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Syracuse

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23 Bank Place, Melbourne

Phone 03 9670 1777

Hours: Mon-Fri: 7:30am til late
. Sat:           6:00pm til late

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Syracuse is a delightful little wine bar hidden away in an old Victorian building in Bank Place. It’s one of those places I’ve walked past a gazillion times without even noticing it. Despite google-mapping it before I got there, I still struggled to find it on my first visit.

I took the delightful M there for her birthday in July (yes, I am very slack with these posts), so forgive me if these items are no longer on their ever changing seasonal menu.

As you walk through the arched doorways in Bank Place, it feels as though you are transported to Europe. This small dining room is nothing short of grand, with soaring ceilings, pillars and arches. There are racks and racks of wine, which allude to the fact that this is a place which takes their wine seriously.

The wine list is extensive, and well thought-out, with a good mix of new and old world wines. We ordered a bottle of Domaine Wachu Gruner Vetliner – an Austrian wine varietal that I am a huge fan of.

The menu consists of some wine snacks, some sharing plates and only a few mains, all chosen undoubtedly with an emphasis on food that may be enjoyed and enhanced by wine.

We begin with

A spanner crab remoulade, which consists of delicate pieces of spanner crab with a tart creamy sauce, topped with a boiled egg. A nice refreshing way to begin our meal.

Next was the pig’s head, which was one of the specials of the night. I had images of chunks from the head (hey – I’ve never had pig’s head before..!), but in fact it seemed like little morsels of fried almost creamy meat. I’m not sure how it was prepared, but they were yummy, and if you hadn’t have told me it was pigs head, I would have been none the wiser. These worked well with the little fried quail eggs they were served with.

We also had mussels which were cooked with chorizo – adding a nice smokey spice to the dish. The sauce was promptly soaked up with the bread.

Overall we had a great night, I love this little bar – good food, good wine, how can anyone complain.

I have since revisited, however I only had pitiful photos from my phone camera, but the experience was just as good.

Jess’ Rating

Taste: 8. Food is very rustic, prepared well.

Value: 8.

Ambience: 9.

Service: 7.5.

Overall: 8. A hidden gem in Melbourne. I rate it.

 

For other reviews, check out petit-miamx, Mel: Hot or notI’m so hungreeeee and spatula spoon and saturday.

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Spring Lazy Grazing @ The Commoner

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In Winter, I had thoroughly enjoyed Melbourne Food and Wine’s Put Victoria on your table Roast Collection festival, so when I was excited when I saw that to wave good bye to the winter blues, Melbourne Food and Wine was putting on a Spring Graze festival.

Full listing of events.

The event that most appealed to me was the Saturday Lazy Grazing at the Commoner.

“Join us at The Commoner for Lazy Grazing in September in the form of plates of beautiful seasonal Victorian produce to share with people you like.
Celebrate Spring and the best that Victoria has to offer. It has been an awfully long winter… Why don’t you say goodbye to it in style….”

When Lunch every Saturday in September.

Cost $55.00 Food cost per head

I had been to the Commoner a couple of years ago and had been extremely impressed. I’m not sure why it took me so long to go back, because my memories of the place were of fantastic food  and  exceptional service.

We nestled into the small but very homely little cafe. I love the way the place is fitted out, with exposed brick, heavy wooden tables and random yet thoughtful trinkets and tools adorning the walls and shelves.

It doesn’t feel like you’re at a restaurant or cafe, it feels more like you’ve entered into someone’s home.

The waitress began by asking us if there was anything we didn’t eat – to which we all shook our heads.

One of the many reasons I love these friends – we all love our food and we’re not picky.

We started with a lovely bottle of French wine – a  2009 Bernard Defaix, Petit Chablis which was recommended to us by the waitress. It went down surprisingly well considering we had all been out for A’s birthday the night before and we were all somewhat a little worse for wear.

The first course –

Boccerones - Sicilian white anchovies with sweet pepper, aioli and parsley

These were delightful. After we had all shaken our heads to our lack of dietary requirements, M exclaimed that she didn’t eat anchovies. I normally would say I don’t eat anchovies either, as I hate the fishy salty flavour of standard anchovies.

