For an inner city suburb, I think that East Melbourne is strangely devoid of good eateries.
Maybe because it’s sandwiched by the abundance of excellent choices in Fitzroy/Collingwood, Richmond and the CBD but my impression of the area is that it’s filled with very wealthy people who like to dine at home in the leafy quietness of their neighbourhood.
For those who live and work in East Melbourne and would prefer not to travel outside of it to eat well, I think that GG will be a welcome addition. I was invited to sample their menu and everything I tried was of full of flavour using squeaky fresh ingredients and beautifully presented. It’s simple yet classy food done really, really well.
GG is housed underneath the apartment building at 150 Clarendon Street which used to be part of the Mercy Hospital. When I first click-clacked my way through the bistro/bar space on one side and wine store/bottle shop on the other side, I wondered how they would fill the vast, shiny space reminiscent of a five-star hotel lobby. The restaurant is not in an entertainment or shopping strip and is surrounded by office buildings and hospitals – there’s not much foot traffic around and the dark tinted windows means you’re unlikely to stumble across it.
And then I realised – GG is really close to the MCG and Fitzroy Gardens. Which means you can now enjoy a fantastic meal before or after the football (you can make bookings, yay!), thus avoiding the need to eat anything stewing in a bain marie, or cater your garden wedding in an sophisticated indoors space.
And if you’re lucky enough to live in 150 Clarendon Street there’s a private entrance for residents into GG plus the restaurant is floating the idea of taking room service up to the apartments. Genius!
The menu is Euro-focused, with a choice of small, medium and large dishes (which can be shared) plus salads, pasta and pizza from the wood-fired oven.
The highlight of the kitchen is a rotisserie which turns out a daily selection of roasted meats and seafood. The rotisserie is powered by coal with a hint of redgum wood smoke which lends the meat a particular flavour.
Our lunch started with a selection of their small dishes – plump fried green olives lounging in some gremolata mayo ($6.90), fancy pants chicken nuggets in the form of deboned crumbed chicken wings with a smokey almond vinaigrette ($9.90) and fat crunchy arancini filled with oozy mozzarella and parmesan with the platter dotted with peas and the clever addition of toasted sunflower seeds($6.90).
Each of the dishes were faultless and the variations on bites with crusty, fried textures means that they would all pair perfectly with a beer at the bar. Which by the way is a beautiful, shiny centrepiece of the dining area – doesn’t its extravagance remind you of Renoir’s painting ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergere‘?
From the medium plates we tried silky slices of smoked ocean trout dressed with paper-thin slices of cucumber, apple and sesame wafers ($24.90).
If you like raw or smoked fish this is a standout example of how delicious something so simple can be – the fish was extremely fresh, fatty on the tongue and so sweet that it almost suggested that it’d been cured with sugar.
Vegetarians can try the haloumi charred on the grill pan and offset with the mild sourness of the courgette pickle and a hint of mint ($16.90). Actually, it’s such an accomplished combination of simple flavours that meat-eaters might enjoy it too!
From the large dishes we tried the fish of the day, in this case a perfectly pan-seared piece of Tasmanian salmon with a creamy fennel puree, a hunk of caramelised baby fennel and bisque sauce.
The highlight of the mains was definitely the rotisserie chicken, with the fragrant shreds of charred yet juicy meat accompanied by calorie-laden duck fat potatoes, a crisp shaved cabbage salad to cut through the fat and the Renaissance still life of a tomato salad.
The chicken was as good as the excellent rotisserie meat I’ve had frequently at Kew’s St Katherine’s and no wonder – chef Paul Dunlop was formerly head chef at St Katherine’s.
Dessert was again beautifully presented – we had a chef’s selection of berry soup with an elderflower foam, a cornetto filled with blood orange curd, a crema catalana/brulee and a miniature lemon cake with a thyme meringue. Like the rest of the menu the sweets demonstrated a sophisticated hand, though it wasn’t of the same wow standard the savoury dishes as I found the pastry a bit chalky and the foamy/soupy combination not very appealing.
Regardless of what the result is at the nearby ‘G, GG is a winner and its food is an exciting alternative to a soggy footy pie. Pop down for their weekday lunch special of shared small and medium plates followed by rotisserie meat and salad, excellent value for $19.50 per person. I’d also return to try their house made pastas and wood-fired pizzas – given the high standard of the food I tried I have high hopes for the rest of GG‘s menu.
GG, 150 Clarendon St, East Melbourne +61 3 8415 0411
Mon-Fri 11am – late
Sat-Sun 7am -late (breakfast 7am – 11am)
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