Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gurney Drive, West Melbourne

UPDATE:  This restaurant is now closed.  Kari Leaf is in its place and is reportedly not as good.

Pho Centro Gurney 044

Walking to Gurney Drive past window after window of happy people eating Korean BBQ, resist the temptation to text your friends "want beef ribs instead?"  This small Penang-style hawker restaurant is worth holding out for.

Pho Centro Gurney 052

Gurney Drive is apparently the name of a famous hawker centre in Penang, an island off the coast of Malaysia, somewhat near the Thai border.  Penang is most famous for its Assam laksa which is a non-coconut-based laksa, dark and tangy with tamarind.

Pho Centro Gurney 045
Penang Char Kuey Teow, $9.80

THIS HAS COCKLES.  I repeat... COCKLES.  Here in Melbourne, it seems these tiny molluscs are the most elusive feature of authentic char kuey teow.  This version was unlike the Singaporean style which is much darker and richer from the dark soy used.  This was lightly seasoned, had good chilli heat and really tasted fresh and lively.  It was simply the sum of its parts, which were all good quality and so tasty.  Thanks Wendy for the tip a while ago!

Pho Centro Gurney 048
Combination hor fun, $9.50

This is a new favourite of mine even though at first glance it looks so unappealing with so much wet sauce on a small amount of noodles.  The noodles here were the classic wide rice noodles, licked with wok hei and then buried beneath lots of thick, delicious, mild gravy.  Very fresh prawns, calamari and fish cake featured and were divine with a little soy and fresh chilli.

Pho Centro Gurney 050
Nyonya fish, $16.80

A heaping plate of rice flour-dusted, thin fish fillets, curled and crispy, doused in "Nyonya-style" sauce which was tangy with tamarind, ginger and tomato.  This was well executed and tasty but I would try something else next time.  I always think deep frying is wasted on things that then have a sauce over the top!

sambal kangkong
Sambal kang kong, $13.80

I must have been a water insect in another life as I can't get enough of this aquatic plant, kang kong or water spianch.  It grows like a weed across Southeast Asia and has intriguing, tender, hollow stems.  You can see huge bunches of it in the markets in Footscray under its Vietnamese name, rau muong.  This was so fantastic - cooked with sweeter Malaysian-style sambal, heady with belacan and dried shrimp and with plenty of well-fried garlic.  I loved it - I could eat this every day!

Gurney Drive was packed when we left with not a spare seat in the house, and for good reason.  Two big thumbs up!

Gurney Drive on Urbanspoon

Gurney Drive
284 Victoria Street, West Melbourne (map)
Phone:  9329 6649 

No Wheelchair access 


  1. Ohh that Nyonya sauce on the fish looks incredible and glossy and delicious! I do agree though that deep-frying AND sauce might be overkill - I think I'd prefer just the sauce! I've never tried kang kong, but you've painted a yummy picture for me, especially with the garlic!

  2. I don't know about deep frying being wasted on anything with a sauce, but then I do come from a lineage of fine sweet and sour pork purveyors.

    But my argument doesn't actually rest there, but rather with Korean Fried Chicken.

  3. Hmm ok I'll have to give this a try! I have eaten at the famous Gurney Drive hawker centre and it was quite an experience. My xbf sat me down, said "keep your hands in your pockets" and set off to round up little plastic plates of food and three different kinds of sweetened drink. I was puzzled by the directive until a legless beggar scooted, pretty much silently, on a skateboard between the tables! A hawker stand operator had warned my xbf to watch out for him as he's apparently a pickpocket as well as a beggar. All this was forgotten when the food arrived - I loved the lighter taste of the Penang char kway teow and the muddiness of the prawns.

  4. Billy I read this this morning after eating divine deep-fried, sauce-soaked samosa chat and gobi manchurian last night so I don't really know what I am on about! Maybe because this reminded me of salt & pepper batter and therefore the sauce seemed to not really work.

    (and I do love sweet and sour pork, another food shame!)

    Jess, kang kong is divine - no OTT chunky stalks as can be with other Asian greens, yet more body than English spinach. Hope you like it!

    Daniel let me know what you think! I agree, it is much lighter and I do personally like that. No lap cheong which is nice but very naughty, and can overpower.

  5. I wanna have a second meal there. : ) Haha it was so funny having my first mouthful of cKT and exclaiming "OMg this tastes good! How's that possible??"

  6. Gosh I love your blog but it always makes me starve & drool!! :D

  7. your blog is lovely. And all the knowlegde on Malaysia especially Hokkien-land Penang is amazing.


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