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Ela Carte delves into Epocha
Epocha – 49 Rathdowne Street Carlton – www.epocha.com.au
To me, Epocha oozes class. Not unattainable class. Just understated class.
It’s a unique location in a city littered with laneway cafes, and restaurant strips, this Victorian terrace sits nestled between homes just opposite the evergreen Carlton Gardens.
Inside it’s visual delight. A gorgeous restored room, timelessly elegant with splashes of flair. Timber tables with decorative ceramic inserts, green timber chairs with wicker seats, dark paneling and a decadent marble fireplace. This feels like exactly what the purport to be, dining from another era, or a new era. Opened by George Calombaris’ former manager and sommelier Angie Giannakodaki, together with the very experienced Guy Holder, it turned out to be a safe assumption that the service would be second to none.
The food menu is split into three, snacks, small shares and larger shares – and these guys recommend you have a think about what you might want your main to be and work backwards. We ignored them, confused as we were with discarding the usual left to right reading style, and went straight to the snacks for choice one - some mushroom arancini, and some jamon & fior di latte croquettes.
First to arrive, though, were the cold dishes from the small shares section – venison carpaccio is lightly seared and thinly sliced. Paperthin discs of the raw game meat encircled the plate, they were littered with pickled mushrooms, split peas, hazelnuts, radish, earthy truffle cream and Marsala jelly spheres.
Gravlaks was ocean trout cured in lemon, lime zest and crushed cardamom, rather than the expected salmon. It was super fresh and accompanied by a potato, dill and crème fraiche salad, and some tart apple with fennel.
Then came our warm nibblies – the arancini and croquettes. Both soft, fried, salty goodness –croquettes the stand out.
Believe it or not, we weren’t even finished with the small stuff, the final instalment came in the form of meat and veg – Lamb kalamaki were lamb backstrap skewers marinated in rigani, garlic and thyme, served with glorious charred pear and rich gorgonzola cheese. I don’t know what I expected, but this flavour combination was divine, seriously good.
Representing the veg were baby carrots were roasted and served with honey, goats curd, sesame and beetroot.
Thankfully we only ordered one main to share, and despite drooling at the thought of pork three ways (belly, jowl, neck) or a 500g Cote de Boeuf, we actually settled upon the vegetarian potato, calcot and gruyere pie. Stunning. Creamy, with a buttery crust (lighter thanks to the addition of cream cheese in the pastry), that sweetness from five different onions including the baby leek-like calcot, cheesy gruyere goodness, and a touch of mustard. It was a generous size, we simply couldn’t get through it, especially as we were rather taken by the lentils, mint, peas and bacon we’d ordered as a side.
Purely for research purposes we expressed interest in dessert, which comes not in paper form, but as a more concrete structure – a trolley with a range of options right in front of your eyes. From tiramisu and crème brulee, to our eventual selection of a lemon cream filled cannoli, it’s a cunning move to put them so enticingly close to diners.
The drinks list is unashamedly European, and thanks to Angie, has a heavy hint of Greece. She’s the go-to person when it comes to choosing wines, we were rapt with our Greek “Petra” at $44 a bottle, by the glass you’re looking at between $9 and $15.
Plenty of things to like about Epocha, with that gorgeous position, the classy décor, and unflappable service – you’re bound to be on cloud nine before you even try the food, and I can’t see that bringing you back down.