Seriously, why have I left it so long until November 2009 before I set foot in The European? Totally inexcusable as this gem was there all along. So it was a Sunday where the four of us girls had made plans to go and see Chicago the Musical (yes, again for me). This time I had scored us the front row tickets. So I thought a lunch at The European would be a nice pre-theatre lunch event. Turned out I was right of course. I generally don’t steer you wrong when it comes to choosing restaurant!
(complimentary crusty bread and aioli)
The European promised us ‘Elegant dining’ – I’m not really sure about that. The place was noisy and lively despite its dark brooding image (the dining room was rather dark as you may have worked out the decline in photography). But it was, as the name suggested, very European, old fashioned and most importantly very delicious food was served.
(fried white baits – $10.50)
I didn’t feel like ordering a main and felt like trying lots of things since the menu was interesting so I ordered two separate smaller dishes (and a dessert but we’ll get there). First up for me was the fried whitebaits. To me, whitebaits are just one of those quintessentially British things. Very simple but done oh-so-right. The fish were fresh and perfectly fried until golden and with wonderful crunch. It was served with a slice of lemon and some sort of sauce (my brain is a bit hazy at this point). Beautiful. On a subsequent visit, I had the fried school prawns done perfectly again. I guess I love the little seafood that you eat whole. The European still had not let me down.
(baby beans and almonds – $9.50)
My other dish was a side of green beans and almonds. Perfectly cooked green and butter beans with shallots, broad beans (?) and almonds in a bit of olive oil. I added a squeeze of lemon from my white baits, which didn’t actually need lemon. Perfect.
(Duck terrine with house condiment and grilled baguette – $19.50)
This was KJ’s duck terrine. The terrine was lovely and meaty with rich duck meat and err… various other things. To be frank, all I remembered about it was that it was very ducky and terrine-y. Purpose achieved. Couldn’t fault it.
(Freshly shucked oysters – $3.50 each)
Jacqui had settled for oysters. They were served with the usual traditional suspect of red wine vinegar and shallots and lemon. She said they were perfectly fresh and fabulous.
(Smoked trout and potato frittata with avocado salsa – $16.00)
Maya had ordered the frittata. Unfortunately, I never had any. Nor do I remember her saying any good or bad about it. She didn’t finish it but that’s quite normal for Maya. I normally do that for her but this time I was shockers. Yes, I admit it, I am the family’s, workplace’s, circle of friends’ garbage guts. But without further ado, let’s get on to the desssert.
(Banana soufflé, cinnamon doughnuts & ice cream – $15.50)
Let me give you a tip: when you are at The European, order a souffle. Just. Order. A. Souffle. It was the absolute highlight of the meal. Sure, I’m not a dessert person. Sure, those were the best damn white baits I had ever eaten. But the souffle won. So light. So fluffy. So banana-ey. So vanilla seedy. So, so good! I love the banana flavour (which surely must have been banana flavouring since the souffle texture was too refined and light to contain any real banana in it, someone correct me if I’m wrong here) and I love the crunch of the real vanilla seeds in it. Heaven. I don’t need to talk about the ice cream and the doughnuts. They were not important. Good. But not important. I felt that similar experience with their chocolate souffle (daily special) on a separate occasion but in a totally rich chocolate way. I just couldn’t figure out how something that was so light tasted so rich. But that’s science experiment for another day.
(chocolate delice – $15.50?)
Jacqui ordered the chocolate delice. I didn’t question her how good it was (too busy with the souffle) but I did observe that she looked like she was in heaven. So that was that. Folks, leave room for dessert. This is a special advice that I personally rarely follow but I am making an exception for this place.
So what? No complaint? Hmm, well, the dining room was pretty dark. Not ideal for photos. And the service while very efficient is rather reminiscent of European cafe standard. But I’m going back. In fact, I had been back since. And I will again.
The European, 161 Spring Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 (03 96540811)
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