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
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.
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.