriander and Spanish onions with sweet potato and corn, El Amigo

For dessert we share a plate of ‘picarones’, mildly spicy Peruvian doughnuts served warm and dripping in a honey-lemon flavoured syrup.

Peruvian doughnuts with homemade syrup

Peruvian doughnuts with homemade syrup, El Amigo

And as if that isn’t quite enough we each have one of the delicate little pastries sandwiched together with dulce de leche that I’ve been admiring under the glass counter; they look like the macaron of Peru. At only 50c each we could have happily popped in a few more.

Peruvian pastries sandwiched with dulche de leche

Peruvian pastries sandwiched with dulce de leche, El Amigo

The other three of us treat Ann to her lunch and even then it comes to only $20 each including a generous tip. What a great and unusual little find – thanks, Clare, for the suggestion!

El Amigo
35E Ross Street, Glebe
Visited 13 September 2012

The Baxter Inn and Pendolino, Sydney

We get out of the office, three colleagues and I, and we’re in a taxi to the city on an unseasonally balmy Spring evening, discussing which bar we should go to – one at the Westin Hotel maybe, or perhaps PJ O’Brien’s, the Irish bar at Phil’s hotel, The Grace? Then Phil says, “I know this place we could go to”. So, once we’ve dropped off his bag he leads us through the foyer and out onto Clarence Street, left in a southerly direction for a bit, then left again down a dark alleyway and right past the back of what looks like a trendy bicycle shop/café towards a stairwell guarded by a bouncer. All very curious so far.

Ros, Cici and I follow Phil down the stairs below ground, he opens up a door and we emerge into the most magical, atmospheric bar I’ve been to in a long time. It’s packed with people, they’re playing loud 50s rock ‘n’ roll, the guys behind the bar look way cool (including one with a slicked-back short back and sides and a long waxed, curled-up moustache), and they’re beavering away dishing out drinks to a thirsty crowd. Behind them are bar-to-ceiling shelves groaning with the most impressive whiskey collection you’ve ever seen, enticingly lit by fairy lights and accessed from sliding library-style ladders that whizz from side to side. In between I can see a drinks menu at the top of which it says The Baxter Inn. The room is a reasonably large cellar with lots of small tables, dark-coloured carpet (helpful for absorbing the noise), very dim lighting from wall-mounted lamps, and bare brick walls and archways covered in framed black and whites of boxing champions and prints of race horses.

We get drinks and eventually manage to nab ourselves a table. One of the groovy bar staff works the floor constantly, collecting glasses and handing out little dishes of free pretzels. Those of our group who have been there say this place is very New York; I want to go there even more than I already did. I feel like I’m in some kind of prohibition-era speakeasy transported to the 1950s. Clinton joins us saying that he’s been queuing outside for quite some time to get in. We move on to the restaurant to meet the others, all raving about the bar and thinking Phil is so much cooler than we had ever realised. He lives in Melbourne and yet he’s the one who knows about Sydney’s hip, underground drinking dens!

The restaurant for tonight’s festivities is Pendolino, on the second floor of the elegant Strand Arcade. This place is all about authentic, regionally inspired Italian food featuring some of Australia and Italy’s most prestigious extra virgin olive oils. We’re led through a large, busy room, dark and sleek with white-clothed tables. Our table for eight is already set with baskets of beautiful bread and white dishes of three types of divine olive oil: one plain (fruttato), one infused with blood orange (sanguinella) and one infused with lemon (limone). Jeremy takes charge of the wine list and, following long in-depth conversations with the sommelier, chooses the Fontanafredda Papagena Barbara D’Alba Superiore 2008 for the red drinkers, and for the rest of us the Guerra Albano Pinot Grigio 2010 from Friuli, full of citrus and stone-fruit flavours. He tells me that he likes to take full advantage of the services of a sommelier and try wines that will challenge preconceptions and surprise people.

