EARL Canteen

500 Bourke Street (enter via Lt Bourke), Melbourne CBD
Phone: 9600 1995

So after weeks of reading about pork belly rolls and macarons, I finally had the opportunity to visit EARL Canteen in the city for myself. And let me say right off the bat, the hype about the sex sandwich is justified.

EARL – named after the Earl of Sandwich, that eponymous inventor – serves up gourmet sandwiches/rolls/wraps, using high quality sustainably-sourced ingredients, with a focus on freshness and seasonality. The proprietors Jackie and Simon both have great food/hospitality pedigree, but you can read more about that elsewhere. I want to talk about the food!

Monday morning, I stopped in for breakfast. I’d hear EARL made their own crumpets, and they serve them with either a blood plum jam, or lemon curd. Lemon curd, people! Sour is one flavour which doesn’t get enough play, in my opinion.

The crumpet was soft yet springy. I’ve never had fresh crumpets before, but this one made me want to try making them myself one day. It being a Monday morning, I also had a coffee. I don’t know much about coffee, but I’m sorry to report this one wasn’t great. However, I did learn through twitter later in the day that was indeed looking to hire a barista, so I’ll chalk this one up to them being understaffed on this one occasion.

I came back for lunch. The girl that served me remembered me from that morning, which is always nice. It was time to get down to business, though. “I’ll have the pork belly, thanks.”

Juicy slabs of belly pork, replete with crisp, crunchy crackling, nestled on a bed of apple, cabbage and fennel coleslaw and some wilted silverbeet. All of that goodness is somehow -just- squeezed into a Dench sourdough baguette. Here’s another shot:

I’ll be honest – it’s hard to eat. And I was very glad it came with a knife ad fork, because at one point, I had to lift a slab of pork belly out with my fork and eat it sans bread. So I could then jam the bread into my mouth. I think that’s part of the reason they put napkin dispensers on the tables instead of only giving you one when you order your meal.

As you can see, I did manage to get through it without making TOO much of a mess. BTW, is it just me, or is Harry Kewell being a little overexposed right about now? Not that I would complain about Harry Kewell exposing himself.. but I digress. See what a sex sandwich does to you?

I stopped in the next afternoon to pick up a few macarons on my way home, because I had been informed that the legendary salted caramel macarons were back (it’s the one on the right). I also had one each of the coffee and rose-flavoured ones. The salted caramel was clearly the stand-out, though. I like these macarons, because they’re not overly large like the Lindt ones – there’s only so much sugar and almond meal one should ingest in a minute.

Cut to Thursday lunchtime: the other item on the menu which most had me intrigued was the truffled mushroom. Oh, and yes, I am aware there are also wagyu meatballs on the menu. I’m a sucker for mushrooms, though. This time, I got the order to go – all the tables were full!

Again with the Harry Kewell. I did it to myself, so maybe it is just me…

The mushroom and truffle concoction comes with a gooey, runny egg, and wilted spinach, all wrapped in a soft, floury tortilla. Again, this was a messy eat. The amount of fungal juice (I say that in the best possible way) was a little overwhelming, and it dripped steadily into the container. I restrained myself from drinking the fluid after I’d finished the wrap, but only because I was in public. Take the wrap back to your office and close the door, so you can have your way with it, is my recommendation. It was another success, flavour-wise, though I wish it would’ve had something with a crunchier texture in there – it was all a bit soft.

EARL is a bit pricier than your regular sandwich joint, even for the city, but what you get for your money is still excellent value, in my book. Now, to convince my boss to shell out another $3,000 so I can spend another week at a training course in the city…
EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon