Disclosure: Alastair and I dined courtesy of The Commoner.
My last visit to The Commoner in Fitzroy was a disgracefully long time ago. It was back in 2009 for a food bloggers’ meet up where the Commoner generously let us use their courtyard and their wood fired oven. How kind is that? Ever since then I’d been meaning to head back for a meal but you know the story – life gets in the way and time passes. So when I received an invite to come in and check out the menu, I was keen as mustard.
Located in Fitzroy on Johnson Street, The Commoner serves food with a Modern British slant. They have an emphasis on fresh and local ingredients and their menu changes with the seasons depending what’s available. The atmosphere in the small restaurant is relaxed and friendly – the décor is eclectic with funny little decorative knick knacks and mismatched vintage plates.
Foodwise, Alastair and I put ourselves in the very capable hands of the owner, Jo Corrigan who fed us well with a parade of dishes and accompanying wines. Anyone can choose the “Feed me” option from the menu, which I always like to do. But if you’d rather choose dishes yourself you can do that too. The menu is divided into “small food”, “more food”, sides and desserts.
From small food, our first dish was Richard’s surprise (padron) peppers ($8). Simply grilled and served with a dusting of salt, the surprise in these peppers is that every now and again you find a spicy one. Otherwise, they’re mostly sweet and capsicum like. The very first pepper I ate was a spicy one, which really got my taste buds working. Alastair was also lucky enough to find a spicy one. Winner winner.
The boccerones – Sicilian white anchovies on crostini with sweet pepper and aioli ($3 each) – were fantastic. The anchovies were the pickled variety rather than salted, so it was a little crunchy mouthful of slightly vinegary fish complemented by the creamy aioli. Really nice.
I totally swooned over the parmesan and truffle croquettes ($4 each). Made from a cheesey potato mash, they had a perfectly crunchy shell and just the right amount of truffle aroma. I could totally pig out on these things.
Alastair doesn’t eat black pudding, so I had the house black pudding with mash and a hen’s yolk ($10) all to myself. Eaten by itself, the black pudding was quite salty, so it was a genius idea to serve it with mash and egg yolk. It was a very rich dish and probably better shared rather than eaten by one person… (despite the richness I might’ve eaten most of it. Don’t look at me!)
The dish of seared scallops with cauliflower, apple and walnut salad with hibiscus dressing ($16) was spot on – just cooked scallops and crunchy tart apple salad.
We also had a little rabbit pie with wood oven cooked carrots (which wasn’t on the menu). It was a really nice little pie – the savoury and un-gamey filling was piping hot and wrapped in puff pastry. I also loved the carrots that had picked up the smoke from the wood oven.
And as if that wasn’t enough, we shared an amazing wood roast baby chicken with foraged pine mushrooms ($32). The meat was incredibly smokey and tender and I loved the mushrooms.
We also had a couple of sides – a potato salad and a yellow carrot, celery and fig salad with a red wine reduction ($14)
After all that food, we didn’t think we could fit in dessert. But when it came out we managed to find a bit of spare stomach space for beignets crusted with vanilla sugar and served with lemon verbena curd ($4 each). They were gorgeous – so light.
But the star was a bloody amazing brown ale pudding with salted caramel and cream ($13). Oh my god. This is my kind of dessert. I find lots of salted caramel things quite underwhelming, but the pudding was incredible – the properly salty caramel sauce meant that it was sweet and savoury at the same time. So, so good.
There is something so very charming about The Commoner and we had a brilliant lunch. I’m still dreaming about that pudding, and the chicken, and the croquettes, and…
Oh, and do you like movies and silly puns? If you do, every second month The Commoner are adding a movie inspired menu in addition to their normal ala carte menu (the movie menus are $80 for 5 courses, or $120 with matching wines). They sound like a bit of very tasty fun. Starting on 5 April, the movie menu is Claws (inspired by Jaws, of course), a crustacean menu that’s only available in April. Coming up later in the year there’s Whisky Business in June, Back to the Butcher in August, Belicatessen in October and Planet of the Canapes in December. I’m particularly keen on Whisky Business and Belicatessen (swine and cider – oh yes!).
Further reading: Joyce from Melb Hot or Not went to February’s movie menu launch night – Poultrygeist.
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122 Johnston St
Phone: 03 9415 6876
Open Wednesday & Thursday for Dinner – 6pm until Late
Friday, Saturday & Sunday Lunch 12pm-3pm, & Dinner 6pm until Late