Pork is very common in Chinese cooking. And when my mum cooks, she puts pork in almost everything. When she’s cooking a vegetable dish she will normally add strips of pork, even when she’s already serving a couple of meat dishes. When making Chinese soups, she normally adds pork meat or bones. It would be pretty hard to be a non pork eater (or a vegetarian!) in her house.
I, however, very, very rarely cook pork. It’s not that I don’t like it – I just don’t like to cook it! So when I see an offer for a pork dinner, I’m all over it like a donkey on a waffle.
Kimberly organised a mini porkfest dinner recently at the Provincial Hotel with some fellow twitterers/bloggers – for $50 we had three courses of pork followed by dessert. The Provincial Hotel surprises me. I’d never eaten there before, despite walking past a thousand times (Alastair and I lived in Fitzroy years ago). It’s the large, beige-yellow building with a terrible case of peeling paint, on the corner of Brunswick Street and Johnston Street. Inside the building is a pub, but also a rather good restaurant.
Before we got stuck into the piggy goodness, there was bread and oil. I don’t know what they do to their bread at the Provincial Hotel, but it was oily and moreish. It was so hard not to fill up on bread!
First we had mustard stuffed and fried pig tails, with house made black pudding, carrot puree and crushed peas.
Inside the crunchy croquette was the meat from the pig tails. Mhmm deep fried, porky goodness – hard to go wrong.
The second course of parsley crumbed pork loin, apple puree, salt baked beetroot salad and cider sauce was gorgeous, and my favourite of the night. Underneath the two pieces of meat were thin slices of salty beetroot (I know it looks a bit like sauce in the photo).
I set aside my piece of crackling from the pork belly to eat until last, and had to guard it zealously from people trying to steal it. It was perfect – a crunchy, salty pork chip!
After a wee break, we received the last porky porkness, being wood roasted pork shoulder, with olive crushed potato, pickled pear and rocket salad and salsa verde. The shoulder had been braised for 18 hours (from memory) and it was a bit dry, but the salsa verde helped to give it a lift. I also really liked the pickled pear with the pork – I never would have thought of that combination but it was great, a bit of fruity sourness to go with the meat.
Sadly my stomach was reaching it’s limit by this stage, so I just couldn’t eat the potato. Not enough room! There was room for that piece of crackling on top of the pork shoulder though. Oh yeah.
We finished with a superbly bittersweet chocolate tart, with pistachio salt caramel and vanilla ice cream. The chocolate tart was very, very rich and I loved the dollop of salted pistachio caramel. I wish there had been more ice cream to offset the richness of the tart… not that it stopped me eating the entire thing, when I thought there was no way I could finish it. So rich but so good!
Like my mum, Chef Paul Cooper seems to know his pork. I don’t know why I always thought the Provincial Hotel was just a dodgy pub, but I’m glad that I now know the truth – that inside there’s a good restaurant that serves tasty, reasonably priced food. I’ll certainly be back again!
For more on the Provincial Hotel, see these blogs:
[googleMap name=”The Provincial Hotel” width=”600″ height=”300″ directions_to=”false”]299 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, VIC, Australia[/googleMap]
The Provincial Hotel
299 Brunswick Street
Phone: 03 9810 0042