MENU SAM­PLER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

En­trees Calves liver with sweet onion and caber­net vine­gar ($13.50) Scampi with herbed lemon oil ($18.50) Mains Sword­fish steak ($25.50) Mixed grill of lamb cut­lets, bratwurst, gypsy speck and ce­vap­cici ($26.50) Dessert

Pear tart tatin with pis­ta­chio nuts and vanilla ice cream ($12.50) cotechino. To be hon­est, I can’t say which is which apart from the chorizo, but all are ter­rific, with the tastes rang­ing from mild to spicy. B winces as I munch.

The sausages come with a nice piece of goat’s cheese and a pinch of green salad. We have a glass each of Catalina Sounds Sauvi­gnon Blanc ($9.50).

Our mains ar­rive af­ter a short wait, which as­sures us they were be­ing cooked in real time.

The pat­tern that be­gan with my en­tree is re­peated: the dishes are loaded with meat, with only a to­ken salad em­bel­lish­ment. A side of mashed pota­toes ($6) breaks the mono­chrome of the grill.

B’s mind rewinds to her child­hood of chops, peas and mash. Din­ner was the same, whether it was pre­pared by her dar­ling mother or some babysit­ter.

The blood from the chops would seep into the mash. From my im­mi­grant-son per­spec­tive, B’s An­glo up­bring­ing seems un­speak­ably tragic.

She has me al­most in tears when she re­veals that her school lunch­box was filled each day with the same Vegemite sand­wiches.

‘‘ I was 12 be­fore I found the courage to tell Mum I wanted some­thing dif­fer­ent,’’ she con­fesses.

Yet the irony we re­flect on tonight is that BeerDeluxe’s un­pre­ten­tious menu is a wel­come respite from the mul­tilin­gual restau­rants that seem to be de rigueur in mod­ern Aus­tralia. It stopped be­ing eth­nic food long ago, as in Ital­ian or Greek or Chi­nese or Thai. Now it seems to be a ques­tion of how many hy­brids a chef can squeeze into the one dish.

BeerDeluxe sub­verts the genre by re­turn­ing to ba­sics. Christopou­los says the up­stairs menu will be ex­panded over com­ing weeks to in­clude a wider variety of sim­ple grilled dishes. To say the food we have tonight is un­com­pli­cated is a bit of an un­der­state­ment, but don’t mis­take this for crit­i­cism. The meat is good. My lamb cut­lets pass the gorge test as I chew off the rem­nants on the bone. B’s rib eye is a lit­tle too well-done for my lik­ing, but she is happy with it that way.

We then share a pear tart tatin with

quan­tity

of pis­ta­chio nuts and vanilla ice cream ($12.50), which turns out to be the high­light of the meal.

It is just af­ter 8.30pm and we are the last peo­ple left in this part of the restau­rant. Down­stairs is only half-full, which is a shame be­cause this food de­serves more stom­achs. If BeerDeluxe winds up like its more arty pre­de­ces­sors, don’t blame the menu, but the lo­ca­tion in Fed Square’s dark­est cor­ner. All Ta­bles vis­its are unan­nounced and meals paid for.

Check­list

BeerDeluxe Fed­er­a­tion Square, 2 Swanston St, Melbourne (en­ter from the Flin­ders Street side); (03) 9663 0166; www.beerdeluxe.com.au. Open: Cafe from 7.30am daily; lunch and din­ner daily. Cost: Up­stairs grill menu: $50-$75 a per­son for din­ner of three cour­ses and a shared bot­tle of wine. Down­stairs salon menu: Ital­ian mains, $15-$18.50.

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