150 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 3 9077 0788
I’ve almost recovered from bronchitis, the royal baby has been born, my good friends FINALLY got married (to each other) over the weekend and the Aussies are performing dismally in The Ashes. What does that all mean? I now have no excuse to be blogging so infrequently… never mind that uni resumes next week.
Plus, I feel like writing about burgers today.
A few months ago, Daisy, Ricky and I went to Belle’s Diner for dinner. Our original plan was to try the newest ramen restaurant in Melbourne, Little Ramen Bar. Unfortunately, they were closed for a private evening that night (and didn’t care to mention it when I rang up the night before to make a booking) so we had to come up with a Plan B.
Plan B involved diner food and even though this trend is slowly starting to get old in Melbourne, I do love my burgers. And so off to Fitzroy we went.
Visibility wasn’t great when we were driving down Gertrude Street, thanks to the dark and the light rain. However, the diner’s illuminated ‘DINER’ sign made out of light bulbs shone like a beacon, leading hungry caterpillars like us into the safe haven that was Belle’s.
There were no tables available when we arrived, so we enjoyed a couple of drinks at a bar across the road for the next half an hour or so before we were able to sit down.
The menu at Belle’s is pretty simple. Head chef Catriona Freeman aims to bring Brooklyn to Melbourne via burgers, Southern fried chicken and sweet pies for desserts. There is none of this wooden plank bullshit and no fancy sauce ribbons and swirls on big white plates. That said, they do serve sliders which I’m getting sick of but they seem to still be popular around town.
We started off with a prawn cocktail, with the prawns arranged artfully in a jar. They were combined with an avocado, tarragon, chive, shallot, cos lettuce salad and house-made Thousand Island dressing and a squeeze of lemon. The creaminess of the salad and dressing were a perfect match for the fresh and juicy prawns – loved it.
Daisy ordered the Southern fried chicken for her main. A large stack of chicken pieces, in various cuts, graced our presence along with some slaw and BBQ sauce for dipping. While I liked the spicy KFC-like coating, I had to agree with Daisy when she said that the chicken pieces weren’t crispy enough. I also thought the slaw was bland and underseasoned and thus, barely provided a good enough distraction from the otherwise flavoursome chicken pieces.
Ricky and I had a burger each. He ordered the Midnight burger which contained Wagyu beef, lettuce, cheese, bacon and fried egg. I didn’t have any of it (after all, I was also having a burger) but given by the way Ricky wolfed his burger down, it was obvious that he enjoyed it.
The Dinerr burger also came with a small handful of Old Bay spiced French fries. For some reason, Ricky’s burger didn’t come with fries so he decided to order some on the side for an extra few dollars.
I’d say my burger was decent – it came with Wagyu beef, caramelised onion, lettuce, Tasty cheese, gherkin and mayo. While the combination of ingredients was spot-on, I thought the beef pattie let the burger down slightly by being a tad too peppery and dry. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a tiny bit of pink!
Meanwhile, my Old Bay spiced French fries were coated in a beautiful paprika and celery salt seasoning which means that I give them two props for tasting so good. Like Daisy’s Southern fried chicken though, they could have done with a bit more time in the fryer as they weren’t quite crispy enough.
Dining with Daisy means that I was not leaving until we shared some desserts. Having snuck a peak at the dessert list on the menu beforehand, we sort of knew what we were going to order. We were all down for the key lime pie and there was another dessert that sounded equally good, a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake. Still, we wanted to have another look at the dessert menu to make sure there wasn’t anything else that we wanted to try.
So we asked the waitress what desserts if we can have another look at the menu. She said that she’ll tell us what desserts were on offer, rather than go all the way to the front to grab the menus. She then listed a number of desserts, including the key lime pie and a rocky road sundae but did not mention the peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake. When we asked her about the cheesecake, she said that it wasn’t on the menu. ‘Um, we’re pretty sure we saw it on the menu before,’ we insisted. She said that it wasn’t, pretty much implying that we were imaging things. We then spent a couple of minutes trying to tell her that WE KNEW WHAT WE SAW and DAMMIT, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT ALL THREE OF US IMAGINED SEEING A PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE ON THE MENU?!
In the end, she pretty much gave up and just grabbed us the menus, which was what we kindly requested in the first place. Seriously, save yourself some trouble by just grabbing the menu to begin with and secondly, avoid arguing with the customer!
But anyway, we got our desserts and all was good in the world again (and thankfully, a different waitress looked after us for the rest of the evening). The key lime pie was rich and sublime (bwah, could you tell I was trying to be pun-ny just then?!), though I would have preferred more tang and less sweet. Then again, I’m no key lime pie expert and perhaps they’re meant to have more sugar and less tang.
The overwhelming favourite, however, was the peanut butter cheesecake. You’d think that this cheesecake would be the sweeter of the two desserts but I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. There was a perfect balance between sweetness, saltiness and creaminess all held together by a lovely crunchy crust. Hell yeah, I would eat this again.
Despite the strange waitress and despite the beef in my burger being too dry, I dare say that I’d happily return. The food comes in generous portions and the prices are reasonable. I also want to try out their green tomato burger which did initially catch my eye that evening before the lure of beef and cheese got to me.
The American diner food craze may be as annoying as Tobias Funke in Arrested Development (am I the only person who does not like that show and also finds Tobias irritating?) but places such as Belle’s Diner seem to deliver better than our Ashes bowling line-up. Plus, they’re not pretentious (the diner, I meant). With a bit of tweaking and minus the attitude from a certain waitress, I pretty sure that it will eventually be the Belle of Gertrude Street.