Once ‘Don’ Gerry has arrived and our party is complete, we’re given small table lamps by which to read the menu and we choose and order our food. To start I eventually settle on creamy freshly shucked oysters with salty salmon pearls that pop between the teeth and a lovely sweet-zingy tomato vinaigrette.

Freshly shucked oysters served with salmon pearls and tomato vinaigrette

Freshly shucked oysters served with salmon pearls and tomato vinaigrette, Pendolino

Jeremy, who I’ve commandeered to share his experience for my blog post, has the carpaccio of raw beef with truffled white walnut purée, Testun di Barolo cheese, rocket cress, wild baby olives and rosemary grissini. What’s it like? “Well, first you get the coldness of the beef, followed by the richness of the beef, and then the flavour of the truffle hits you at the end.”

Alba style free-range raw beef carpaccio with truffled white walnut puree, Testun di Barolo cheese, rocket cress, wild baby olives rosemary grissini

Free-range raw beef carpaccio with truffled white walnut puree, Testun di Barolo cheese, rocket cress, wild baby olives and rosemary grissini, Pendolino

In preparation for our main course, Jeremy calls the sommelier back over to discuss options for a slightly heavier red; he goes for the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Lalo Diubaldo Riserva 2005 which is poured into a decanter. Not usually a red drinker, I do try some of this, given that I’m eating beef, and I find it soft and spicy and very easy to drink. My beef is meltingly tender, slow cooked, oyster blade with sweet parsnip purée, al dente grilled green shallots and a beautiful, rich sour cherry sauce sporting a couple of whole cherries. It’s simply delicious.

Slowc cooked, pasture fed beef oyster blade, parsnip puree, grilled green shallots,  pearl garlic, Amarena sour cherry sauce

Slow cooked, pasture fed beef oyster blade, parsnip purée, grilled green shallots, pearl garlic and Amarena sour cherry sauce, Pendolino

My partner in gastronomic exploration has the roasted free range Corowa pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto on a bed of dried fava bean purée, with fresh fava beans and tomato, globe artichoke and crispy pancetta; he says it’s very tasty, especially the bean-tomato accompaniment.

Roasted free range Corowa pork tenderloin with dried fava bean puree, steamed fresh fava beans,  globe artichoke, tomato and crisp pancetta

Roasted free range Corowa pork tenderloin with dried fava bean purée, steamed fresh fava beans, globe artichoke, tomato and crisp pancetta, Pendolino

I don’t get a photo of David’s dish but you can picture it nonetheless: slow cooked Gippsland lamb with grilled white polenta, Tuscan black cabbage, baby carrots, dragoncello salsa and lamb sauce. I was very close to choosing this myself.

Menus are brought back for dessert and once again I struggle to choose. I’m drawn to the nougat and Ligurian honey semifreddo but settle on the vanilla bean and goats curd bavarese (which tastes a bit like panna cotta) with textured strawberry salad and wild strawberry consommé. The strawberry salad consists of some of the fresh variety (I think) but mainly what I suspect are freeze-dried strawberries which have a wonderful light, crispy texture and a concentrated flavour. The consommé is a clear, ruby-bright pool of perfect strawberry goodness.

Vanilla bean and goats curd bavarese with textured strawberry salad and wild strawberry consomme

Vanilla bean and goats curd bavarese with textured strawberry salad and wild strawberry consommé, Pendolino

Jeremy goes for blood orange olive oil ricotta fritters (which he likens to Nepalese cheese balls) with ‘fior di latte’ vanilla sorbet, a wonderful combination of hot-crunch and icy-smooth with intense marmaladey pieces of orange.

Blood orange olive oil ricotta fritters with “fior di latte' vanilla sorbet

Blood orange olive oil ricotta fritters with “fior di latte’ vanilla sorbet, Pendolino

Cici, our star guest this evening, has the most unusual sounding dessert: the Umbrian Christmas chocolate pasta with candied walnuts and honeycomb semifreddo. It’s really good, she says, but very rich; I think you can taste that just by looking at the photo!

