View Larger Map
One thing Melburnians do well is eat out and many of them will be doing it in a good cause in the weeks to come as restaurants stage special fund-raising events for bushfire victims.
The Albert Park Deli Café in Dundas Place, Albert Park took the opportunity to join in when it officially launched its new dinner service last night and proceeds were earmarked for the bushfire appeal. Fortunately it was a full house.
The café was previously only open for daytime trade from 5am, but owners, the Xynas family, have decided to extend the Monday to Friday hours and I was there last night to sample the inaugural evening menu.
The chef, Yorkshire man Simon Thomas has been at the restaurant for about a year, having worked there on and off since 2000. He’s from Whitby, famous Captain Cook territory, and trained at Scarborough College. He worked in hotels and restaurants in England before settling in Australia in 1992 and working at Cape Schank, in Sydney during the Olympics, and at the Telstradome for the Spotless group. He also has his own catering company, Brown Sugar Catering.
Of course, as a Whitby man, he’s keen on fishing and enjoys trying his luck on the water with the Xynas brothers in the Portarlington, St Leonards and Queenscliffe areas. He also runs and plays golf with them and says he enjoys working for the family. However, there won’t be any Yorkshire specialties on the menu, though the Greek influence is definitely there.
Our group started with the deli tasting plate – a nicely balanced assembly of white sardines, pearl onions, plump green and black olives, wedges of savoury tart, a creamy chicken liver pate, grilled red pepper, deli meats, marinated artichoke hearts and other tempting morsels.
Appetiser choices ($5-$9) included spiced nuts, the Deli’s mix of marinated olives, feta and pickles, a trio of dips with grilled bread and grilled saganaki with lemon and rocket.
Entrees ($10-$16) included salted cod and potato fritters (I must go back for some of those), an endive, goat’s cheese, fig and crispy prosciutto salad or scallops grilled in the shell with lime, soy and chilli – a little bit of the chef’s love of Thai food creeping in there.
Three of us couldn’t go past the generous portion of pan-fried fish of the day ($25.50) resting on a vegetable base including spinach. Next to me, the veal scaloppine
with prosciutto and sage on a saffron mash with madeira jus ($23) disappeared pretty quickly while across the table dry-aged yearling rib eye with potato gratin and café de Paris butter ($26.50) looked equally tempting. There was also a linguine, tomato and olive dish with goat’s cheese or gnocchi with pumpkin, pine nuts and gorgonzola (both $18). To accompany, salad, vegetable of the day or fries with aioli are all $7.
I finished with an affogato ($5) while others tucked into the ice creams and sorbets $11). Crème brulee and tiramisu (both $9) were other choices, as was a cheese selection ($18).
The wine list, while not lengthy, covers all bases without battering the wallet and there’s a happy international mix of beers.
Service is friendly and manager is Luke Skidmore who has previously worked at Rockpool and Vue de Monde.
This was well-priced, delicious fare and is a great addition to neighbourhood dining choices. Simon told me feature evenings are in the melting pot and they hope to do wine dinners as well.
I think user-friendly cafes such as this will increasingly feature on our dining-out radar as the belt-tightening goes on. I was lunching at Southbank last week and was told by the restaurateur some of the upper strata restaurants there are feeling the pinch as diners abandon big prices and go hunting value for money.
[For more restaurants staging fund-raising dinners for the bushfire fund, check out the end of this article from today's Epicure in The Age.]
If you want to donate directly to the Red Cross Victoria Bushfire Appeal 2009, go here.