Shed 5, 37 Dukes Walk
South Wharf VIC 3006
+61 3 9686 1122
Call me a laggard, but it has taken me this long to finally check out South Wharf, Melbourne’s newest dining precinct. South Wharf may still be in its baby stages but given its steadily growing number of restaurants (and good ones, too!) and the fact that it’s only a short walk from the city centre, I’m pretty sure it’ll prove to be more successful than the flop known as the Docklands.
Last month, I was invited to try out South Wharf’s latest addition and Sydney restaurateur Stan Sarris’ latest project, Shed 5. I almost turned down the invite due to prior commitments but as luck would have it (more like, idiot friends can’t manage their finances and therefore, never have enough cash by the time our monthly trivia night comes around), I was suddenly free that night and able to attend the dinner.
As I walked past all the restaurants on Dukes Walk, I noticed that each of them paid some sort of homage to Melbourne’s cultural make-up, inadvertently or otherwise. For example, Common Man is a nod to Melbourne’s Anglo-Saxon heritage while The Bohemian and Akachochin are slight nods to the Hispanic and Japanese influences that have excited Melbourne’s dining scene in the last few years. What I also liked about the area was that a lot of the restaurants are housed in iconic cargo sheds, as tributes to Melbourne’s maritime history including Shed 5.
You wouldn’t be able to tell by its name, but Shed 5 celebrates all that is Mediterranean which is fitting as Melbourne received a large number of European migrants in the 50s and 60s. Head chef Vasilios Donoudis may be Greek, but you won’t see tired suburban Greek tavern clichés here. At Shed 5, the food is decidedly Australian with subtle Greek, Spanish and Italian influences. And despite the initially imposing backdrop of high ceilings, 120-year-old floorboards and a tiled mural with the number ‘5’ splashed out against the main wall, you’re still receiving the same level hospitality as you would if you were at your yia yia’s house.
With Sarah-from-Gun-Communications, April and her partner sitting on my table, we got to work straight away by downing some wines. Sarris is credited for being the first restaurateur to introduce the sommelier to Australian restaurants so it’s no surprise that Shed 5 has a half-decent wine list. Although most wines come from Victoria, there is an impressive collection coming from all over Europe as well. I started off local with a 2011 Hoddles Creek Estate Chardonnay from Yarra Valley ($9 a glass).
The first dish that appeared on everyone’s table was the fava puree ($10). This dish was deceptive in that it was simple to make (we were all given a printed recipe to take home) but was probably the most delicious dip I’ve had in a long time.
The broad bean puree was mixed with fried chickpeas and hazelnuts for extra nuttiness before shallots were added to the mix. When eaten with OMG-the-most-amazing-house-made-flatbread-like-ever, it was a match rivalling that of a Hollywood marriage (well, the first 55 hours of it, at least). I’m glad that I have the recipe for it as I certainly see myself dipping carrots and crackers into this stuff all day long at work!
Next, we dug into the n’duja and mozzarella croquettes with oregano and rosemary aioli ($4).
Although none of knew how to pronounce the spicy Calabrian pork sausage spread, it didn’t matter for we sat there in silence enjoying every bite. I liked the contrast between spiciness and creaminess all wrapped up in one crunchy package.
The saganaki with grilled onions, roasted peppers and barberry ($15) was our next starter. The arrival of this dish prompted a friendly discussion over the saganaki with figs dish at Hellenic Republic – some liked it while others were haters. There was, however, more of a consensus with this one though. We might have a mistake in letting it cool before digging in (okay, more like, we bloggers spent too long taking photos) so we didn’t get to enjoy it to its full potential. However, we liked the piquancy and spiciness that the toppings added to the salty cheese.
Shed 5 has a unique section on its menu called ‘‘Tin, Jars & Cans,’ comprising of things served in, well, tins, jars and cans. Along with the usual suspects (Ortiz anchovies are pretty much the Eddie McGuire of canned fish served at restaurant), there are some interesting selections by way of Cuca razor clams and Pollastrini sardine fillets. We were given a jar of smoked eel, ocean trout, caper and sherry rillette ($15).
This was yet another simple dish that was perfect in its execution. Bits of smoked eel and ocean trout were mixed up with lots of salt, capers and sherry before being cooked slowly in fat. As a result, there was a nice layer of hardened buttery fat on top of the rilette. I must admit that the sight of all that fat was initially daunting. However, the fat easily melted into the eel and trout mixture when combined to give each spoonful a lovely buttery and smoky flavour.
Taking bar snacks to another level… mmmm.
Things started to get a little heavy when the Cyprian lamb and pork meatballs ($15). They were slowly cooked in a rich tomato and cinnamon sauce and topped with truffled pecorino. It was a very flavoursome dish and I especially liked that little hint of fennel in the meatballs.
Next, we had the slow-cooked WA octopus, saffron kipflers, capers, sorrel and mayo ($17). The octopus was gorgeously tender and flavoursome – this one of the best-cooked octopus dishes I’ve had. Furthermore, the mayo dressing was creamy, yet still light enough to allow the octopus as well as the other ingredients shine through. Delicious.
The next three dishes were our mains, all of which were cooked in the restaurant’s wood-fire oven. We all loved the King green prawns ($31) that were served with barrel-aged feta, tomatoes and sorrel. The prawns imparted a slightly smoky flavour and were plump and fleshy to the bite. There were no complains here.
Our slow-roasted lamb neck with dates, pine nuts and capers ($32) quickly proved to be popular as well. Donoudis explained that the lamb is cooked in sherry for 12 hours at 100 degrees Celsius to ensure that the meat is not only bordering-on-impossibly tender but sweet all over.
Oh man, it was pretty damn good lamb…
If we thought the lamb was good, then you should have seen us when we dug into the Bannockburn half chicken ($29). It’s not often that people get excited about chicken dishes, especially at Greek restaurants as they’re often dry by the time they reach the tables, but oh man, this one was simply AMAZING.
If you had to order one dish at Shed 5, you’d have to order this one. Served with green raisins, pine nuts and roasted chestnut dolmades, this dish was our table’s favourite. We could not get over how ridiculously tender and juicy the chicken was and this was all thanks to a quick 16 minute job in the oven with the temperature on very high. I’m glad that we had the opportunity to try this chicken for we would not have considered ordering if we saw it written on the menu. In addition, we had a few dolmades haters on our tables but even they had to concede that these ones were alright which, to me, says a lot about this dish.
We had some Greek village salad ($15) to break the meat up. In addition to lots of greens, peppers, olive and tomatoes, we had heaps of fennel and barrel-aged feta to make things fun.
We were so full at this stage but they weren’t going to let us leave without trying some sweets. Our first dessert was a spiced halva semifreddo with quince sorbet, salted caramel and ricotta doughnuts ($13). This ticked all the boxes for me – it had doughnuts! It had salted caramel! It had something frozen in it! And it had something tangy! I loved that this dessert was sweet and salty at the same thing, with infrequent bursts of sourness and spiciness to break things up.
Finally, the goats milk crema, walnut baklava, chocolate and coffee sorbet, metaxa jelly ($13) wrapped things up. I must admit that all that chocolate and sugar really screwed things up for me that night so this is not a dessert that I’d be ordering during dinner again. However, I would definitely recommend it after a weekday lunch. It was a cute little packet that screamed out ‘Greece is the word!’ but in a nice and classy demeanour.
The consensus was that Shed 5 put on some really amazing dishes with warm European hospitality. We really appreciated Donoudis taking some time away from his kitchen to go around and talk to each table as well as Sarris for sitting with us to tell us all sorts of hilarious stories about offal-eating. As for the food… oh, man, the food. Not since The Press Club has a Greek restaurant excited me this much. In saying that, Shed 5 is not in-your-face Greek but rather, borrows elements from Greek cooking (and other European cuisines) to produce simple, honest fare that still manages to excite the senses.
Disclaimer: libishski dined as a guest of Gun Communications and Shed 5.