30 August, 2008

Seasons broadened by the bean; Gerald's Bar

386 Rathdowne St, Carlton North

It was fitting perhaps that the year's first sighting of 'fresh' broad beans on sale came from a blogger by the name of Fatty McBeanpole. Certainly more fitting than the availability of a spring speciality in the deep of a Melbourne winter.

The broad bean season is tantalisingly short. For just three good months can devotees take them home, to first break the beans out from their implausibly fluffy cocoons, then squeeze the inner bean free after blanching. The end product - a bright green, fat crescent of legume - teams to great effect with lemon, artichoke, paprika, chicken, white wine or stock and in risottos.

On the first evening in months that lacked the bite of southerly air and instead encouraged hope for warmer gusts from the north, the Bean of Wonder showed up atop a hunk of braised pork with apples at the super-groovy Gerald's Bar.

The bar itself is long, curved and supported by a weave of wooden slats. Tables and chairs sit under lace-curtained windows; a meat-slicer is overseen by a huge David Bailey portrait at the far end. Vinyl remixes spin smoothly and quietly. A shelf running the length of the bar stocks a formidable range of spirits; vodka and gin are kept chilled in an ice bucket for expert handling with mixers and in cocktails. The first sparkling and first three reds and whites ordered for the evening become that day's by the glass, a policy that can be a blessing for patrons feeling short on decision-making power. Gerald's has a superb wine list, with potential by-the-glass prices ranging from around $8-$40. There's an international range of beer as well.

The day's menu is scrawled on butcher's paper then clipped to a ladder on wheels that you might expect to see in a library, so that it can be wheeled to customers' vantage points along the bar. While Gerald's is definitely a drinker's bar, this succinct menu offers perfect accompaniments. Half a dozen small plates come at $10 each: maybe Polish sausage, wagyu prosciutto or a welsh rarebit - an appropriately hunky piece of sourdough, with rich cheese, just a touch of English mustard and a good dose of pepper. The pork main meal, at $15, is superb value. A hefty, thick piece of meat has been braised, retaining tenderness and texture, and served in a sauce of its own juices with an understated apple sauce.

It's an incredibly comfortable place, one where you want to settle in for a couple of wines, switch to cocktails and maybe finish with a brandy, having also worked your way through the menu. Sure Carlton is our own little Italy, but this bar mixes the best of Melbourne and Europe as naturally as the seasons change.

2 comments:

  1. Cheers, hope you had a good dinner too :) I more than enjoyed Gerald's: I just loved the place; the vibe, the decor, the food, the drinks. I'm very keen to get back there, regularly if possible!

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