Hunter’s Kitchen and Bar

Ahhh…. St Kilda Road… the dining sahara – where there are so many cafés bearing so much promise.  But like the proverbial oasis – all hope evaporates away the closer you get.  The steaming bain maries filled with mystery casseroles and unrecognisable pasta, and the ubiquitous display of baguettes filled with all manner of limp vegetables and questionable meats leave you disappointed and sad.   I had almost given up all hope….

Enter Hunter’s Kitchen and Bar – a bright beacon of promise in an otherwise monotonous landscape.  Good foodie friend P had completed a reconnaissance mission the previous week and had taunted me with pics of glorious food via her smart phone! Damn technology!!  I, being marooned out in West Melbourne on the day, was not impressed by the taunting – but was impressed by what I saw.  So, at my first opportunity back in at the mother ship, I suggested that good foodie friend P and most esteemed colleague M head out to the Hunter’s so that I could sample firsthand the riches that lay a mere 200 metres from our office door…

The first thing that impacts you is how gloriously light filled the space is – even on a rainy day the room was filled with bright, fresh luminosity.  The La Mazorca coffee machine gleams dazzlingly with lime green duco and sits proudly in the entrance serving Campos coffee.

Water & Interior

La Mazorrca

Waiting for us upon our entry was one of the lovely waiters, who quickly relieved us of our wet umbrellas, and handed us over to the affable and enchanting Michael who showed us to a table.  After ordering some mineral water, and perusing the menu, we decided to order four of the shared plates.  It was difficult to decide because there is so much on offer – but we finally settled on four dishes and sat back to enjoy the parade of food.

Zucchini flowers 2

Zucchini flowers filled with ricotta, with fresh tomatoes and olive tapenade

The first dish we tried was the zucchini flowers – don’t ask me where they’re getting them in the midst of winter, but they were tantalisingly crunchy, yielding a ricotta filling and beautifully complemented by a fresh tomatoes and an olive tapenade.  Delicious!

Porcini arancini

Porcini Mushroom Arancini with bagna cauda and rocket

The next thing we treated ourselves to was the porcini arancini – served on a bed of rocket pesto and bagna cauda (an olive oil, garlic and anchovy dressing).  I had been a bit sceptical when ordering this – I find arancini tends towards being horrible, greasy, dense cheesy balls of rice.  But this was completely different – not greasy at all, the interior was a rich brown colour from the porcini powder, and retained a soft lightness which was made even fresher by the rocket pesto.  Not bad at all!!

Pork belly bun

Brioche Confit Pork Slider with apple relish, coriander and red cabbage salad

The next big ticket item – in my mind the “main event” of our four courses – was the pork belly slider. Will it measure up to the other great pork belly slider in my life, the one from Captain Melville???  Well… without the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison I would be hard pressed to declare a winner, but this is definitely a worthy contender.  This slider had a beautiful red cabbage salad and some mild apple relish to complement the belly slices – but could have perhaps had just one extra slice of belly to lift it to the next level and make it more about the unctuous deliciousness of the pork.

Camembert

Hot Camembert Mini Wheel – with sour apple, rhubarb compote and Dench bread

And finally… we decided to take a trip back – back to the 70s.  After all, camembert is making a huge comeback – especially baked. But this time around we’re adding all manner of goodness to it.  In this case, it was topped with sour apple (which almost tasted like peaches) and rhubarb compote. Partnered with some toasted slices of Dench’s olive bread it was divine.  Oh My Goodness.  The camembert was beautifully melted, just barely holding together. It was like soft pillow of dairy goodness – and the fruits mellowed out all that richness. Hello!!!

What a brilliant lunch – we rounded it out with a really good Campos coffee and could see how easy it would be to while away the afternoon.  This array of dishes, including mineral water and coffee came to about $30 each. Obviously, a bit more expensive than your average bain marie diet, and so probably not an everyday option, but well worth the outlay for a change from the everyday – and just because we’re worth it!

Overall, our experience was fantastic, with only one small criticism being that all the food came out at once.  I would have much preferred that it came out in a staggered fashion so that we could be pleasantly surprised again and again – and the dishes could retain their freshness.  However, as I mentioned – this is only a tiny criticism in an otherwise flawless dining experience.

In particular, Michael our waiter was friendly, professional and amazing – as were all the other service staff. Hunter’s Kitchen and Bar is a bright star in the St Kilda Road firmament – where stars are hard to come by.  I’m looking forward to checking out more of the lunch offerings – and maybe checking out breakfast… I’m sure I saw a Brioche French toast with warm rhubarb compote, crème fraiche and praline on the menu with my name on it… stay tuned….

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