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Ela Carte reviews Stokehouse Pontoon in St Kilda

MML

Stokehouse Pontoon ? 30 Jacka Boulevard St Kilda ? http://pontoonstkildabeach.com.au/

The Stokehouse is back, and so are the beautiful people.

What used to be ‘Stokehouse Downstairs’ is now ‘Pontoon’; a decidedly more casual affair, but with roughly the same gorgeous crowd. There’s a healthy serving of lipstick, a helluva lot of heels, an explosion of linen jackets.

Which is interesting, because the new incarnation is far from fancy.  I reckon this point is important, because often when dining half the experience is the expectation, and whether that expectation is met will make a big impact on how much you enjoy your experience.

Ela loved the slow-cooked octopus.

Ela loved the slow-cooked octopus.

That’s why it’s worth knowing that the new Pontoon is very DIY. You’ll order at the bar, you’ll need to collect your cutlery and share plates on the way back to the table, and you may been to share your table with another party. I did say casual.

The benefit of that, then, I guess, is that you’ll get a very well-priced meal considering the view and the reputation.

The cuisine is somewhere between Middle East, and Mediterranean. Lots of dishes to be shared, plenty of flavour, and much use of the custom-made 4m-long wood-fried grill.

The seasoned cauliflower was a highlight.

The seasoned cauliflower was a highlight.

Highlights included dishes like lightly fried, seasoned cauliflower with a chipotle hummus, or lamb cigars ? Moroccan spiced mince in bric pastry, with a tangy cumin yoghurt and super sweet pomegranate molasses.

Just as tasty, but possibly scary for those in their coastal chic whites, were the dishes designed to be enjoyed sans cutlery. Spicy chicken wings, or seriously sticky baby back pork ribs ? braised in masterstock then finished over coals and served with a fennel escabeche for freshness. Both were messy, but tasty as hell; the pork ribs perfectly tender.

Huge king prawns are scorched over the grill then dressed with a burnt chilli and ginger dressing that was a little too spicy for me; and for something lighter some WA octopus was cooked slowly in white wine then char-grilled and finished with salsa verde, house pickles, red vein sorrel and Turkish pepper ? I loved it.

Moroccan spiced lamb cigars in bric pastry.

Moroccan spiced lamb cigars in bric pastry.

One issue is that there’s no spacing of the dishes from the kitchen staff, if it was a long lunch we were after, we might have been disappointed. It all raced out from the kitchen at once, so it was a case of working out which dish would taste worst cold.

It’s a stylish makeover, all coastal hues, pale timbers, concrete, and that unmistakably impressive view of St Kilda beach. If you’re aware that the feel is more self-serve pub or bar than the Stokehouse Downstairs of before, then you’ll no doubt enjoy the grub and the view. 

The spicy chicken wings were messy, but tasty as hell.

The spicy chicken wings were messy, but tasty as hell.

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