189 Smith Street
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
You know a restaurant is going to be good when the tram driver announces it as he goes by. Of course, that can’t have anything to do with the fact that the restaurant in question is named Stop 17, right?
The decor of Stop 17 is right up my alley. The combination of exposed brick, wooden rafters, and corrugated iron appealed to the true blue Aussie in me, but that’s not to say Stop 17 isn’t classy. The colour scheme of warm browns and delicate blues transitions easily from an early morning cafe to a late-night haunt.
Ok so Stop 17 it’s another cafe, big whoop, right? WRONG! Head up the stairs at the back of the restaurant, and you’ll emerge in Melbourne’s first ever Writer’s Room – an intelligent space designed for bright minds to gather. And to help unleash everyone’s inner muse, the walls are painted with likenesses of the most influential authors of the age.
Right now there are only 2 completed murals of Stephen King and Quentin Tarantino, with the third – JK Rowling – in progress. Come back in a year’s time however, the plan is to have the entire room covered with paintings, from the roof right down to the tables. Oh and! All these pictures have the blessings of the real-life counterparts, but they do not endorse the cafe in any shape or form!
What’s better than a good cocktail menu? When you have your own in-house mixologist custom-making your drinks for you. After having a quick chat to us about our drink preferences, I was given a tangy, off-the-menu combo of citrus and mint with a dash of tropical syrup, which she dubbed the Mint Gecko. Meanwhile, she made the Restless Iguana for Chris, a fruity mix of apple and cranberry.
Instead of making us choose, the lovely team at Stop 17 decided to treat us to a parade of scaled-down versions of the dishes instead. The dish was the Duck Liver Pate Slider ($12), a delectable sounding sandwich with maple bacon, home-made slaw, and of course, pate. The buttery bun, sandwiching the crisp slaw and sticky sweet bacon was indeed delicious; the only disappointment was that I couldn’t taste any of the promised pate over the mix of flavours.
The Pandan Wrapped Chicken ($12) was an exotic-sounding dish, and although the pandan-wrapped parcels weren’t as eccentric I had hoped, it was nevertheless some wonderfully cooked chicken. Each piece was smoky and tender, and oozed fat with every bite. Plus, if you want some extra oomph, you can always dip it into the zesty kaffir lime and ginger sauce.
The Crispy Buffalo Pig’s Tail ($15) is the kind of thing I would never dare order (for health reasons), but if it’s put in front of me… well I guess my hands are tied! These little nubbins of unctuous segments of pork boasted a crispy, chewy caramelised exterior, coated with a tangy and slightly spicy glaze. It is a must for the crackling-lovers out there.
These massive Fried Chicken Wings ($14, 6pcs) were a total treat. Coated in an intoxicatingly complex Middle Eastern spice rub, these wings were hot and juicy, wrapped in parchment-thin skin that exuded peppery, spicy flavours.
Equally as tantalising were the Crumbled Lamb Ribs ($9, 3pcs). The dry crust hid an amazingly unctuous centre of sticky lamb that just fell off the bone, matched perfectly with a side of cool tzatziki.
Next up was a hearty serve of saucy Spanish Meatballs ($19), served with a scoop of home-made Bolognese and waxy shavings of parmesan. These soft, moist meatballs were given a bit more density with the addition of quinoa, and would’ve been fantastic with a side of bread – which is just as well, because the full-sized version comes with a side of crusty sourdough!
Though unexciting, the Tortilla Nachos ($16) were nevertheless great to eat. This colourful plate was piled high with all sorts of goodies, from creamy avocado to spicy stewed black beans, topped with a fresh salsa to keep things light. And for the more carnivorous types, an extra $6 will get you slow-cooked BBQ pork thrown on top.
We were getting majorly full by this point, so it was lucky that the last dish was a light Pan Seared Calamari ($19.5). The strips of grilled calamari had a gorgeously smoky, melt-in-the-mouth texture, pairing well with the crisp salad of heirloom tomatoes and salty feta.
There’s currently no dessert menu (though they’re working on it), but it’s not like I would’ve been able to eat any more food regardless. Although the food at Stop 17 seems straightforward, it takes inspiration from all around the globe, making it more unique and exciting than it appears on first glance. Everything is done simply but done well, with great decor and service to match. There’s something at Stop 17 for everyone.
Rating: 13/20 – eat and read.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Stop 17.