The RECREATION Bistro x Bottleshop
8.5/10 on Tuesday 24 October 2017.
The Walrus: And the caper is afoot! Thought I would enlarge the circle in which we travel to seek out new and interesting places to dine. Under the guise of "heading out to Bundoora" we boarded the 86 tram in Bourke Street and I casually chatted to the Carpenter as his nervous twitch increased and we rolled along the rails. Fortunately (for him) we alighted at the northern end of Smith Street where it turns into Queens Parade and wandered over to the Recreation Bistro & Bottleshop. A very nice space inside with lots of wood and steel and a nice view through to the open kitchen from the dining area. You dont really notice the "Bottleshop" part of the title once inside.
The Carpenter: The Walrus loves a good caper - the sub-title for this month's adventure could have been "a trek to the outback". Flagged as Bundoora, our longest trip yet on the tram out to North Fitzroy, The Recreation sits on a busy but spacious intersection, protected from the bulk of the traffic by a separated access lane. From the outside the place looks like any other artfully restored country corner pub. Inside there's a walk through the more relaxed bottle shop into the bistro - ducking under the [deliberately?] lowered cast concrete sill with EMU stencilled on it. Presumably for those of us tall enough that's a warning of some sort. Certainly not a precursor to how tough the meat is going to be! Despite any door opening being undersized at about 190cm, nice high ceilings, well restored without being hipster and good sized table for two next to the gas meter.
W: If we are anything, its predictable! Especially when its pre-dinner drinks. Nothing beats a well made martini to start the night off (as regular readers will know of us), so expectations are always high. The question is, would a "Bottleshop & Bistro" have the mixology chops to deliver on expectations? They did have a new gin in stock which we had not heard of, Animus Gin, which is a local distillery founded in 2015 by four friends (doctors we were told) focused on capturing fresh Australian botanicals. The gin we selected was crafted around lemon myrtle and mountain pepper berry. We like the martini's dirty but the amount of brine that ended up in the mix was a bit too much and ended up fighting the botanicals rather than complimenting them. The gin was very nice (picking up its notes through the wall of brine) though and would very much suit the citrus of good quality tonic water. 8.5/10 for the gin 6/10 for the martini.
C: A new gin to try - Animus. A local gin originally produced just up the road in North Fitzroy. Started in 2015 apparently this gin distillery is gaining momentum. In any case, it made for an interesting martini - the request for "slightly dirty" was interpreted with a little poetic license, and ended up with a little too much brine. Although that didn't detract from the interesting notes of the gin - lemon myrtle. Gave a bit of a vespa vibe to the martini. I'll definitely be looking for a bottle of this in the Christmas stocking! 8.5/10
W: The home baked bread and in-house churned butter were excellent. We shared a serve of the rabbit, pork and foie gras terrine with piccalilli and whilst it wasn't a strong flavoured terrine, it was very tasty, especially with the mustard provided. A second entree was the black pudding and pear tarte tatin. Yes, that was the combo on offer....sort of a savoury dessert. The pastry was perfectly flaky and the pears were caramelised beautifully and the black pudding gave it a real earthy deliciousness that was unexpected. The hazelnuts sprinkled on top gave some extra texture and also another flavour dimension that made the whole thing even tastier. Very impressive so far regarding the food being produced. 9.5/10
C: Lovely home baked bread and churned butter. Rabbit country style terrine with some pickles and crustless toastettes. And a ground mustard. The mustard was delicious but required care on application to balance with the terrine flavor, but it was a delicious combo. Then we hit the jackpot with a black pudding and pear tarte tartin. The caramelisation of the base was perfect. The flavors just outstanding. And paired with a waiter recommendation for a local red of some sort was just perfect. The best black pudding dish I've had. 9.5/10
W: Feeling like a nice hearty "bangers and mash" offering, I went for the Venison and pork sausage with pommes boulangere and onion jus. After sorting out some translations from French to English, I was away in snag heaven. Beautiful home made sausage and buttery potato with sage inside the meat making the whole dish come to life. Really great cooking. Washed it down with a couple of glasses of a 2015 Fighting Gully Road chardonnay from Beechworth. My love of any Chardy that comes from Beechworth was reinforced with this one. Initially strong on the sulphides and flinty on the nose, it settles down into nice peach notes with a great finish. I ordered a rocket and parmesan salad as well. I think I looked at it twice during the meal....just to keep it on its toes. 9/10
C: Pork belly with a couple of purees and garnishings. Delicious. The crackling was good and crunchy without being impossible to cut. The pork cooked beautifully. The purees perfect. A really solid and hearty dish. Again paired beautifully with a yarra valley pinot noir. The Walrus got a rocket and parmesan table garnish to lighten the setting - I think I saw him wave his fork over it for effect. 8.5/10
W: I just went for a bit of basic "whatever the ice-creamy thing" on the dessert menu was. It went quite well. 8/10
C: One standout on the menu - Bombe Alaska. How could we resist a classic bombe? A little nervous that there was no "30 minute" pre-order period but was assured modern bombe-ing techniques have evolved beyond the arctic chilled icecream jammed into a piping hot oven to cook the merangue without melting the center. Blow torch! I was hopeful - the bombe looked great. The flavors were really tasty - the center some sort of green tea I think - so a good dessert, but just didn't match the theater and expectation of a good oven juggle. A missed opportunity to really bring this one home. 7.5/10
W: After a bit of chat to get across to our waiter that regarding sticky, its gotta be botrytis, he went rummaging around out the back and managed to bring forth a Punt Road Botrytis Semillon. Sweet and intense with the classic honey notes and a clean finish. A great way to end the meal. 10/10
C: A really good Punt Rd botrytis effected dessert wine pulled out of the back - not on the list but by this stage we were really hitting it off with our waiter - he was fantastic. 10/10
W: Service was attentive and very easy to talk to staff. Their recommendations were bang on and they kept the pace going at just the right level. 9/10
C: We overheard the table next door commenting on the all male staff - true. All male. Our waiter was great - he made fantastic pairing choices, never left us waiting for anything, timed the courses and the in between perfectly. 9/10
W: Great little bistro in the inner northern suburbs that competes easily with its CBD cousins. Great service with peak joy occurring at the black pudding/pear tarte tatin moment. Let down by the confused and unbalanced martini. 8.5/10
C: A long trip well worth the effort - great atmosphere and for a Tuesday night the place was full. The service was spot on and the food great. Coupled with the bottleshop makes for some good options on the wine list. 8.5/10
W: None on the night.
C: No cap this evening..
C: Uber home - got to roll out a little mandarin with my Shanghainese driver. Some interesting commentary on the communist party and transitioning to capitalism. Covered plenty of ground on the 40 minute trip home. Gold. Walrus declined the umbrella on offer and received a good soaking as a result. Tram changes!