• Hell of the North (Fitzroy)

Welcome to Hell.  I seemed to have missed the meme declaring food sinful – even for vegetarians.  It was a rainy evening with the wind rendering my umbrella almost useless as I walked from city to Smith Street.  As I emptied my shoes of water on the front porch, I hoped that inside would at least be fiery so that my stockinged feet could dry and I could enjoy a cheeky glass of oaked wine.

Hell of the North is a bistro-style eatery with decent wines, a rich menu and knowledgeable staff.  The menu is designed for grazing, over a beverage.   Still, the food is worthy of any fine dining establishment (although serves are on the small side).

I was recommended the 2011 Domaine des Aubuisieres’ Vouvray Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley for its lack of acid.  My request had been for something creamy or chocolate – vague description I know – and whilst it was appropriate for being without acid, it was more light with honeydew melon and not oaked.

The wine tasted bitter against my main which was the gnocchi parisienne.  This dish was wickedly rich.  The traditionally made potato pasta was beautifully soft so that it luxuriously blended with the rich buttery sauce made with vin jaune (which I thought might be similar to verjuice but was told is a fortified wine).  The pumpkin cubes were firmer than the gnocchi.  In fact, whilst I like pumpkin, they added a difference in flavour but not much else.  The mushrooms were a variety of slippery shitakes, oysters and  wood ears.  Now that I write of the Japanese mushrooms in a French style, it reminds me of dinner at Kenji years ago.  Pecorino cheese and parsley added to the flavours.  I would have liked some bread to soak up the more-ish sauce.  Instead I used chips.

The chips were served mouth-burningly hot with super crunchy crusts and delectably fluffy centres.  It seemed they had been cooked in oil for the crispness but part butter for the brown nut butter taste.  Rocks of sea salt were sprinkled on top.

To accompany dessert I tried the cream sherry (N.V. Emilio Lustau East India Solera) from Jerez, Spain.  It was dark red with a tinge of brown.  It was creamy, as the name suggested, with full oak but still strong fruit in the palate and a beautiful after-taste.

My friend ordered Creme Brulee which was perfectly textured and full of vanilla.

The salted caramel mousse was interesting;  light and more salty than caramel with a slight sesame taste.  Slices of poached quince accompanied as did icy  sorbet and biscuit crumbs.  Rock salt had been sprinkled over a little too generously.  Coffee syrup was another flavour in a pool at the bottom of the plate.  It was a creative dessert, but had less wow-factor than the savouries.

The meal was wickedly rich.  The gnocchi lustable.  I greedily ate up the chips (that were meant to be shared) like a glutton....

Perhaps vegetarian food can be sinful.

Hell of the North
135 Greeves St 
Fitzroy 3065
03 9417 6660

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