These however, were not your regular anchovies – they lacked that yukky unappetising fishiness, rather – they were really light and delicious. It was complimented well with the aioli and the perfectly roasted sliver of capsicum. A simple, yet perfectly executed dish – a nice refreshing way to began our meal.

house bread

The house bread was toasted and very moreish and came served with olive oil and toasted sesame.

smoked cod dip, mount zero olives, roasted spring vegetables

Our second course – the smoked cod dip was wonderful, and the spring vegetables which included baby carrots, spring onion, asparagus and red onion were perfectly executed.

To quote A “Who would have thought that carrots could taste so good”.

house black pudding, potato tortilla

Onto our next course – the house black pudding.

Black pudding is one of those things that can be hit or miss. Being a sausage made out of blood it is very easy for this dish to be overpowering. Black pudding is something I very rarely order because it can often have a very strong ‘iron-y’ flavour to it, though I am always game to try it, particularly at great eateries because when done well it can be fantastic as it was at Attica.

This specimen certainly did not disappoint – lightly pan-fried to perfection to produce a crisp crust encasing insides which had a wonderfully smooth texture – so smooth it seemed almost like pate.  This paired well to the tortilla, which despite being potato based was not heavy at all.

Pan fried semolina gnocchi, fresh peas, broad beans, goats curd

The next course was probably my favourite – the  gnocchi was delicious, again pan-fried to create a perfect crust,  and resting above a cloud of light fluffy goats curve and sprinkled with fresh peas and broad beans.

The goats curd was neither heavy nor stinky, but light and delicious, and my god were the peas good. I’ve always enjoyed peas – but so rarely eat fresh peas (I’m not sure why!). They had the perfect texture, and just ‘popped’ in your mouth when you ate them. When I was a child I loved peas, particularly the peas in snow-peas, but I hated the pod they rested in, so much to my father’s horror I would suck the peas out, then put the pod back. Thankfully I’m a little older and a little less picky now. The broadbeans were also delicious – I thought I hated broadbeans! but I think I just hate dried broadbeans which are salty and yuck.

roast lamb served with house yogurt

And onto our main course – and another bottle of wine – the 2008 Pennyweight Shiraz from Beechworth.

I’m not a huge fan of lamb, so when I have a lamb I enjoy I’m always impressed.

This one was amazing, perfectly cooked to pink perfection, but the ribs were the star. Seriously, so so good. The house yogurt perfectly complimented the lamb, which was also served with a spicy harissa which gave a wonderful kick and roast jeruselum articles cooked with rosemary.

jeruselum artichoke, harissa

tangerine tart

Our final dish – we each received individual tangerine tarts which consisted of pieces of tangerine resting on custard encased in perfect pastry. And by perfect, I mean perfect. This is the best tart pastry I have ever had, it was thin and wonderfully crispy, such that we could hit the pastry with the back of our spoons and it would crack! And it tasted amazing – not overly sweet, but simply perfect. The custard was light and smooth and whilst I didn’t love it, everyone else in our party loved it.

chocolate coated candied grapefruit

To finish off, we were given a few pieces of candied grapefruit which had been covered in dark chocolate.

A wonderful meal, we all left very satisfied and extremely pleased. Excellent value for only $55, it was the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday.

On the bill – our meals were listed as “Feed me.”

I love this concept of letting the restaurant take the reigns and just being fed. I was recently called a control freak by one of my friends – maybe sometimes I am a bit bossy when it comes to where and what we eat – though I do love giving restaurants free-reign to just “feed me”. Provided the restaurant is deserving ;).

The commoner do something similar for Sunday dinner I believe – I can’t wait to try it!

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Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 8.5. Food was delicious.

Value: 8.5. You’d be hard-pressed getting the quality of the food for what we did for $55. Events like these at restaurants are generally great value.

Service: 9.0. Personable, but not in your face. Nothing to fault.

Atmosphere: 9.0. Great little dining room, like I said earlier, it really felt like you were in someone’s home.

Overall: 9.0. Love it. I’ll make sure I won’t leave it another two years before I return.

122 Johnston Street, Fitzroy

Phone: 03 9415 6876

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Hours: Wed-Fri Dinner 6:00pm-Late
Sat-Sun  Lunch 12:00pm- 3:00pm
Dinner 6:00pm- Late

Written by glutamatejess

September 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm