Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Hell Of The North - Fitzroy Freezing Over

What originally intrigued me about Hell of the North was the name of this restaurant and bar in Fitzroy. I was originally sucked into the grasp of this well designed space by the name and the name alone. I originally thought the name made some sort of bizarre reference to hell because the venue was a challenge to get to by road being located on Greeves Street with "No Entry" signs posted both on one entrance on Smith Street and also from the other direction on Gore Street. An enigma as such that fortunately Google Maps and the driver were able to decrypt and I reckon if the Apple Maps application was being used we would have ended up in hell itself - Docklands. It was during my first visit when we sat at the bar and drank Charlie Sheen inspired cocktails. It was when I quizzed the affable lady behind the bar as to what the name of the premises was all about as surely everything that is found behind the stately yellow door that you open bares no resemblance to hell but actually quite the opposite. I was advised that this place shares its name with a bicycle race that is held on Easter Sunday in France which is famous for its cobblestones and treacherous terrain. So not only did I become educated whilst knocking back cocktails but I gained a new found appreciation for bicycle racing and I didn't have to spend days watching it on the television. I can continue to devote my time to criticising our national cricket team instead.

My second visit to Hell Of The North was a planned systematic affront on what I considered some of my favourite places to go in Fitzroy as I was entertaining a blue-blooded cockney that was visiting from Sydney. His missus was at a conference and being the true mate that I am committed my afternoon and evening to not only show him some of the out of the way places in the area but to also get him pissed. Nice guy I am. Knowing that the menu would suit this gentleman, I once again threw open the yellow door with the intention to eat but also knowing that the restaurant and bar would impress.

Although we considered the "Let Us Feed You" option ($65 p/p) we decided to pick and choose from the menu. The cold day demanded that a French Onion soup ($12) would start us off. This was not only hearty but rich and full of flavour which was complemented by a perfect amount of cheese that was in turn part of every spoonful that entered my mouth. There was a great balance of onion and cheese which made this one of the better soups that I have had in a while. Beef Tartare ($17) was the next starter of sorts to follow. The raw meat was not bastardised by any bizarre spices or an unholy trinity of interpretation but instead it was a basic yet brilliant serve that ultimately highlighted the professionalism of the staff who noticed we were running out of bread and brought another round without having to be asked. We were left to drink beer, eat like false prophets and converse in this very attractive space that also includes an outside terrace for dining and drinking.

Along with a quantity of alcohol that even Charlie Sheen would be jealous of, we both ordered the Ox Cheek ($26) with Pommes Puree and a Bordelaise sauce. The highly concentrated and rich sauce was a natural pair with the cheek, which was so tender that it could be cut with not only the back of the knife, which is always a good test, but also your fork. The cockney gentleman that I was with is highly critical of cheek and I had a certain amount of satisfaction in the end that he enjoyed it also. We pondered the intriguing wine list but remained faithful to beer given the early hour.

On both occasions that I found myself at Hell of the North I was impressed by the service and the relaxed but professional attitude. On the first visit I got the opportunity to inspect the sommelier's wine book, enscribed with a pencil and is timeless as the wind. The stories that can be told if those pages could only talk just adds to the allure of this place.

Although you will not find ice cubes in hell or Fitzroy freezing over any time soon, this place is a great escape from the mortal world where you can be excused from being lead from light into darkness.

Hell of the North, Fitzroy, Melbourne
Hell of the North
135 Greeves St., Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9417 6660
My Rating: 15.25/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 3.75/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

When I made this post originally, 93% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also like Hell of the North.

Hell of the North on Urbanspoon