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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Melbourne :: Charcoal Lane

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Staying with D &C was an absolute pleasure. They are an amazing couple – truly unique, absolutely generous, and wonderfully adventurous, they travel the globe like no others that I’ve encountered. They easily pick up and move around the globe and eat their way around the city. Fantastic! After F and I finished our Great Ocean Road Adventure, he kindly dropped me off at Charcoal Lane. What better way to end an epic journey spotting Australian’s wildlife than to…eat it?
MMM…cute animals!

Charcoal Lane-23Charcoal Lane
Verdict: Great Native Australian experience!
Meal: Dinner
Location: 136 Gertrude St Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia


Charcoal Lane
After my big Great Ocean Road adventure, I returned to Melbourne to celebrate with a dinner that D recommended & organized. Charcoal Lane serves inventive dinners with a Native Australian flair – expect bush meat, local ingredients, and an artistic touch. On top of that, proceeds go towards supporting a training & internship program for Aboriginal and disadvantaged youth. I’m always a fan of supporting charitable organizations through my stomach, and it appears that Melbourne is too!

Wallaby Tartare
Slow-cooked yolk, hazelnuts, mountain pepper grissini
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Charcoal Lane-4It was okay – but not memorable. I think that something more gamey would be enjoyable, such as venison or kangaroo tartar. Texture-wise it was quite nice…so in the end, while I’m sure that this was a well-executed spoonful of tartare, it’s not something that I’ll readily order again.

I much prefer Black Hoof’s horse sammy…but is it fair to compare tartars when the animals are:
i) Extremely different
ii) Not commonly eaten, and never tried in any other form

My thinking is no, they are completely different beasts (hah…bad puns!)


Spanner crab, dashi, pickled daikon, and finger lime
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This was my favourite order – the dashi was the perfect base for this dish. Simple, clean, and a wonderful combination of flavours.

Native peppered kangaroo fillet, shallot & bush tomato tart, rosella flower jus
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Fantastic. I was so pleased – this was my third pass at kangaroo. Needing to push the memory of the roo-burger out of my mind, this was simple and perfectly cooked. Take a moment and enjoy the flavours. Mmm. I was very happy with the searing job

Pumpkin gnocchi, macadamias, saltbush, pepitas, fried sage, parmesan
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Charcoal Lane-17Dense, sweet, good. Yum.

Okay, I’ll expand a bit more. The textures are what really linger in my memory. I’m sure that it might not look so exciting above, and if I wasn’t in such good company I’m doubtful that this would have been ordered – I mean, if you were to decide between kangaroo or pumpkin, which would you honestly lean towards? As a non-Australian, anyways.

I’m clearly a fan of pumpkin anyway. Pumpkin curry. Pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin in my oatmeal. The ever-classic pumpkin pie. I’ve even had it as ice cream!

Roasted barramundi fillet, smoked eel, pickled cucumber, watercress, lemon aspen
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Lemon aspen – we meet again! Barramundi, the classic Australian fish, was finally enjoyed in a non-deep fried form. Sweet and flakey, it was good but did not outshine the smoked eel.
And, of course, we had to finish off with something sweet.

Okay, a lot of things sweet. We eyed the dessert menu, and finally settled on…well everything:
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Dark Chocolate tart, wattleseed ice cream, white chocolate ganache
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I fell in love with wattleseed ice cream at Cafe Ish, and is there ever a post that involves dark chocolate torte/tart/cake that I don’t use the word “drool” or “salivate”? That being said, Cafe Ish’s rendition of ice cream was much better – most likely because they mix macadamia in their ice cream. Truthfully, this was the only dessert that I was partial to – although let’s take a moment and admire the artistic flair that went with the desserts:

Mandarin parfait, native mint, kumquat ice cream
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These cute mushroom-shaped treats were certainly fun to try, but too sweet for my taste. I rather liked the kumquat ice was nice, but did not blow me away.

Baked lemon aspen tart, yoghurt ice cream, maple syrup snap
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Ohh lemon tart. Fond memories of Luma’s dessert will always have me salivating just a bit. The lightly bruleed top was a nice touch on the dessert, which had a lovely consistency. The crust, if I may be a bit of a snob now, was not as good as Luma’s rendition but overall this was a great dessert – the little pickled fruit behind, that look like berries, are the lemon aspen fruit. Like lemon, it’s citrusy and fresh, not it’s not quite the same.

We were reluctant (well, not too reluctant) to destroy the maple syrup “snap”, which was nicely sweet and went well with the ice cream. It could have been a little dessert on its own, separate from the tart, and it came with a couple tiny little pickled berries

Flourless blood orange pudding, vanilla bean ice cream, orange crisps
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Another fun presentation – don’t these look like tomato slices? I was a bit confused at first, when it was presented as pudding. Like sticky toffee pudding, it looks more like cake. This was near the end of my Victoria adventure in Australia…it was a great dinner with lovely company. While dessert did not win me over, the entrees were interesting and the meal was an experience for so many reasons.
That, and it didn’t bother them that I arrived with ridiculously muddy shoes, dirty shorts, and an overall untidiness. Travelling the Great Ocean Road took its toll!
 Charcoal Lane on Urbanspoon Charcoal Lane on Urbanspoon

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