Ever eaten possum sausage? What about wallaby sirloin or emu fillet? All these dishes are on the menu at Fitzroy’s Charcoal Lane a social enterprise which serves up distinctly Australian food. When I lived in London people always used to ask me what Australian food was. It’s hard to answer as Australian food is hard to define. I would usually mumble something about great produce and influences from all over the world. One thing that doesn’t happen enough in Australian cooking is the use of native ingredients. I believe this is something that is gradually changing and restaurants like Charcoal Lane, which champion the use of native produce, are really leading the charge.
Housed in an old bank building on Gertrude street, Charcoal Lane has a sense of drama about it with soaring ceilings and polished floors. It’s contemporary and sleek. The best way to get a taste for all the different and unusual foods on offer is to order the tasting plate to start ($20). I shared this with Mr-Meat-and-Three-Veg and loved the chance to sample quandong fruits, local cheeses and of course possum sausage (tastes like chicken!).
I couldn’t resist eating another cuddly critter so ordered the wallaby sirloin ($26) as my main. The meat was cooked to medium rare – a blushing pink colour emphasising its gamey flavour. The sirloin was wrapped in parma ham and the sweetness of the meat was heightened by the pool of red wine jus it was served in. Meat-and-Three-Veg was a little less adventurous and ordered the dukkah crusted lamb ($31) the crunchy topping added texture to the meat and the addition of lillypilli and quandong as accompaniments meant he still got a taste of some native flavours while sticking with a familiar dish.
To finish we shared lemon myrtle iced soufflé ($18) this wasn’t quite what I had imagined as there was nothing soufflé like about the dish – it was a dense almost ice-cream like confection. But I enjoyed the delicate lemon myrtle flavour that infused the dish. What I really liked though was the added feel good vibe of eating at a social enterprise. Charcoal Lane is run by Mission Australia which seeks to tackle labour force exclusion for Aboriginal and other at risk young people through training in the restaurant. This means instead of asking yourself – can I justify dinner at Charcoal Lane, the question should be – how can I justify not eating there? You get to do some good while filling your belly with a delicious contemporary take on bush tucker.
Gourmet Chick was invited to review Charcoal Lane. I donated the full cost of my meal to Mission Australia.
Details: Charcoal Lane, 136 Gertrude street, Fitzroy (Ph 03 9418 3400) Open Tues -Sat 10.30am-10pm
Damage: Reasonable. $125 for two with wine.