351 Queensberry St (cnr Peel St), North Melbourne
Phone: 9329 3353
It’s been a while since I last posted, I know. A lot’s been going on, but the most prominent and exciting thing is that I have a new job! Huzzah!
In any case, here’s a tale of one of the last lunches I had while I was still working at my old job. It was a lazy Friday afternoon, and I took the opportunity of being in ‘What are they going to do, fire me?’ mode – after having given notice – to join my gainfully semi-employed friends for lunch.
The Crimean’s been around for a while, but doesn’t seem to get a lot of press. For a place with such a rare – if not unique – proposition, I find that a little surprising. The first time I visited, it was just for drinks, and let me tell you, the Eastern European wine selection is pretty eye-opening. I tried an interesting ‘dessert wine’ which was more like red wine’s answer to moscato than a port. There are also an interesting range of cocktails on the list, which will be expertly mixed for you by the King of Hipsters.
Anyway, onto lunch. We started off in the bar with a drink, then once we had all arrived, we were shown through to the dining room. I arrived at the table last, after pausing to take a photo of a poster with an otter on it, and being jovially chastised for my photo espionage.
Clearly, that didn’t stop me from continuing to take photos. After we ordered, we were presented with an amuse of borscht. It was quite full-bodied and flavoursome, which was a contrast to the rather watery, insipid borscht I’d last sampled at Borscht, Vodka and Tears.
One of the failings of The Crimean, as opined by N, is that they don’t actually have a lunch menu. Given the hearty nature of Eastern European/Baltic food, this can make having lunch there something of a heavy affair. D started with the beef and pork pelmeni, which looked quite tasty. But then they look like Chinese jiaozi, so of course they look tasty…N had the Poor man’s caviar – beetroot, that is – served with some awesome thin rye bread crisps. Yes, of course I tried some when she offered!A and I forwent the starters, sort of, so let’s move onto mains. D had the ‘Bigos‘, described as ‘Polish hunter casserole of housemade pork sausage, smoked pork belly, braised pork neck, juniper, sauerkraut’. While it wasn’t quite as large as the name implied – yeah yeah, bigos probably doesn’t translate as big dish – it certainly looked hefty and rich. D said he enjoyed it.N had some sort of beef short rib, which has since been taken off the menu, but it certainly gave me meat envy. And Brussel sprout envy! I love Brussel sprouts, but I have a feeling that was because I wasn’t brought up eating them over-boiled.I had decided I couldn’t face a main course, so instead I had two starter dishes. It’s actually a good tactic, one which I picked up from my sister. Not only do you not get ridiculously full, but you get to try more stuff! I had the pierogi, which were beef, but have since been changed to duck and prune on the menu. Which would have been even better!They were quite tasty, but the dough was little heavy and dry. Perhaps that’s the style, I’m not sure. I’m far from being an expert on the cuisines of the Black Sea.I also had the stuffed vine leaves, which were like a drier version of dolmades I guess. They were well spiced, and I remember feeling guilty not offering anyone a taste. They’re off the menu now as well. In some way, that’s a little frustrating, because it makes writing about it a little redundant, but it’s also quite heartening to see that they refresh their menu so often.A had little mini blinis, with salmon roe and house cured gravlax. She also didn’t feel like a big lunch, because she had an impending big dinner. Props for planning stomach space.A paired the blinis with a side ‘mountain salad’, which looked lovely, until she poured the accompanying lurid beetroot dressing all over it. Then it looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. But she said it tasted good, though.Having chatted with a few other bloggers about the Crimean after my lunch there, there seems to be a sentiment that it’s ‘not all that’. I have to say I quite liked it – the decor and service are a little quirky, but in a fun way, and while the food isn’t particularly amazing, it’s good, and something a little out of the ordinary. It’s probably a better option for a hearty dinner destination than a light lunch spot.