|Padron peppers and The Commoner’s charcuterie board|
I was invited to try The Commoner’s lunch and while the restaurant has a great little menu my best advice to you is to ignore it. Instead, put yourself in the hands of the staff and The Commoner’s “Feed Me” menu. It’s degustation style where you are brought whatever the chef suggests and costs $65 a person but the menu can be expanded or reduced as you like.
|Table set for lunch at The Commoner|
We started with a glass of the Renier Pineau des Charentes ($9) which is an apertif made by adding fresh grape juice to cognac. It was sweet but not saccharine and I honestly have not tasted anything like it before. Served on ice it was a brilliant start to what was an epic lunch.
|The Renier Pineau des Charentes on ice|
On our visit the Feed Me menu kicked off with one of my favourite things in the world – boccerones ($3). These salty little Sicilian white anchovies were served on a paper thin crostini on top of sweet pepper and a lick of garlicky aioli.
We also enjoyed playing pepper Russian Roulette with a plate of lightly salted padron peppers ($9), waiting with anticipation for the one in seven which is tongue tinglingly hot. However, the highlight of the starters was the charcuterie board ($24). All the charcuterie is made in house (a practice which I very much approve of and which appears to be catching on around town with the likes of La Luna also making their own sausages and charcuterie) and it was terrific. I loved it all from the perfectly seasoned pheasant terrine to the peppery bresola and black pudding which was served hot and almost sticky.
|The courtyard of The Commoner complete with wood fired oven|
Slightly more pedestrian but equally tasty were the seared scallops ($16). The scallops were slightly burnished from the pan and served with a cauliflower puree then topped with slivers of apple and walnuts. They were sweet but satisfying.
The show stopper dish was the special of the day. Meaty, earthy pine mushrooms cooked in rich stock and served with globs of bone marrow on toasted brioche. Our waiter described the dish as requiring a “one kilometre to two kilometre jog” but I can only sum it up as so wrong but oh so right. Truly one of the best dishes I have eaten this year.
|Pine mushrooms with bone marrow on brioche|
The wood fired oven out the back came into its own for our main course of spatchcocked chicken ($32) which was served with slow roasted onions and sweet, sticky roast carrots. The chicken had a great smoky taste and we quickly abandoned our knives and forks to gnaw on the bones and make the most of the sweet young meat. It was served with a crisp and refreshing salad of baby cos garnished with croutons and slivers of radish ($9).
|Collection of bric a brac at The Commoner|
I should make special mention of The Commoner’s wine list. Alongside the list at the start of each service they open a couple of interesting bottles to be served by the glass. It’s a great policy and one that payed dividends in discovering a delicate floral Sorrenberg Gamay from Beechworth ($59 a bottle) alongside the sweet but complex Chateau Jolys Jurancon ($11.50 a glass).
What is clear from all this is that someone can cook at The Commoner, specifically chef Brook Petrie. What is a little more intangible is the lovely attitude of the staff and the restaurant along with the quirky but welcoming feel to the place. Tragically we did not have room in our stomachs or time in our schedule to tackle the dessert menu. Another very good excuse to return in my view. I am already excited in anticipation of my next visit when I plan to get a big group of friends together and head to The Commoner on a Sunday when there is likely to be a whole roast saddleback pig or goat on the menu. I can’t wait to return.
I was invited to review The Commoner.
Update – July 2012
I went back to The Commoner for my friend Tim’s birthday and the food was just as sensational as I remembered. We ate in one of the private upstairs rooms and loved the atmosphere and the menu provided for groups.
Details: The Commoner, 122 Johnston Street Melbourne 3065 (Ph: 03 9415 6876) Open Wed – Thurs 6pm – late, Fri – Sun 12 -3pm, 6pm – late.
Damage: Pricey. The Feed Me menu is usually $65 a head but on this occasion I did not pay.