North Fitzroy Arms Hotel Haskins Restaurant – 296 Rae Street, North Fitzroy

It’s a sad thing when the closest pub to you (no more than a 2 minute walk away) serves terrible food and worse yet, by people (see: owners) that don’t give a damn.

After a day at the tennis, we decided that cooking was definitely not going to happen at home, so the North Fitzroy Arms was a logical choice.

The menu is (overly) extensive, featuring a number of European rib-stickers; kassler, strudel, sauerkraut, kransky, goulash and this is combined with your standard pub fare (steaks, fish & chips and so on). Then the chef completes his or her menu by going around the world in 80 (or at least eight) dishes with, covering Italy (gnocchi, risotto, veal scallopine), Asia (Szechuan prawns, Thai beef salad), Australia (Kangaroo), North Africa (Harissa-spiced chicken with a pomegranate salsa), Greece… you get the picture.
 
My fellow diners chose the fisherman’s basket and a gnocchi dish and I placed my trust into my partner’s hands to surprise me. She chose the Kassler with dumplings and sauerkraut.
 
The fisherman’s basket was what you’d expect: Battered fish, a couple of prawns and scallops and some chips, served with lemon and homemade tartare sauce.
 
The Kassler was two big slabs of cured pork loin, covered in a mountain (literally) of homemade sauerkraut, two discs of dumpling, which could have easily passed for last month’s Christmas stuffing and some accompanying undercooked vegetables. The biggest problem with this dish was that the sauerkraut overpowered everything else on the plate… waaaaay too much paprika, which killed everything. I wasn’t at all a big fan of this dish, so as a consolation my partner generously offered to swap dishes.
 
And then I knew why. The gnocchi was awful. Tough, chewy bullets in a mixture of tomato, garlic, chilli and then a bunch of undercooked steamed vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, carrot). Far too much going on in the bowl and it unpleasantly tasted a little tinny/rancid, like burnt garlic.
 
Then my partner chomped on a small 1.5cm piece of wire in the Kassler. By that point, we were more than done.
As we were leaving, my partner took the piece of wire on a side plate to show to the staff what was in her meal. The owner of the premises just happened to be the person on the other side of the bar at the time. His unapologetic response, totally devoid of any empathy was “Well, how did that get there” And that was it.
 
Note to the owner: Saying “Sorry” is not an admission of liability. You just lost some local customers who have vowed never to return and gained a review that says avoid at all costs.
 
P.S. Avoid at all costs.
 
Good for: nothing in particular
Not good for: apologies
 
North Fitzroy Arms Hotel Haskins Restaurant
296 Rae Street, North Fitzroy 3068
(03) 9489 8519
 

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Josie Bones – 98 Smith St, Collingwood

If heaven consisted of protein driven dishes, with many derived from the bits of animals people generally discard and nearly 180 beers to choose from (without a Carlton Draught or VB in sight), then shoot me dead now.

I’ve been itching to visit since Josie opened her doors in early December; we were meant for each other. I love beer, she has lots. Josie embraces a philosophy of nose to tail eating and as do I, but it’s a bugger to prepare and no one else in my household is prepared to eat it so I’m always on the hunt for it on a menu.

The offerings consist of some items that are priced per piece (oysters, mini scotch eggs with schmaltz mayo… mmm, chicken fat), but most are designed to share, although the dishes would not stretch beyond two people having a taste and average out at around the $13-$14 dollar mark. Some people may see this as poor value, but this not about feeling content after spending $20 on a parma and a pot of the aforementioned – it’s about being smacked around the head with massive punches of flavour from delicate and very well presented plates of food.

Here’s the low-down on the food we sampled:

There’s crackling of the day. Pork? Duh, that’s too easy. Try chicken skin; delicate and moorish and just a tad more flaked salt would have nailed it. Probably not very good for you either… but hey, I’m not here to count calories.

Trotter fritters with romesco sauce were three bite-sized morsels of tender trotter, flaked, shaped, crumbed and given what for in a deep fryer. The piquancy of the romesco sauce perfectly offset the fritter’s richness.

A small pot of the day’s rillettes (rabbit) was served with some thin, toasted sourdough and a small selection of pickles. The fine shreds (although not too fine, which I preferred) of rabbit were lightly bound with fat and were well seasoned.

Rolled pigs head with sauce gribiche and crackling rounded out this selection of dishes. This was a new piece of the animal for me to try and devoid of any apprehension, it was gone. The texture was soft (with the exception of a very crunchy piece of accompanying crackling) and the flavour was extremely piggy (that’s a compliment). Again, like the trotters, the sauce gribiche provided an excellent foil to counteract the richness of the protein.

The front of house staff were simply awesome; the pride taken to serve, have a chat about stuff in general, as well as the beers they’ve chosen and help me discover what ‘I’ might like to drink, was so refreshing. These guys are so very passionate and learned in what they do and they do it well.

Time passed. We tasted many different beers, we chatted and we even had an exchange of company as my lunch partner left so he could go home and cook a (stupidly) promised dinner for his partner, but he was quickly and tactically replaced by another like-minded, beer and protein loving friend.

A few more beers and all of a sudden it was later than we’d anticipated staying on. But upon taking one last peruse of the menu, we decided that we just had to try the lamb tartare, with beer brioche and a quail’s egg. I had never entertained the thought of substituting lamb for beef in a tartare. Wow! Lamb just has a more complex flavour. Rate it big time.

Look, this place rocks and ticks all my boxes. Chris, Julia, James and their friends / business partners have kicked a massive goal with this venue. I can see a Josie Bones in Sydney, Adelaide and where ever other good beer and offal-loving folk reside.

Josie Bones
98 Smith St, Collingwood 3066
(03) 9417 1878
 
Good for: meat, offal, beer, repeat
Not good for: vegetarians, vegans, wowsers and people that don’t like beer
 

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