Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Newmarket Hotel, St Kilda
I have a new favourite restaurant.
Unfortunately for me, it’s in Melbourne, because the Newmarket Hotel in St Kilda would be one place I’d love to have in my neighbourhood. On a quick weekend trip with my sister to my second-favourite city, we hopped on a tram and were greeted at the restaurant by truly lovely smiling staff. The décor has a retro feel with a little whimsy thrown in via the wallpaper – I loved it!
We started with a pitcher of the ‘Back to the Future’ cocktail. I may have been tipped over the edge by the name, but the combination of grapefruit vodka, rhubarb liqueur, mango puree, lemon juice and sparkling pink grapefruit seemed irresistible. It was refreshing, and not too sweet. The perfect foil for the humid weather outside. Next time I’m going for the Garden Punch, which sounded lovely with gin, apple, elderflower and honey. Mmmm.
We perused the menu for a good 20 minutes before we narrowed down our order. This would be a fab place to go with a big group of friends since the whole menu is designed to be shareable. The menu is inspired by Mexican and Latin food, as are so many others these days, but far from being bored by the trend, I'm so excited when restaurants just nail it, and Newmarket have. We started with the BBQ corn on the cob with chilli and queso fresco, a messy but absolutely delicious affair.
Tacos were a must. Remember when you couldn’t find a decent taco to save your life? Oh how times have changed. While these are on the more expensive end of the taco spectrum, you can’t deny that the fillings make them unique and totally worth the dosh. First up, we tried the Soft Shell Crab tacos with guacamole, shaved fennel, spicy corn and tomatillo salsa. The generous portion of crab was crisp but meaty, and the accompaniments worked so well with it, both in terms of flavour and texture.
The pork carnitas taco (pictured in the collage above) was served with baby gem lettuce, pickled pineapple and hot adobe sauce. They were spicy, saucy, and pretty much awesome. Remembering this amazing dinner now, I’m filled with regret that I didn’t try the brisket taco with wood roasted bone marrow and chimichurri. But that’s what frequent flyer points are for. Melbourne, I'll be back soon!
The menu didn’t come close to describing how well presented or well balanced this stunning dish was, simply Grilled Buffalo milk haloumi with spiced melon gazpacho salad. I don’t say this lightly, but this dish is one of the prettiest I think I’ve ever seen, and ranks up there as one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year! I loved the creamy haloumi with sweet melon and pops of colour and flavour from the cherry tomatoes.
From the “Low and Slow” category, we ordered the XL St Louis style pork ribs with Mr Wilson’s BBQ sauce and summer slaw. Wow. The meat was fall-apart-tender, as you would hope, and the sauce packed a walloping punch of flavour and heat. The slaw was the perfect accompaniment, a little bit tangy with a nice crunch.
Dessert was also a tough decision, between the likes of a coffee and tequila flan, or the pina colada baked alaska. In the end, we decided to try the Latin style Chocolate Pot with Bananas and Dulce de Leche, because you can never go wrong with dulce de leche. But even though it was delicious, I only made it a few spoonfuls before I was defeated by the richness of the chocolate.
I love this kind of playful food that mixes influences, presents things just a little differently to how you would expect, and definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s laid back fine-dining at it’s best, in an environment where you feel comfortable picking up a giant rib and getting your hands dirty, but where the food and service are so polished. And it must be working, because the restaurant was full on a drizzly Monday night! Did we leave happy? A resounding yes.
And as a side note, has anyone tried the brisket tacos? Are they are as amazing as they sound?
Newmarket Hotel, 34 Inkerman St, St Kilda (03) 9537 1777
Newmarket Hotel, St Kilda