Buying lunch at work can be placed into three categories. At one end of the scale, there’s lunch on the run (i.e. takeaway) and at the other end you’ve got the substantial restaurant meal where it’s unlikey that you’ll be heading back to work in any fit state. Somewhere in between there’s a need for a cheap and cheerful lunch – like a pub meal; something that’s a little more than a bowl of noodles and throw in a cheeky pot or two or a glass of wine with a few work mates… a.k.a. the perfect Friday lunch. And of course, it needs to be in close proximity so you’re spending more of your lunch break in the venue as opposed to walking to and from it.
The Spencer St & Collins St part of the CBD (aptly referred to by twoMunch as the “Baghdad end of Collins St”) lacks these in-betweeners. You can only go to Saint & Rogue so many times for a quick feed and a drink, or God forbid, The Exchange Hotel.
I generally only go as far up Little Collins St as Hugo’s for my coffee, so I rarely notice much else going on. Although I knew that the dodgy former Irish Pub on Little Collins St was being renovated into something, however until I read a burger review last week on The Burger Adventure, I had no idea that we were being rewarded with an alternative lunch venue.
The Bottom End is a pub, disco and diner all rolled into one. Recently opening for lunch on Fridays, its apparent popularity has seen it extend its lunch trade to Wednesdays and Thursdays as well. The distinct, gothic black exterior houses an interior which can be roughly described as a hotchpotch of retro American diner, medieval, baroque and 70’s kitsch, amongst other things – but it all seems to work and you feel quite comfortable once you adjust to your surroundings.
There’s a solid selection of beers on tap (Coopers Pale and Sparkling, Carlton, Stella), a couple of ciders and a good range of bottled brews to satisfy most. Wines are split into three categories; cheap ($25 / bottle), reasonable ($35 / bottle) and good ($45 / bottle) with a red, white, rose and sparkling offered in each category. In the unlikely event that P-Diddy turns up, there’s a 2004 Cristal available for $450.
There are also many classic cocktails and a bunch of not-so-classic cocktails, like the Australian Martini (vodka, Cointreau rinse, vegemite smear, coon cheese, pickled onion) and Rave Juice (Agwa, energy drink and a glow stick in a bag). Needless to say everything is done with a massive dose of good humour, even the gents’ toilets – but I’ll leave that surprise for you to see for yourself.
So, onto the food. The menu is American Diner: quick out of the kitchen, lots of fun, not the healthiest of fare, but great to share and more importantly goes well with the aforementioned booze. I was intrigued by the ‘famous’ Mac ‘n’ Cheese balls with garlic aioli ($10), so they were duly ordered as an appetiser. They were probably as good as deep fried balls of macaroni and cheese were ever going to be; six bite-sized morsels, a few flecks of bacon in the mac’n'cheese mix. It was probably a little on the bland side – a creamy centre served with a creamy aioli. A dipping sauce with some contrasting bite probably would have served better.
For the more substantial part of our meal, it was the Bottom End Cheesey Bacon Burger ($16) for the majority of us and a lone Philly Cheese Steak ($16) for the minority. Other choices included NYC Buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce, a hot mortadella roll, an Italian hot dog with all the trimmings and a New Orleans classic Po’boy, featuring prawn, chorizo and egg – all served with seasoned crinkle-cut fries and all $16.
The burgers arrived quicker than you could say “well, honk my hooters” and we were presented with some burgers of tower-esque proportion where width gave way to height; a precursor that this was going to be a messy, pain the arse of a thing to eat. And it was, but it was also delicious.
Inside a homemade brioche bun, a juicy (bordering on too juicy) beef patty mingled with some smoky bacon, two kinds of cheese (gruyere and smoked Dutch). Lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle also made a cameo. Oh and there was a dab of The Bottom End’s ‘special sauce’, which I think was the same sauce served with the accompanying crinkle-cut fries… ‘fry sauce’ – a mayo with a bit of ketchup and a tart, vinegary finish – I’m thinking pickle juice.
The Philly Cheese Steak featured a white hero roll stuffed with chopped scotch fillet, green capsicum, fried onions and provolone cheese whiz; an American processed cheese spread which is the cheese served with an authentic Philly Cheese Steak. The recipient, who has eaten the real thing in the U.S., declared it a damn fine reproduction.
The crinkle-cut fries were of your frozen variety. I wasn’t expecting hand cut chips and I didn’t really care that much as I was struggling with just finishing the burger.
Look, this stuff is definitely not first date food. You will get a little untidy trying to eat it and you will go through five or six napkins in the process. But you will also have fun with a few workmates over lunch and a couple of beers. And if you’re one of those people that can’t find the time to get away to do something like this every now and again, then perhaps you need to tap your boss on the shoulder and suggest some time out for a bit of team building… and better yet, you know a great place where you can do this.
The Bottom End
579 Little Collins St, Melbourne
(03) 9629 3001
Good For: A quick bite to eat at lunch with your workmates, post-work boozing and ‘poof doof’ on Saturdays, apparently
Not Good For: The health-conscious… although there is a Waldorf Salad on the menu