Some of you are aware that I’m friends with a crazy guy called Aaron (lol). But I bet that not many of you know that we’ve been friends for ten years. Now, given that the average friendship span of a 20-something year old is 2-3 years, I’d say that Aaron and I are doing rather well. I vividly remember talking to him for the very first time on yahoo chat in early 1999 (hey shuddup, I went to a girls’ school okay?!) and then on subsequent afternoons for the next few months. It wasn’t until June did I actually meet him face to face at the Crown casinos with my cousin Jess, Mellisa and Jess Ho in tow. Aaron brought his mate Chris Nolan with him, hoping that we would “get along” but it turned out that I didn’t like Nolan as much and besides, he was more interested in my cousin Jess anyway hahaha. That fateful afternoon was a beginning of a (I’d say beautiful here but I feel weird using that word with Aaron so I’ll say awesome instead) friendship which grew stronger throughout the years in the form of long telephone conversations while watching The Simpsons, clubbing sessions with Tim and Ted, hooning around Melbourne in his Skyline as well as bickering sessions at Box Hill.
So in order to honour such a momentous occasion, we decided to treat ourselves to a more-fancy-than-pho lunch in the city. With the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival currently gracing our lovely city, Aaron and I decided to take advantage of the $35 express lunch offers that a lot of esteemed restaurants are offering. With big names such as Grossi Florentino, Bistro Vue, Fifteen and Bottega offering recession-fearing Melburnians such a bargain, you really can’t go wrong with two courses and wine for $35 given that most of those restaurants charge that much for a single main.
We were originally planning to go to Grossi Florentino but unfortunately their dining room is closed on Saturday afternoons so we settled for Oyster Little Bourke (or Oyster) instead. I think that Aaron was perhaps a little apprehensive when he heard that we were going to a place with “oyster” in its name; he definitely is one of those guys (yes, THOSE people) who refer to seafood as “weird things that live in the sea and should stay there forever rather than on dining tables” but rest assured that Oyster also specialises in steaks for all the red blooded Aussies. Walking up Little Bourke Street was a bit of a battle for us as it was pissing down rain. Now, rain isn’t a terribly big deal for us but when you have me wearing a new Bettina Liano silk dress and heels, it can be quite a struggle to walk up that hill without slipping over. Nevertheless, we managed to get there in one piece (though my shoes were half-filled with water).
The dining room, inspired by classic European brasseries while successfully keeping up to date with the tempo of New York city, acutely reflected Melbourne’s fast evolving dining scene. It was chic, cool yet so warm and welcoming at the same time. And judging from the food that Aaron and I ate, Oyster pays homage to traditional European comfort food such as sausages and potatoes but modern additions to such dishes steers them away from pub food territory and into the realm of “casual fine dining.” The menu was divided up into three entrees, three mains, a couple of desserts and side dishes which was an additional $7 should you wish to order one to share. Aaron and I chose an entree and main each, forgoing dessert and side dish. After our orders were taken, we were given a glass of shiraz each to mull over while listening to old Hollywood tunes and nibbling on warm pumpernickel bread dipped in a fruity but mild Eden Valley olive oil.
I must also warn you that these photos aren’t the best I’ve taken. The reason for this is because my batteries were running dangerously low (though I could have sworn that they were full!) and I was in a hurry to get all the required shots before the battery died. Hence, the poor quality induced by shaky hands.
I thought about getting the crab bisque for my entree but who would be crazy NOT to order oysters from a place called Oyster?! Here, half a dozen freshly shucked oysters were placed on a huge steel wok of ice with half a lemon in the centre to bring out their natural flavour. Lemme tell ya folks, this is the BEST way to eat oysters. Freshly shucked to order and with a hint of lemon juice. Mmmm. The guys at Oyster were also awesome enough to bring out three varieties of Australian oysters so I ended up having (two each of) succulent and briny Coffin Bay (SA) oysters, firm-textured but creamy Pacific oysters from Tassie and my favourite, the omg-so-rich-and-creamy Sydney Rock oyster (can’t help but drool as I type this). These were the best oysters I’ve had in a very very long time. In fact, they were so good and so fresh that I hardly needed to use the lemon …
Aaron’s entree looked rather interesting for a salad. On one side there was yummy wedge of crumb-fried brie, on the other side was a sprinkling of rocket leaves (and parmesan) and in the middle, some crispy bacon bits. All drizzled with a tangy shallot dressing. I managed to have a bite of brie which was yummily creamy and oh-so-good though probably not too good for my figure! According to Aaron, this dish tasted “somewhat French” which lead me to think that this was Oyster’s take on the Salad Lyonnaise (i the only French salad with bacon that I could think of).
Here is my main (which, according to Aaron, looks vaguely like Australia). Again, it was tough to make a decision as it was a choice between the tagliatelle with seafood ragu or the minute lamb rump steak. In the end, though, the lamb prevailed because not only was I keen on trying an Oyster steak but I seem to always order pasta and/or seafood dishes so it was time for a change I suppose. The steak (presumably cooked for a minute), which was sauteed in a sweet and flavoursome mustard sauce, was pink (rested, but not bloody) and tender to the bite. A generous dashing of persilade (a quasi-pesto-like French sauce which is made with garlic, flat-leaf parsley, olive oil and anchovies) added some colour to the otherwise drab-looking dish as well as some kick. The “frittes” as Oyster called them were nothing more than Maccas shoestring fries more crispy and less oily. One thing I would have suggested to the kitchen dudes was go easy on the salt because it was as if they dredged out the entire Dead Sea salt supply and sprinkled all that salt on my chips. It really wasn’t necessarily, particularly since there was a small silver dish of sea salt on the table. Other than that though, my meal was beautiful, thankyouverymuch.
I don’t know why the photo looks like it has been oversharpened on Photoshop (hence, all the ugly pixels) but trust me, I didn’t use Photoshop at all except to resize the image!
Aaron’s main looked a lot like…well, a Collingwood supporter after a NAB cup loss (I’m sorry, it had to be said – haha!). Sticking to his British roots, he went for a dish of Italian pork sausages accompanied by crushed potatoes (it said ‘crushed’ rather than ‘mashed’ on the menu which I thought was weird) and an onion compote. A small taste of his sausages elicited no response from me – it tasted like “normal” pork sausages that you can get elsewhere – but I thought the way they cooked the potatoes, soft and mushy on the outside and hard on the inside (like gnocchi) was interesting. Although Aaron reckoned that this dish was “just a toffed-up version of what British people eat at home”, he really enjoyed it.