Thursday, October 09, 2008
The Hedonism-Bot Files: St Jude's Cellars
St Jude's Cellars
389-391 Brunswick St
I do realise I am quite late jumping on the St. Jude's bandwagon, but I'm sure you'll forgive me.
I went with my brother and his girlfriend on a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon. The last time I came here, a few years ago, it was Hideout. I came with some workmates because we couldn't get into Polly. (Not because we weren't cool enough, let me assure you, but because it was already nearly closing time). At Hideout, we had some nasty dips - straight out of a homebrand supermarket packet, I'm sure - with lukewarm Turkish bread. It was expensive, and a poor substitute for fancy cocktails in Polly's luxurious atmosphere.
A lot has changed since then.
My brother was particularly impressed by the fit out and the cool 80's tiles on the bar. It reminded him of The Panama Dining Room, which we later realised, is run by the same team. I loved the bright, airy space. The huge amount of natural sunlight meant it was great for taking food photos.
Our waiters were friendly, although I have to say I was slightly bewildered by the level of detail on the menu, which detailed the provenance of each of the main ingredients. To be honest, it was so much information that most of it went over my head, but I do remember that the jams were made by the kids as part of Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden program.
Love that chewy crusty bread! Again, note the cute 80's plates.
As you might have guessed, the menu is designed for sharing. We ordered a lunch special, which includes soup, sandwich, glass of wine and sweet tart of the day. A bargain at $27. In addition, we ordered a drink each (some red for Dan's gf, sparkling wine for myself, G&T for the bro), a slice of a savoury tart (see first photo), and a mixed charcuterie plate.
First up, rabbit soup. The meat was tender, and I enjoyed the tiny cubes of carrot and celery. I found the liquid itself had great flavour, but was much too salty for my taste.
Charcuterie plate - prosciutto on the left, pork rilette (my favourite!) in the centre, prune and rabbit terrine on the right. This was served with some pear slices and more of that tasty sourdough bread.
This was St. Jude's Reuben sandwich - corned veal silverside, brown bread, a mayonnaisey dressing and "sauerkraut". (The menu said sauerkraut, but it tasted like regular, non-sauer shredded lettuce to me.) Despite that, this sandwich was a real winner! I'm regretting that I didn't take more notice of the menu, because their bread was absolutely divine.
The savoury tart of the day had a puff pastry base, and was topped with hazelnuts, tomatoes, peas and ricotta. Again, delicious. I thought the accompanying salad was fantastic - really fresh lettuce leaves (I think it was butter lettuce), with a few herb leaves in there and a strongly flavoured, slightly salty dressing. Making plain green salads truly delicious can be a challenge, and this was an absolute success. If only I could make dressing that good at home!
We were quite full by this stage, but as we'd ordered that lunch special, we still had our dessert coming. The apple crumble tart came highly recommended by our waitress, especially as it had just come out of the oven. It looked inviting, but it was probably the disappointment of the day. The pastry and crumble were a bit powdery, and the tart had an overpowering flavour of cardamom. A slight hint would give a mysterious and alluring spiciness, but we found that the cardamom flavour just dominated the flavour. Not pleasant.
As it was a long and lazy lunch, we finished with coffees. It was made very weak, much weaker than most coffees seem to come. I'm no longer a huge coffee drinker, but I'd still ask for a strong cappuccino next time.
I thought St. Jude's was perfect for a relaxed sunny lunch. The total cost of the meal was $90 for 3 people. Quite good going, I think, considering we had drinks, and that our meals contained ingredients of such distinguished provenance.