Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Courthouse

This is a sponsored post for Australian Mushroom Growers' "Mushroom Mania" campaign.  The Mushroom Mania campaign is on for all of July 2012 and over 2,000 restaurants are participating by putting delicious mushrooms on the menu.  Please see end of post for full disclosure.  

Once upon a time both the church and the corner pub were local meeting places where people could bump into each other.  This sounds throwaway, but that casual running into people and just knowing people's faces is an incredibly important part of feeling like you belong to a community.  Now, just as many churches are being decommissioned, we see many corner pubs closing and being turned into apartments (think The Albert and The Buckingham in Footscray).

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It is possible to reverse this trend and the Courthouse in North Melbourne shows it how it's done, creating a modern yet still genuine pub, a new community hub that feels quite timeless.

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Running in its present form since about 2002, the Courthouse is a great multitasker, marrying a classy Euro-feel bistro with a front bar that takes craft beer seriously.  I love the intimate dining room with its Art Deco (I think?) light fittings, fireplace and dark wood panelling that feels straight out of Paris...

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...hence French bubbles are a necessity!  The wine list by the glass is small but confident - two sparkling (one dear, one not) plus about ten reds and whites that eschew stock shiraz and semillon for more interesting European varietals.

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Chestnut soup, wild mushroom crepe, hazelnut and nutmeg, $16

The Courthouse are big on making everything, I believe right down to their bread, and this dish, although small, had so many delicately formed components.  Frothy chestnut soup surrounded a delicate parcel of earthy braised wild mushrooms.  The silky, dark mushies had the intriguing tingle of fennel seed, which provided a counterpoint to the rest of the dish's richness.

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Pan fried gnocchi, local wild mushrooms, porcini cream, truffled pecorino, $25

This dish had a family tree of mushroom varieties, if you like, from good-natured, populous wild and cultivated varieties, to the regal, more often dried porcini, to the big chief of the mushroom world - the truffle, here gently infusing hard pecorino cheese.  The pan-fried mushies tumbling over the gnocchi were gorgeous, from juicy little buttons to slices of wild varieties that had such an interesting texture with an almost meaty grain.  I found the gnocchi surprising at first, as they were more like large potato dumplings - I know, that's what gnocchi are! - but once I got over the expectation of cloud-like little balls and enjoyed the contrast between creamy interior and crispy edges, it was delicious.

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Black Angus porterhouse steak, hand-cut chips, parsley and horseradish butter, $27

Come to Mama!  Gorgeous juicy steak, its juices muddling with the fabulous seasoned butter and facilitating much happy swiping of chips.  Ideally I think this dish needs to be augmented with a side, but we were still content at meal's end.

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Good coffee topped it off.  The service at the Courthouse is really good too, attentive and genuine.

This is a great local secret, for me best saved for special occasion dining, but I'd happily have a Temptress every week in the front bar.

The Courthouse on Urbanspoon

86-90 Errol Street, North Melbourne
Phone:  9329 5394
Restaurant hours:  Mon-Sat noon-3pm, 6-10pm

Disclosure:  This post is the first in a series of three for Australian Mushroom Growers' "Mushroom Mania" campaign.  I had free choice of any three participating Victorian restaurants and was required to choose at least one dish in which mushrooms were the "hero" ingredient.  I am being paid a flat sum for my writing which does not include meal expenses.  The restaurants were not aware of exactly who was visiting and when but may have been aware that they would be reviewed at some stage over the course of the campaign period.  Australian Mushroom Growers and The Courthouse have not sought nor been given any editorial control of this post.


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12 comments:

  1. Love pubs that take the time to source local and make their own specialties like bread. That gnocchi dish sounds absolutely divine, I'm a fan pan fried gnocchi - the two textures make it so moreish.

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    1. Definitely love when everything's local and homemade.

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  2. Do they have any vegan dishes? I could organize a meetup if they created vegan dishes too.

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    1. Hi Mez, if you go to their website you can see the menu - there are a few goodies on there that look like they might qualify. Have you heard of this mob, the Caroline Springs Animal Welfare Network? http://www.csawn.org/ They are putting together a guide to the western suburbs of everywhere vegan and vegan friendly. All Ethiopian vegetarian food is also vegan as for religious reasons, many in the Ethiopian community only eat vegan I think for like two months a year and two days every week.

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  3. James In FootscrayJuly 6, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    It's such a shame the Rising Sun on Geelong Rd closed!

    http://maribyrnong-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/rising-sun-hotel-to-go/

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    1. Another one bites the dust! If it comes down to a choice (and I guess it does), I support high density urban living vs urban sprawl filled with chain stores, no PT and nothing to do for bored teenagers. I'd still sooner see these old pubs retained, even if it means turning into "gastropubs". Lots of pubs have managed the change well. You still see plenty of fluoro yellow-jacketed wharfies in the Station stopping off for a quick pot, despite the $30+ mains in the dining room. Hell, why not build apartments on top of a killer restaurant, bar and - therefore - community hub? Probably because no-one wants to live above a pub.

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    2. The owner/proprietor of Common Galaxia told me, a few weeks before they opened, that some people had moved into the apartments above based on their love for the coffee/food.

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  4. Steve and I went for lunch today and had the two course plus wine and coffee special. Wonderful meal on a child free day. We had the gnocchi too, and chocolate terrine. The merlot and coffee were also top notch and we found the dining room very intimate. We booked, which I'd recommend as the room was full. Thanks!

    Bec.

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    1. Aw Bec I'm so glad I could play a part in an I'm sure much-needed special day for you both! You know, I didn't order a coffee at first but when I saw my friend's latte I said yep, I'll have one - they were good weren't they!

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  5. Oh wow what a fantastic meal. Thanks for blogging about this! It's got all the dishes that I'd want to eat and more. Really have to bring a group here so we can share more dishes among ourselves. YUM! And pubs these days are serving really impressive food. I'd go even further by saying I enjoy eating at pubs more than restaurants! Just more relaxed and cosy

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  6. Ha! Nice to see the Temptress get a mention on my favorite food site. I'm one of the guys who brew it at Holgate. Should be on tap at the Junction Hotel in Newport early next month.

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    1. Ooooohhhhh fun! That will be my excuse to get down there and finally check them out!!

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