43 Little Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9639 4944
A night at the theatre ALWAYS calls for a pre-threatre meal as far as I am concerned. It’s no surprise, really, that I look forward to the meal before the show more than the show instead (unless, of course, we’re talking about the Boy From Oz production that was showing in Melbourne a few years ago because hello, Hugh Jackman?!). (Ex-boyfriend) Adam got me tickets to see Rock Of Ages as a last minute birthday present, knowing that I was into musicals but not knowing which ones were my favourite. As it happened, it was lucky that he chose a show about two young and hopefuls falling in love on Sunset Boulevard to a glam rock soundtrack – that sounded good to me! A love story, check. Big hair and studded leather costumes, check. And Whitesnake covers, check. It was bold, brash and lots of fun, a stark contrast to our dinner at Punch Lane.
The warm and inviting walls of Punch Lane embraced us as we walked in at around 6pm, straight from the rain. We didn’t have a booking but luckily, they were able to find a table in the back of the front room for the two of us to occupy until 7:30pm. I’m not sure how long Punch Lane has been in operation but it had a lovely old world charm and I wouldn’t have been surprised if I was told that it had been around since the days of Marvellous Smelbourne. We ordered our drinks (I can’t remember what I had because this dinner happened three months ago, but it was most likely a Riesling – hah!) and after a brief perusal of Supercoach on my iPhone, our entrée arrived.
We shared a marinated quail with fennel coleslaw, dukkah and pomegranate molasses ($17.50). The bird was beautifully chargrilled so that the lovely Dukkah and lemon marinade that coated each piece shone through with a touch of smokiness. The fennel coleslaw was fresh, but the dressing was too sour though the pomegranate molasses did diffuse some of the sourness. I think the quail pieces would have tasted much better on their own, as the heavy flavours of the salad and pomegranates molasses did weigh it down a little bit.
Our mains took a while to arrive, despite a not-even-half-full dining room. As in, oh-no-our-food-better-come-or-we’ll-miss-Act-1-of-the-show ‘a while.’ Yes, I know it was Friday night so I should be more understanding. However, it wasn’t until we had, later on, finished our mains did the place get extremely busy so what gives, folks? *shrugs*
For my main, I had the baby barramundi fillets with Jerusalem artichoke, baby leeks, shimeji mushrooms and salsa verde ($37.50).
The barramundi fillets were tender, but I felt that the skin could have done with a bit more time on the grill as it lacked any sort of crispiness. That aside, I did like the velvety Jerusalem artichoke puree as the sweetness of it brought out the slight muddy taste of the fish flesh and the earthy flavours of the mushrooms. Dare I say that I liked the puree more than I did the actual fish, just like how I enjoyed Brendan Coustley’s performance as Lonny more than I did the dude and the chick who played the leads in Rock Of Ages (that said, Justin Burford was a fantastic singer – shame about the hair).
Adam had the Black Angus rib eye (350g), red wine, shallot and tarragon butter ($43.50). Adam had it cooked rare, which is normally how he likes his steak (and I do too). The steak was juicy and tender, as you’d expect, and the tarragon butter went beautifully with the meat. A neat green salad with a red vinaigrette dressing was provided along with some crispy fries, but minus some ‘much needed’ (according to Adam) tomato sauce.
A waitress plonked some mustards onto our table – some Hot English, some Dijon and a bit of horseradish. Adam, a mustard-lover, smiled with glee as he eagerly scooped some Dijon all over his steak. As he was enjoying it, another waiter saw the mustards and took the plate away without so much as a word. WTF? It turns out that the plates were not meant to be placed on the table for us to help ourselves to. Rather, the waitress was SUPPOSED to come up to us, offer some mustards, dollop whatever we requested onto our plates and then walk away, carrying the plate of mustards ready to serve the next person who ordered the steak. Still, it would have been nice for the second waiter to ask us if we would like some more mustard or even ask us if we were done with it before walking away because that would have been the polite thing to do, right?
Don’t get me wrong, Punch Lane is a nice enough place for a quick tipple and a small bite to eat with work buddies. It’s got a nice, cozy atmosphere that’s extremely welcoming in winter and I’d rather have drinks here than say, feral-y Duke of Kent on La Trobe (vomit). I cannot, however, see myself going there for a proper dinner as I thought the food was only okay, but not overly fantastic (well, my food at least). Just like the ‘Too Much Time on My Hands/We Built This City” number in the show.