North Melbourne, VIC 3051
It’s always nice when a restaurant turns out to be much easier to get to than I had previously thought. Being much too lazy to drive the 120 hours I need to get my licence, I rely almost exclusively on public transport and my own two feet to get to new eats. Now you all know why I eat in the CBD so much. Anyway, it turns out that brunch legend, Auction Rooms, is only a short tram ride out of the city. So it didn’t take much on my part to convince Bilge and Minh-An that we ought to have brunch there on a cold Friday morning.
There’s a wait, even at the awkward post-brunch-pre-lunch time of 12. There’s a bar running parallel to the coffee machines, and I imagine that the large, open plan space would translate easily to a warm and social dining-hall at dinner, which they are open for. I do find it odd that they have a menu starting at 4pm, 5pm and 7pm respectively though; what mystical dish is there that’s forbidden from being served at 4pm but not 5pm?
A few minutes later, we were ushered out of the main area and into a small courtyard out back. The clear plastic roof, vines crawling up brick walls, and a tree stretching to the ceiling provided a lovely, light-filled place to eat that is both natural and, thankfully, protected from the elements. And isn’t Minh-An such a lovely hand model?
|House Cured Ocean Trout, Served on Lightly Toasted Rye with Beetroot Pickled Egg, Avocado, Cucumber and Radish ($16.5)|
The House Cured Ocean Trout, Served on Lightly Toasted Rye with Beetroot Pickled Egg, Avocado, Cucumber and Radish ($16.5) was originally Minh-An’s order, but she and Bilge happily swapped when Minh-An realised that the trout was raw, and Bilge realised that her just-been-to-the-dentist mouth would not have been able to tackle the chewy bread of her beef sandwich. So once that was worked out, we all oohed and ahhed over how beautiful this dish was. The nothingness of the charcoal black plate was the perfect backdrop to the vibrant colours of the dish.
Everything was so delicate and meticulously arranged into an edible work of art. And the flavours even managed to live up to the gorgeous visuals; a thin slice of rye bread toasted into the brittleness of a crouton, topped with pea-green avocado dollops that are sour yet creamy, and luscious folds of fatty cured trout. The pastel pink egg had a surreal, almost plastic-like look to it, but turned out to be bouncy and ever so slightly sweet from its encounter with the beetroot. Translucent disks of cucumber and radish, along with soft baby spinach and the salty pop of caviar played a game of freshness and crunch with the richer components of the dish. The word ‘feast’ is not simply for the stomach here.
|Braised Beef Cheek Sandwich, with Beetroot Relish and Horseradish, Served with Mixed House Pickle ($13)|
Minh-An’s, formerly Bilge’s Braised Beef Cheek Sandwich, with Beetroot Relish and Horseradish, Served with Mixed House Pickle ($13) was served in a compact little bread roll, with a smorgasbord of sharply pickled vegetables, including mini gherkins, streamers of red cabbage, and a whole baby onion. The juices of the soft and sticky beef were soaked up by the crusty roll, along with the mellow sweetness of the relish.
|Lamb and Tomato Stew, with Eggplant, Olives, Feta and Poached Eggs, served with Grilled Flat Bread ($17)|
Being a creature of habit, I gravitated towards the heartier offerings on the menu. The Lamb and Tomato Stew, with Eggplant, Olives, Feta and Poached Eggs, served with Grilled Flat Bread ($17) was a harmonious melding of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours. The pale hunk of feta gently melted swirls into the thick stew, which was rich with slow cooked lamb and eggplant. It was made all the better by streams of golden egg yolk, mopped up by pillowy soft flatbread; lightly buttered, rolled up and stamped with grill marks.