The Recreation – 162-170 Queens Parade North Fitzroy – www.the-recreation.com
I have to return to Ross' idea of villages. That notion that eventually we'll all live in our self-contained communities because it'll be such a nightmare to cross town to explore the other side of the city. It means we'll need lots of fabulous, neighbourhood eateries – and the Recreation is one of them.
Part bottle shop, part wine bar, part restaurant – it feels perfect for a quick wine and a snack out the front, but stylish enough for a date to impress.
While the vibe is relaxed, there's a marked professionalism – co-owners Joe and Mark worked at Grossi Upstairs, they know their service – but it's punctuated with a genuine warmth.
It's a brilliant menu – I could have ordered just about everything on it. It's closer to a traditional bistro layout. There are some snacks; but other than that you could definitely do your old school entrée, main dessert.
From the snacks – I'm a sucker for eggplant these days. Here, a crumbed, fried disc of eggplant is topped with a slow-cooked, smoked eggplant puree, roasted beet, goats cheese mousse and a crunchy apple chip.
Pear Tarte Tartin
But the showstopper was easily the black pudding and pear tarte tartin. That classic puff pastry base, thin sliced caramelised pear, and house-made black pudding slices. Perfect balance between sweet and savoury – it's a cracker!
We shared a couple of entrees between three. Calamari hoods are grilled over wood and slicend, the tentacle dusted and friend. They're served with lemon aioli, peas, kipfler potato, dried lemon and bayleaf – it's a gorgeous, light, fresh dish.
Strangely, this wasn't the first time I've tried spaetzle - a traditional Alsatian pasta style noodle – it's also on the menu at Copperpot in Seddon. This one is sauteed with charred broccoli, cabbage and top with a rich, gooey gruyere fondue sauce. The pasta is perfectly chewy, I loved it.
From the mains, there was a lamb bonanza for me. On the plate, some roasted lamb loin, smoked shoulder and a big chunky croquette of slow cooked lamb neck, served with a warm salad of charred pumpkin, zucchini and goats cheese.
For my mate Zola, slow-roasted suckling pig; topped with a slice of specially crisped skin, and accompanied by baby carrots and pommes dauphine (small potato and choux puffs) and a sauce made of the pig bones and tamarind.
I loved the wine list here. Long, interesting, creative, and surprisingly good value. Plenty of options for us between $40 and $55, which isn't often the case in a place that takes its wine list seriously. Believe it or not, you can actually BYO, these guys will charge a $20 corkage (fair enough given that they'd much rather sell you what they've got).
These guys wanted to create a watering hole for locals, but it's one with a seriously good food offering. What a lucky village.
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