2 November 2013

Hell of the North

It's the door that sparks your curiosity I think.  It's mysterious and intriguing.  You want to know what lies behind that canary yellow entrance.  Hell of the North is what awaits you and I've been drawn to the yellow door since I first saw it months and months ago.

Hell of the North is a bistro that offers shared plates with a Parisian bistro bent. Think duck rillettes, beef tartare and Crêpes Suzette (more about these beauties later).  The food is modern yet retains reassuringly traditional roots and the price-point is pleasing.

The day had been HOT.  In fact, temperatures had reached 31.7 degrees that afternoon so there was nothing for it but a bottle of Arfion Pinot Rose from the Yarra Valley. 

We decided on a couple of small plates, a salad and a main to share.  First to arrive was the steak tartare.  Served on a slab of jet black slate, the dish was visually arresting.  The deep red glistening beef was speckled with parsley and served with pomme gaufrettes.  On hand was tabasco, hot sauce, salt and pepper for us to flavour our tartare to our own liking.  The steak had a beautiful flavour and texture.  For those who are a bit squeamish about trying raw beef, I urge you to take the plunge.  Steak tartare when done well is delicious.  The crisp pomme gaufrettes were a great contrast in texture.

The duck liver parfait was served in a shallow cast iron dish alongside triangles of brioche by Brioche by Philip.  The parfait was smooth and full of flavour and the madeira jelly (someone had been heavy handed with the madeira- good on them!) cut through the richness of the duck.  As we were nearing the end of our brioche, our waitress kindly brought over a wee roll of sourdough for us to wipe up the rest of the parfait with- well noticed.  I preferred the sourdough because I felt it was a more substantial platform for the parfait but TBS quite rightly pointed out that the flavour of the sourdough obscured that of the parfait whilst the lightness of the brioche showcased it.

Our asparagus, farro, chevre, black garlic vinaigrette salad was enjoyable.  TBS proclaimed it  underwhelming at first but we both found that you grew to enjoy the flavours more and more as you ate it. The asparagus was tender but retained a bit of crunch and the chevre and black garlic vinaigrette were distinctive and held their own next to the earthy notes of the farro.

I like to order seafood when we are out as we don't have it at home as often as I would like.  Our John Dory, prawn mousse, crab and coconut furnet reminded me of our time in Kerala.  The perfectly cooked John Dory sat atop a mildly spiced sauce which enveloped the shavings of fresh coconut and the juicy segments of mandarin.  The dish was fresh and light. 

But for me, the dessert was the pièce de résistance . How come no one has mentioned how incredible Crêpes Suzette are??!!  My only memory of Crêpes Suzette are photos of the flaming pud from my mother's 1970s Woman's Day cookbook so do take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt.  Actually I take that back. I think I know good food when I taste it. So despite it being the first time I had tried Crêpes Suzette I can hand on my heart say that Hell of the North's are sensational.  The juicy segments of orange, the candied rind, the creamy, almost custardy crepes and the moreish buttery, zesty Grand Marnier sauce- it was heavenly.  You must eat these.

The crème brûlée was equally satisfying.  TBS mentioned how much he enjoyed the simplicity of it, no poached raspberries, lavender or lime to detract from the voluptuous, vanilla bean custard and crisp sugar crust which really don't need company.  It seems we are purists when it comes to crème brûlée.

What I love about Hell of the North is that they offer supper.  I can imagine arriving home late from a weekend away and paying Hell of the North a late visit for a glass of wine, some duck liver parfait and of course a serving of their Crêpes Suzette.  This will be happening.

Good to know:

2013 Arfion Pinot Rose, Yarra Valley, Victoria $45
Duck liver parfait, Madeira jelly, brioche $12
Beef tartare $17
Asparagus, farro, chevre, black garlic vinaigrette $17
John Dory, prawn mousse, crab and coconut furnet $26
Crêpes Suzette $13
Crème Brûlée $12

Hell of the North
135 Greeves Street
Wednesday to Friday 5:00pm to 1:00am
Saturday 12:00pm to 1:00am
Sunday 12:00pm to 11:00pm

Images: T B Southam

Hell of the North on Urbanspoon


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