The Palace by Luke Mangan – South Melbourne
A forewarning: this will be a slightly epic two-part post, with two visits that occurred almost back to back. I must really be on an exodus to being crazy, or going through an awesome run of fabulous places that I just had to return to…
So, why did I choose this place? It has been around for at least 2 years, without any recent social media hype to spotlight particular interest. Although thinking back, I may have tried something from The Palace at the Taste of Melbourne last year, but only ever so vague a memory. The actual reasons were in fact, me stumbling upon the Monday and Tuesday half price fish and steak (respectively) on HungryCaterpillar, not to mention also enjoying a discount from the entertainment book.
[Update: Luke Mangan has recently announced his departure from this Melbourne gastropub, debranding it to simply The Palace, at which the new head Chef John King will hold the reigns. See here & here for more information.]
This old hotel converted to the current gastro-pub, is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Walking passed the pub-bar at the entrance for the first time, I found myself a little tentative as to where do I go? Do I wait here? Do I keep going in?
The restaurant itself is actually cosily sectioned off at the rear through an archway. An open kitchen, muted walls, wall length mirrors enclose this small space. Luke Mangan’s self-branded products can be seen on every table. Both occasions on a Monday night I attended it was a full house, with people seated into the bar section.
Oysters, natural with mignonette dressing – being half price on Mondays, there was no way I would pass up ordering a dozen Coffin Bay Oysters. With a small dash of lemon, Indian Ocean freshness was absolutely apparent with each morsel. It didn’t really need the mignonette.
Crab omelette – Crab? Omelette? Oh yes please! The broken threads of crab meat wrapped loosely in parcel of fried eggs is moist, fragrant and beautifully dressed with enoki, fried shallots, chilli and mint. This continues to deviate from its resemblance to Banh-Xeo with the broth of miso hinted with mustard, adding a bit of savoury depth. Dare I say a stunning omelette.
Salt and jalapeno pepper squid – These golden brown goodies were well received, snapped up by all the hungry mouths around the table. They were crispy, juicy, and packed with lasting chilli heat on the tongue. It is simply dressed with caramelised eschalots, cucumber salad and miso mayo to dip. It reminds me a bit of KFC, but definitely supercharged!
Pan fried gnocchi – small dumplings of springy, not at all doughy, lightly seared with a slightly crispy bite and drizzled with truffle could easily have been my favourite entrée of the day, if not for said omelette. Crunchy cubes of white asparagus, broad beans and zucchini decorate the dish with a colourful green.
Fish of the day: Pan fried barramundi – being half price and all, we (the 5 of us) all ordered the fish of the day ($19). From the bottom up there was a generous smear of smooth pumpkin puree, wilted silverbeet, bursts of corn kernels and small trail of cajun spiced squid rings. The centre piece barramundi is beautifully crisp – almost lightly-fried in quality – with moist white flesh. Apparently by the time we ordered, the nominated fish of the day – silver-dory – had run out, but glad that it turned out quite well.
Hot chocolate fondant – Picture this: amongst a sea of chocolate lies a warm chocolate fondant cake slathered in chocolate, within which contains a pocket of hot melted chocolate that flows out like lava the moment you put your spoon through. It sounds and looks like an excess of chocolate, but it is neither too sweet nor rich and is perfect alongside the ball of vanilla icecream rolled in cookies.
Floating Island – soft, warm meringue with a scattering of berries, orange and apple wedges, served with Frangelico crème anglaise is worlds apart from the previous dessert – sweet and refreshing.
Crème brûlée – it isn’t as vanilla-bean-perfect as the one at Fog (Prahran), but the perfect film of caramelised sugar and delicious custard still makes me salivate. And an almond biscotti to accompany.
Sticky date pudding [not pictured] – a warm cube of moist, buttery sticky date pudding with a generous pour of thick butterscotch sauce with a tad of syrup was absolutely to die for. Anyone with any remote bias for butterscotch should try this.
Rating: Yummy+1.5 – A cosy gastro-pub well worth the trek to South Melbourne for – twice in two weeks for me in fact. Not to mention the value for money!
505 City Rd
South Melbourne, 3205