The Commoner… not so common after all!
121 Johnson Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
03 9415 6876
The Commoner has been on my list of places to visit for some time. For the last few months, it seems to have been the darling of the blogosphere – so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was also the beginning of our great voyage of culinary discovery… We rarely venture outside the confines of the CBD because it’s just easy for us. But I’ve been assured that there’s some brilliant eating to be had beyond walking distance, and so have taken up the challenge of travelling more broadly afield during the weekends. Not that Johnson Street, Fitzroy is that far away from the CBD – but on these cold, wintry nights it seems to be.
The Commoner is a beautiful restaurant – it creates an oasis of calm in the buzzing hub of the noisy Johnson Street pub scene. You are greeted by a genuine French waiter, and the ambience of the room is one of intimacy and comfort. The lighting is beautiful, resulting in warm, discrete sepia tones. It seats only 32 people on the ground floor, which includes a rather large table for groups – so it feels like a small restaurant. However there is more seating upstairs – so I’m not sure the exact capacity of the place.
“The Shed” – Charcuterie Board & Condiments – All House Cured
I was definitely having dessert here – so we opted to share “The Shed” for entrée – a board filled with house cured charcuterie and a range of condiments. There was bresaola, rabbit salami, pork, chicken & rabbit terrine, pork rilletes, and como (pork loin). These were accompanied by caper berries and caper leaves (very interesting), onion jam, and a dried fruit chutney made with mustard seeds. All of the cured meats were lovely, and the condiments were really interesting. We polished it all off!
Berkshire Pork Belly, Fennel & Cider Sausage, Cavalo Nero, Shallot Puree
For mains, Andrew opted for the pork belly – and it was divine. The crackling on this dish was perfect – apparently it had been cooked a number of different ways over a number of stages. It was still attached to the pork though – so there were no shortcuts at all. The crackling just crunched and crumbled in your mouth – it was so amazing. Underneath the crackling, the pork was perfectly layered with fat and tender fall apart meat, and it just melt in the mouth. The sausage was also flavoursome and juicy. What’s not to love about two types of pork on the plate!! Delicious!!
Rabbit, Prune and Pinot Pie with Carrots, Brussels Sprouts & Bacon
Mmmmm…. Pie is good on these cold nights and this dish was perfect. The pie was the perfect size for a main. The carrots were roasted beautifully, and the Brussels sprouts were cooked just so – not overdone, but fresh and green and a little crisp. I’m one of those weird people who don’t mind Brussels sprouts – bring them on. Although the bacon seemed to be missing from my plate… but I didn’t really notice at the time. The jus was gorgeous – although I could have done with some more. A little jug of it on the side would have been sublime.
Brown Ale Pudding, Salted Caramel and Cream
This is the reason to come to The Commoner – this dessert is fabulous. It looks incredibly rich – but it’s a light as a feather on the palate and just melts in the mouth. The flavour is dark and rich, but not overly sweet (surprisingly). So the salted caramel and cream just meld into the pudding to create a gorgeous mouthful of nirvana. We opted to share this dish – which was a mistake. Duelling spoons and forks at zero paces can get fast and furious – especially with Andrew. After all, he’s a boy and spent his youth wrestling with his brothers! So he kept cutting me off at the caramel…
Beignet with Lemon Sherbet and Lemon Verbena Curd
And so… for research purposes you understand – I thought it would be good to check out the beignet. I felt bad just asking for one – all that oil heating up and one lonely beignet bobbing around in it didn’t seem right – but it was research! It came out quite late… I fear the order may have actually been forgotten because we had to ask for it again… but then it came out all golden and sparkling with a coating of diamandesque granulated sugar (maybe the lemon sherbet was mixed in there – but it wasn’t completely obvious). A gorgeous little pot of lemon verbena curd sat alongside – inviting us to fill our little beignets with mouthwatering goodness. The curd was just the right balance of sweet and tart, the beignet itself was as light as air – and so it was all gone in a mouthful. Like magic!
Filled with bliss – we exited from the warmth and cosiness of this wondrous restaurant and wend our way home. Maybe there’s something to be gained from venturing further afield… and I do sense a return visit sometime in our future. Maybe we’ll see you there….