Is that a gazelle gaz­ing at your din­ner? An­thony Huck­step ex­pe­ri­ences Mel­bourne’s lat­est bar and grill, and it’s off-the-wall.

delicious - - CONTENTS -

The walls have eyes in a dra­mat­i­cally unique Mel­bourne diner.

IF YOU’RE FEEL­ING more stuffed than a cen­tipede’s sock drawer af­ter din­ing at Nat­u­ral His­tory Bar & Grill, spare a thought for the taxi­dermy. Yep, that’s right. As you ru­mi­nate on your rare hanger steak, an ar­ray of for­mer foxes, moun­tain goats and pea­cocks – stuffed and mounted – peer over your shoul­der from in­side a mag­i­cal mu­ral-meets-dio­rama glass ter­rar­ium.

Cre­ated by artist Vanja Zaric, it cer­tainly raises the stakes for a point-of-dif­fer­ence din­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Nat­u­ral His­tory, from the 100 Burg­ers Group, is housed in a for­mer ’40s bank on Mel­bourne’s busy Collins Street and fash­ioned on the ideals of New York’s Grand Cen­tral Oys­ter Bar.

The steak­house, de­signed by Michael De­lany and Jamie Wirth, is of gar­gan­tuan pro­por­tions – some 350 seats. As such, there are dif­fer­ent ar­eas, ex­pe­ri­ences and a lot of en­ergy. It’s dark, salu­bri­ous and gives off a ‘bow­els of the city’ vibe. Ban­quettes and cap­tain’s chairs run along­side the taxi­dermy, and chan­de­liers, che­quered floors, bar stools and olive­g­reen benches fill the cav­ernous room. There’s a cafe, cock­tail bar, porchetta bar and, of course, the pack of wild crit­ters – both taxi­dermy and guests alike. The epic drinks list is ever-so pro-nat­u­ral wine and the cock­tails lean on the clas­sics.

In the kitchen is chef Morgan McGlone of Belles Hot Chicken, ex­po­nent of US South­ern cook­ery. Here, he’s stick­ing to no-fuss favourites, but mak­ing a crash­land­ing with big flavours.

Light beef-ten­don chichar­rón pro­vide the ve­hi­cle to scoop up tex­tu­ral O’Con­nor pas­ture-fed aged sir­loin tartare with smoked oys­ters. With all the condi­ments to turn through it and a soy-cured yolk on top, it’s fab­u­lous. Then let­tuce cups ac­com­pany raw tuna that begs to be tum­bled with a richer ren­di­tion of a

rav­ig­ote sauce (think mus­tard, ca­pers, oil, vinai­grette). Fil­lets of Ca­jun-spiced rock ling are stacked on top of pick­led green tomato and soused slaw – it’s lovely, but the mix of spices strangely re­minds me of a McDonald’s ap­ple pie – a dessert McGlone hon­oured at his last digs, Ho­tel Harry in Syd­ney.

Then a del­i­cate yet rich crab lasagne takes the cake. An am­ber tomato sauce is la­dled over sheets of char­grilled egg­plant and zuc­chini, each layer sep­a­rated by span­ner crab mousse. It’s prob­a­bly the most sat­is­fy­ing ‘fancy’ lasagne I’ve eaten. An O’Con­nor hanger steak – black on the out­side, ruby red in the cen­tre – comes with café de Paris sauce and roasted onions. Sim­ple but well ex­e­cuted – the hall­mark of a ma­ture chef. Nat­u­ral His­tory isn’t ground­break­ing, but it’s not try­ing to be. It’s gen­er­ous serv­ings of clas­sic grub in a cock­tail-swill­ing set­ting that of­fers a big night out, and if you’re not care­ful it might knock the stuff­ing out of you, too.

FROM RIGHT: dine in a salu­bri­ous set­ting; Vanja Zaric’s taxi­dermy dio­rama; (inset) char­cu­terie plate with veg­etable crisps and cru­dités.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.