29 August 2015
After that fine lunch at Coda, I was looking forward to another good meal. But a meeting with an old colleague ran on and I was late for my table at the very interesting Charcoal Lane. I called them and told them I was on my way. The trams were not co-operating so I basically legged it across the CBD in the rain and was quite tired (and wet) when I got to Gertrude Street…
I sat down at a table and relaxed as they brought me some much-needed water and a drinks menu, and I zoned in on something interesting and relaxed. Soon the food menu was in one hand, and in the other a glass of pepperberry negroni. Wow, a bit sweet but interesting. I am liking this idea of native foods.
If you’ve never heard of Charcoal Lane, you’re sadly not the only one. It’s one of the very few restaurants in Australian cities to feature the cuisine of the aboriginal peoples of Australia. And even better, the restaurant trains and employs aboriginals in a wonderful programme. I sadly noticed nothing left in Sydney of this type (they all seemed to have closed), but was extremely happy to see Charcoal Lane here in Melbourne. I ordered and relaxed, enjoying the chilled environment (despite it being a busy dining session on this Saturday evening).
I enjoyed the cocktail but then shifted to a wine when my starter arrived, and it was a big one…
This was the chef’s special “wild food tasting plate” — comprised of many foraged items. I won’t go through all of them, but the highlights include the goat-cheese-stuffed flower at 12 o’clock, the grilled cheese with a unique chutney at 6 o’clock, as well as the excellent marinated crudo at 2 o’clock and the wonderful beef at 8 o’clock. The plants used are all foraged and have unique feels about it. I wish I took better notes and asked questions, but they were so busy I didn’t want to impose. I was knackered too, so I apologise — I should have done a better job on this one. But it was tasty.
I enjoyed that, cleaning off the plate as I asked for more wine for my main, which appeared after a necessary digestion period.
This was recommended by the staff, the saltbush lamb. This was extremely tender and tasted of lamb, with all its natural goodness. Not the breeded-and-fed-into-blandness stuff we get from so many places ranging from New Zealand to Colorado these days, this was full of lamby flavour. Excellent dish, and a nice portion.
I would usually be spent by now but I decided to have a dessert as this is so unique of a place with so many unique ingredients…
This is a panna cotta that bears the flavour of desert lime and coconut, a very fine mix. I was a little disappointed with the native fruit salad as there was almost none of it…maybe it’s the last service of the night and they’ve run out, who knows. But the panna cotta itself was delicious.
I headed out by cab happily, glad to know that a place like Charcoal Lane can stand up on its own — not as a social project, but as a fully excellent restaurant on its own. Delicious food, excellent concept, definitely worth a visit!
136 Gertrude Street
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia