After navigating through Chinatown, upon entering Punch Lane, you feel like you are in another part of the city, let alone somewhere else in the world. No longer are you confronted with the mobs or people enqueued for yum cha, restaurant workers thrusting their menus in your face, tourists shoulder charging you and the smell of old ducks hanging in the windows. Punch Lane is nothing like that. High ceilings adorned with wine bottles, dark colours, large comfortable chairs, chalkboards and happy staff are found once you enter this oasis. After entering and the formalities are out of the way, water and menus arrive. Enthusiastic service consults with you instead of just takes your order. Everyone seems to be very knowledgeable, especially when it comes to the very complex and savoir-faire wine list that not only impressed me but left me with reading material that distracted me from my growling stomach.
Being intrigued by the "5 Course Tasting Menu" for $69 which changes daily it seems, I ordered it after the staff briefly described what was in store. I asked for a bottle of Spinifex to complement this mini-tour de force.
Chef Luke Croston certainly thinks outside of the box and delivers. Whenever I start a meal with quail, I always hope that I am in for something special since I love eating the little bird and in this instance, what was delivered accompanied with cracked wheat, bacon and a pickled shallot dressing was just... yum! The second dish, the calamari followed with a blue cod tartare which was mixed with a jumble of scallops, chirozo, pickled rhubarb and most interesting apple. It was a complex taste and I never thought pickled rhubarb and apple would match so well with cod and scallop let alone chorizo but I was pleasantly surprised and this dish was the highlight of the gastronomic journey that I undertook. The fourth Wagyu dish was then followed by a Pear and vanilla custard which lived up to the hype as I was torn between that and the chocolate hazelnut brownie.
It was easy to get lost in the large chair and let the restaurant take care of us. Other diners, including the large group by the window appeared jovial and I know that we certainly were when we ultimately left and found our way to Bar Americano. Throughout the night I thought about the blue cod tartare dish with the chorizo, apple and pickled rhubarb. It was like a ghost haunting me and constantly reminding me that I had better return soon or else I may never be able to experience it again. I really hope that is not the case. I did realise when I went to get some cash later to pay the bill at Bar Americano, I had left my credit card at Punch Lane. After the amount of alcohol that I had enjoyed in the afternoon and into the evening, I wasn't too pleased walking back however the restaurant had happily secured it and returned it to me with a smile.
Link to review
43 Little Bourke Street Melbourne VIC 3000
My Rating: 15/20
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Comment: Award winning wine list + chef's choice
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
When I made this post originally, 90% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also liked Punch Lane. I am not surprised. You will too.