Umbrian Christmas chocolate pasta with candied walnuts and honeycomb semifreddo

Umbrian Christmas chocolate pasta with candied walnuts and honeycomb semifreddo, Pendolino

Phil, on the other hand, keeps it simple and goes for the assorted gelati.

Assorted gelati

Assorted gelati, Pendolino

I wish I could feature every one of the dishes we had, but this would be a very long blog post and I didn’t have the most ideal conditions for photography; as it was I had several people around the table providing lighting from the torches on their phones! Thank you all for your patience and assistance and for a really wonderful night. And thank you for being such a lovely bunch of people to work with over the past two and a half years. I’ve certainly enjoyed the ride!

The Baxter Inn
Basement, 152 – 156 Clarence Street, Sydney

Level 2, Strand Arcade
412 – 414 George Street, Sydney

Visited 5 September 2012

A weekend in Melbourne

With a wedding in Melbourne last weekend, and friends and family to catch up with while there, it was inevitable that we were going to end up eating a lot (what a shame). For some reason I didn’t foresee quite how much, and I definitely hadn’t anticipated the quantity of pig fat…

A beautiful sunny Saturday sees us at Edinburgh Gardens in North Fitzroy to meet up with whoever is able to make it along. But getting there early and unbreakfasted leads us to seek out a suitable café. Marmalade and Soul hoves into view on a corner site at the end of quiet Queens Parade, but with a gaggle of people standing outside we fear the worst – a wait for tables. Fortunately said gaggle have presumably eaten their fill and are on their way out for we get a table straight away. Inside is a large two-roomed space with exposed red brick and quirky little displays of old, hardback books and retro storage jars on wooden shelves.

Marmalade and Soul

Marmalade and Soul

Waitresses are becomingly attired in pale blue striped shirts and sandy-coloured (I’m assuming some sort of raw natural fibre) aprons. I’m giving Marmalade and Soul an award right now for the most adventurous breakfast menu I have ever seen with dishes like ‘potted breakfast trifle’ and ‘spiced five rice porridge with curry and broken eggs’.

Marmalade and Soul

Marmalade and Soul

I go for hearty, sweet-spicy, richly tomatoey house-made baked beans with chorizo and chipolatas served in a small paella pan with crunchy croutons of garlic bread, all sprinkled with Parmesan.

Housemade baked beans with chorizo, chipolatas and garlic bread

House-made baked beans with chorizo, chipolatas and garlic bread, Marmalade and Soul

The portion size is huge and Mr T eats about half of it. That’s on top of his own breakfast, a titillating taste combination of caramelised orange and olive cake with maple bacon, burnt orange custard and raspberry coulis. Mr T especially loves the citrus bitterness of the custard, and the sweet-tartness of the raspberry, but finds the sticky bacon a bit on the tough side (“like trying to chew a Minty”).

Caramelised orange and olive cake with maple bacon and burnt orange custard

Caramelised orange and olive cake with maple bacon and burnt orange custard, Marmalade and Soul

We spend the rest of the day basking in the Melbourne Spring sunshine with friends and picnicking at a VFL match (Fitzroy vs. Hampton at Brunswick Oval, for those, unlike me, who understand these things), followed by a wonderful wedding with very good champagne and fabulous finger and buffet food – oysters and macarons, anyone?

Le Flaneur

Le Flaneur

Next day is Father’s Day, or Godfather’s Day as we rename it, since we are staying with Mr T’s godfather and his wife. We all meet up with their daughter, son-in-law and two gorgeous granddaughters for brunch at Le Flâneur in Hawthorn, a lovely laid back café with a French bent. Really good coffees all round to start, babyccinos for the girls, and a Valrhona hot chocolate for Mr T which promises greatness but sadly doesn’t deliver to his exacting (“I want it the colour of espresso coffee”) standards of strength.

