FEED THE MAN MEAT
Lovers of beer and bratwurst should head to Federation Square’s latest culinary contender, advises George Megalogenis
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
Beat the rush: BeerDeluxe is trying a back-to-basics approach to conquer a notoriously difficult Melbourne location