Lovers of beer and bratwurst should head to Fed­er­a­tion Square’s latest culi­nary con­tender, ad­vises Ge­orge Me­ga­lo­ge­nis

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

ONE of the most chal­leng­ing places to serve food and drink in Melbourne is Fed­er­a­tion Square. I don’t mean the peo­ple-mag­net end of the com­plex, which over­looks the Yarra River and Flin­ders Street rail­way sta­tion. There the restau­rants, both good and bad, are in­vari­ably busy.

The prob­lem area is the non-Yarra chunk of Fed Square that runs along Flin­ders Street. Where the front half has the buzz of a con­ti­nen­tal pi­azza, the back half is all walls and glass, rem­i­nis­cent of an air­craft hangar. Across the street is a Nando’s take­away and the en­trance to a city car park. You wouldn’t dine here for the vista.

Per­haps it’s the ab­sence of feng shui that ex­plains why the eateries at the nonEuro­pean side of Fed Square have a sorry record. The first ven­ture in this space, Andrew O’Brien’s Re­serve, won ap­plause from crit­ics, but Ge­orge Calom­baris’s mad pro­fes­sor of a menu, mix­ing sweets and meats, flopped with pa­trons and closed in Fe­bru­ary 2005. In its place came Paul Mathis’s Up­per+Lower House, but its more con­ser­va­tive approach also failed to pull a reg­u­lar crowd and the busi­ness was sold early last year and then again at the end of the year.

The latest owner of this chal­leng­ing sec­tion of Fed Square is for­mer Soc­ceroo Ge­orge Christopou­los. He is try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent with BeerDeluxe.

The en­ter­prise puts the glass be­fore the plate, with 48 beers on of­fer, from a James Boag’s pre­mium light ($5.50) to the Chi­may grand re­serve ($12), a Bel­gian Trap­pist brew said to be ‘‘ com­plex, dark, smooth and sub­tly sweet’’.

Menus vary de­pend­ing on where you choose to sit. Down­stairs it’s rel­a­tively cheap Ital­ian; up­stairs there is a hearty grill. The com­mon thread be­tween the two is the beer: man­age­ment even of­fers to match beer with sausages.

This is an old-fash­ioned venue in the strictest sense of the term, some­where be­tween univer­sity pub and Bel­gian restau­rant. My friend B and I had been to Re­serve in 2002, so we are in­ter­ested to see how up­stairs has changed. Stripped of its for­mer trim­mings. BeerDeluxe is, in­deed, less for­mal, but it is smart. Yet it is hard to make a call on the at­mos­phere be­cause ours is one of just four ta­bles oc­cu­pied on this Fri­day evening.

I’m at the tail-end of a week-long virus, and B can’t stand beer, so nei­ther of us has the urge for an ale. We are, how­ever, a touch car­niv­o­rous tonight and the grill has in­cited our palates. I or­der the mixed sausages for en­tree ($16.50) and the lamb cut­lets ($25.50) for main. B skips the starters to leave room for dessert and con­cen­trates on the rib eye, well done, for her main ($33.50).

There are four types of sausage on my plate: chorizo, mer­guez, toulouse and

Pic­ture: Michael Pot­ter

Beat the rush: BeerDeluxe is try­ing a back-to-ba­sics approach to con­quer a no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult Melbourne lo­ca­tion

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