Flat white, Le Flaneur

Flat white, Le Flâneur

To eat I go for the Croque Madame (a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg on top) which has creamy, stringy cheese sauce and good ham, but I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the sweetness of the brioche used here in place of bread.

Croque Madame

Croque Madame, Le Flâneur

Mr T has French toast (again made with brioche) with bacon and honey, topped with sliced strawberry and pear. The bacon is good quality and plentiful, the fruit fresh and beautifully presented, but the honey is not a very present flavour.

French toast, bacon, honey and fresh fruit

French toast, bacon, honey and fresh fruit, Le Flâneur

Everyone else around the table has beautifully made omelettes with various delicious fillings. We could happily, and do, spend quite some time here.

Le Flaneur

Le Flaneur

We decide to spend the afternoon, before our flight back to Sydney, hanging out in the trendy Gertrude/Smith/Brunswick Street area of Fitzroy/Collingwood where we’ve enjoyed much mooching time in the past. What actually happens is that we park on Smith Street and walk straight into Josie Bones, a bar/restaurant we’d both been keen to go to for a while.

Josie Bones

Josie Bones

Run by Chris Badenoch and Julia Jenkins who were contestants on the first series of Masterchef, Josie Bones is a fabulous place seriously dedicated to beer and nose-to-tail eating. A long chunky wooden bar runs the full length of the large room (below an enormous and confrontingly visceral mural of a skinned rabbit), purveying some 250 local and international craft beers, plus eight rotating beers on tap. We sit up at the bar and leaf through the exceedingly thick beer list, grouped according to type and origin. The friendly barman’s knowledge and description of beer knows no bounds and he helps me to choose a Croucher Pilsner from Rotorua in New Zealand which is deliciously fruity and hoppy.

Croucher Pilsner - Rotorua, New Zealand

Croucher Pilsner – Rotorua, New Zealand, Josie Bones

Despite having eaten only a couple of hours prior, we can’t possibly not sample some of their meaty offerings. We decide we’ll risk scurvy and skip the vegetable matter, cutting straight to the chase with pork crackling, lambs tongue sliders, pigs trotter and rolled pigs head. Enough pig, do you think? The crackling is fabulously crunchy and the lambs tongue sliders soft, sweet and slightly smokey with toasted brioche buns, tomato relish and creamy mayo.

Lambs tongue sliders

Lambs tongue sliders, Josie Bones

The pigs trotter is stuffed with black pudding on a bed of earthy braised Puy lentils. I’m used to black pudding being much richer and bloodier than this paler, lighter version which has a touch of fruitiness from the calvados-flambéd apple that they include. The salty, crumbed crispy pigs ears on top are a wonderful textural marriage of crunch and chew.

Trotter stuffed with black pudding with braised lentils and crispy pigs ear

Trotter stuffed with black pudding with braised lentils and crispy pigs ear, Josie Bones

The dish of the day is the pigs head which they braise in beer before pulling the meat off, rolling it up with the tongue down the middle along with herbs and lemon zest, and steaming it before it’s sliced and pan-fried golden brown to order. Decadence in a dish, it’s full of large chunks of unctuous, melting fat and falling-apart meat, topped with another shard of the fabulous crackling. It rests on a bed of jewel-green sauce gribiche; performing the same role as a salsa verde or a chimichurri, it’s the perfect foil to the fattiness of the meat with its inclusion of zingy, acidic capers and cornichons as well as fresh herbs.

Rolled pigs head with sauce gribiche and crackling

Rolled pigs head with sauce gribiche and crackling, Josie Bones

We waddle off to the airport sated and very happy but swearing off pig products for… well, as it happens, only two days! On Tuesday we have lovely thick pork chops with a syrupy balsamic glaze; can’t get enough of that pork on ya fork.

Marmelade and Soul
162 Queens Parade, Fitzroy North, Melbourne
Visited 1 September 2012

Le Flâneur
5 Church Street, Hawthorn, Melbourne

Josie Bones
98 Smith Street, Collingwood

Both visited 2 September 2012