505 City Road
South Melbourne VIC 3205
+61 3 9699 6410
Cool winters and a tightened budgets means cheap hearty meals at pubs when it comes to eating out. Okay, so maybe a more sensible girl would stick to eating home-cooked hearty meals at home but c’mon where’s the fun in that? Monday nights, in particular, are the worst. You’ve had a long day, you have idiot workmates (who have been in the company longer than you have) asking you all sorts of SIMPLE questions regarding work procedures every five minutes and you’ve pulled a calf muscle in pilates. Does it surprise anyone that the last thing I want to do is go home and cook? No, thanks. Thank goodness, then, for $19 steak nights on Monday evening at The Palace by Luke Mangan. Yep, you heard right. Good-quality steaks! For $19! Does that get you excited? It sure got me and the other BAB girls excited, that’s for sure.
Renowned local chef Luke Mangan had revamped the old Palace Hotel into a modern-day gastropub that still oozes old world charm but mixes it up with a bit of modern-ness via clean white walls, wall-length mirrors and a POS system (yeah, I know, not the best photo to convey the atmosphere but we didn’t get the best seats in the house). A few little incidents may have caused a slight dampener to our evening (for example, being seated right next to the kitchen despite the dining room not being at full capacity and seeing a dead fly in our bowl of olive oil) but given the credentials of head chef Marjon Olguera (Mangan’s protégé, who’s done stints for Richard Branson and Queen Mary of Denmark) and his team of friendly waitresses, I knew that we were in good hands.
We started off with some garlic bread. I mean, it was only $2 so why the hell not? We split two slices of crunchy white bread coated in a generous slather of garlic butter and herbs diplomatically between three girls who love the stuff. Yeah, it was good.
We then had an entrée each. Shirley ordered the chicken liver parfait, pear and mustard seed chutney, cornichon parsley salad, toasted brioche ($18). I’m not normally huge on chicken liver but I was surprised at how lovely this parfait was. Yes, it still had that slightly metallic taste that comes with eating that stuff but it wasn’t overpowering and secondly, the crunchy toasted brioche tiles were sweet enough to counteract any residual metallic aftertaste effects that normally linger in your mouth when eating chicken liver. I guess my only complaint was that there was way too much liver for four measly brioche squares – and it’s not like the three of us put a little bit of parfait on each of our tiles either. No, I lashed my tile with so much parfait that the stuff was literally dropping from the tile to my plate. Luckily, a waitress offered some extra white bread to assist us in finishing the parfait although I did wonder why no bread was offered at the start (I mean, there WAS bowl of olive oil (with a fly in it) and some Murray River sea salt on the paper which means that hello, we should have got bread?!).
Damn, my photos are sucking tonight. Linda had the salt and jalapeno pepper squid, caramelised eschalots, cucumber salad and miso mayo ($19). I wasn’t expecting much from this dish. Hell, I was even asking why Linda would order something so ubiquitous and a dish that pubs often get wrong, no less. Pfft, salt and pepper squid, pffft. I shouldn’t have spoken too quickly though. Yes, it was on the salty side but it wasn’t too bad. The squid pieces were wonderfully tender, and the batter light and crunchy. And it was hot. WAY hot. Luckily the dollop of sweet miso and the swirls of miso were on hand to combat some of the hand, though.
Ah, that’s a better photo – my crab omelette, Asian salad, miso mustard broth ($22). Holy Bruce Wayne, Batman! This was one of the best entrées I’ve had in a long time. My omelette, a paper-thin yet sturdy parcel made with fried eggs, cocooned sweet crab meat. It was held together by a delicate miso broth and then topped with a fresh chilli, mint, sesame and fried shallot salad (pfft ‘Asian salad’). It was delicious. I would definitely order this dish again!
And then came the steaks. They DID take a while to come (understandable, given that by then the dining room was starting to fill up) but the wait was worth it. Apparently they have a different steak dish on offer every Monday night for the $19 special and on the night we went, we had the Hopkins River sirloin with pumpkin puree, brussel sprouts, potato balls, toasted pumpkin seeds, horseradish crème fraiche and horseradish crème fraiche glaze. That sounded lovely to us, so we exclaimed, ‘Sold!’ when the waitress recited the dish to us. Usually, I don’t make friends with brussel sprouts (just as I don’t make friends with creeps) but whatever, everything else sounded wonderful and for that price, I was willing to compromise.
Damn, the steak was good. REAL good. What I liked most about the dish was that the silky pumpkin puree, the Madeira glaze and the horseradish crème fraiche, when mixed carelessly together, produced a lovely sauce that was all sorts of creamy, sweet, intoxicating, salty, earthy and slightly spicy in one hit. And it went extremely well with the tender, juicy steak, too. The roast potato balls and pumpkin cubes ensured that we got our one out of four servings of vegies required every day, although I did push my brussel sprouts gently to one side. A steal at only $19. Wow. I guess the only downside was that I was requested it to be cooked medium-rare, only for it to erred slightly towards the medium side. Hell, Shirley ordered her steak medium and it looked exactly the same as mine. A slight annoyance – and something that I would have kicked a fuss over if it wasn’t so good.
Because I was dining with Shirley and Linda, we HAD to order French fries ($9). They tasted pretty much like Maccas fries, only crunchier. And they (and Linda’s chest) looked good in this photo, if I must say so myself!
The steak would have definitely been enough to fill most people up, but the entrees tipped my fullness quota over. Therefore, I decided to skip dessert even though the liquorice parfait with lime syrup ($15) did sound interesting enough for me to want to give it a go next time. The girls, too, were full but they love desserts more than I do so I barely batted an eyelid when they ordered their desserts – an apple tarte tatin with honey comb ice cream ($16) for Shirley and a crème brûlée with almond biscotti ($15) for Linda. I was too full to even have a bite of either dessert but take their words for it – both were good.
All in all, a fantastic meal that cheered up our Monday evenings and boosted our moods up for the rest of the working week. I’ll be back.