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Ela goes to 'Hell of the North'.. and back

Posted by: Ela Carte | 19 October, 2012 - 11:26 AM
Hell of the North (Ella Carte)

Hell of the North – 135 Greeves Street, Fiztroy www.hellofthenorth.com.au 

It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about a meal. Hell of the North was pure heaven.

Tucked away in a side street leading from busy Smith Street, Hell lives in a beautiful bluestone terrace with an unmistakably yellow door. It’s as impressive inside as it is from the street, a room with great modern features that retains its historic charm.

Staff are laid back, but efficient and knowledgeable, the crowd a mix of Fitzroy cool and, well, the rest of us.

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The menu’s somewhere between French classic and modern Australian which, let’s be honest, isn’t saying much. It’s brief but impressive, it’s hard to go past most of it. It’s pretty much split into a group of cheaper dishes you’d probably consider entrees ($12 - 18), and some larger ones that still come in at $25 and under – they’re great value.

From the starters, Beef Tartare was just as you’d expect the classic, this was juicy beef, beautiful and bright, with crisp toast.

The scallops were cooked to perfection, plump discs on a classic French sauce that sees artichokes cooked in white wine with carrot, onion, celery and jamon. It’s nice to see scallops paired with something quite subtle, so often these days they seem be blown away by thing like chorizo or black pudding.

The roast lamb rump is tender and generous, a big serve with beautiful Moroccan flavours. Beside it is a zucchini flower stuffed with soft, braised belly, shoulder and legs that has been mixed with sheep yoghurt and cumin. These are complimented by large cous cous and sweet, caramelised eggplant. It’s a gorgeously balanced dish.

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The one I can’t stop thinking about, though, is the John Dory. This is one of my most enjoyable dishes of the year, a serious triumph. The dory is fried until its skin is perfectly crispy, but the flesh still moist. It’s served with a slab of prawn mousse topped with a fennel and blood orange salad. All this sits in a stunning, rich crab bisque that’s been given an Asian twist with the addition of lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime and coconut. I can kinda still taste it, and it makes me happy.

Desserts are fascinating, we couldn’t go past the very floral buttermilk & rosemary pannacotta with leatherwood honey. Such a combination of sour, sweet, and savoury – the bouncy pannacotta complimented by lavender flowers and pears roasted in honey.

There’s a great supper list if you just wanted to drop in at the end of a long night (it’s served until 1am), there is tap and bottled beer, and wines by the glass a little at the pricey end from $8 - $16.

Hell of the North is anything but – it provided one of my most enjoyable dining experiences of the year.

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