Farm, Feathers & Fur @ The Commoner (MFWF)

March 26, 2012

122 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
Last weekend, D and I trotted over to Fitzroy to pay a visit to The Commoner, a Mod-English restaurant that had been high on my “to go to” list for months. When I saw they were hosting a Farm, Feather and Fur luncheon degustation with matching ales/wines, I jumped at the chance to attend. Tickets were $110, which made it the priciest of my MFWF events, but it was also my favourite, and well worthwhile.

The inconspicuous and narrow shop front is very deceptive: inside is a long and light filled room with quirky and homely decorations. I instantly liked it, there was jazzy music playing, and the clientele were a pleasant mix of young and (slightly) older adults. There is a large communal table by the front window and a labyrinth-style red shelf on one wall filled with all sorts of interesting trinkets. I should say now that the service was impeccable for the entire lunch, attentive and polite and easy to chat to. One waitress in particular had a gorgeous English accent (I’m a closet Anglophile).

Though the front room isn’t large, there are more tables in a corridor next to the serving station, in addition to a courtyard and a particularly beautiful upstairs area.

This is the wood oven that they use for cooking. Our roasted carrots were done here! The bathrooms are in the courtyard, and at the bottom of the cubicle door on the inside were the words “Beware of Limbo Dancers!”, which made me giggle.

This room is called the Rabbit Trap, and I am absolutely enamoured with the interior design. I’m attracted to the idea of a small, intimate dining area (perfect for a night out with the girls), and I love love love that chandelier. I think the name the Rabbit Trap comes from the interesting wire sculpture mounted above the fireplace.

There’s a slightly larger room, also upstairs, also with a utensil-themed chandelier, though this time with the addition of feathers (quite fitting for our themed lunch).

After my expedition upstairs, I returned to find the first course on the table, D patiently waiting for me to return and photograph it before beginning (I’ve trained him well…). Crudites and anchovy butter. I was a huge fan of the anchovy butter, but I would have preferred to eat it with bread rather than crudites.

D had the matching ales, beginning with Red Hill’s Golden Ale, which was quite light. I started with a Harcourt Valley Bress cider which was lovely and crisp, and tasted more like champagne than the earthy, musty ciders you get in France.

Our first dish covered the feathered component of the meal: rare duck breast, pheasant ballotine, truffled white bean puree and mustard fruits. It was just lovely; the duck perfectly pink and soft, and the ballotine with a strong taste of thyme. The truffled white bean puree in particular was beautiful, I could have eaten an entire bowl. I love the look of the succulent pink duck pieces folded over on the plate.

For this course, I moved on to a white wine from Heathcote Bendigo, La Gallina Bress, which was nice and dry (the sommelier also told me it had a fruity nose).

For our next course, D started on a Belgian Blonde Ale, and me on a light blended red (Tempranillo, Garnacha, Syrah), again from Gallina. I remember having a terrible blended red a while ago but I enjoyed this one and felt it matched the venison well.

Venison loin, black pudding (yes yes yes!!) caramelised apple, celeriac puree. It was at this point in the meal that I decided I’d like to remain at the Commoner forever, dining on gamey meats and drinking red wine, if you please. Once again, they’d done a superb job with the venison, which can be quite tough when cooked because it is such a lean meat. I also really enjoyed the celeriac puree, and the whole thing made me feel like I was in a quiet pub in England, sitting by a fire and sheltering from blustery weather outside.

Our final savory course was a rabbit and prune pie with wood roasted carrots (in the oven I referred to earlier) and bacon. And wow wow wow this pie was so delicious! I loved the slight sweetness from the prune, the pastry was excellent, and the carrots had a brilliant woodiness to them.

D moved on to a Scotch Ale, which he really enjoyed, and the sommelier poured me a glass (yes another glass!) of red, this time the much darker Pittnauer, which is Austrian. Austrian wine! I was unsure, having never heard of wine from Austria before, but it was lovely with a peppery taste and a deep body that sat at the back of your tongue. Still not as gutsy as a Heathcote Shiraz, but excellent nonetheless.

Oooh, fleshy.

And THEN (because I wasn’t buzzed enough already), the sommelier gave us each a glass of All Saints Rutherglen muscat which was, dare I say, my favourite after the Austrian red. The label was quite amusing though, “Kaleidescope hues of amber and gold, irresistable flavours of butterscotch, raisin and treacle”. Whatever the colour/composition, it was freaking delicious and wonderfully spiced.

The muscat was served with a brown ale pudding, salted caramel and date puree. Though probably better suited as a winter dish, D and I indulged in the sticky, moist cake that had a decidedly ale-like taste. The salted caramel sauce was great, although the date puree I could have gone without. I thought this was a great way to finish off the meal because it wasn’t too sweet as to overwhelm you.

As you can tell, I loved my first experience at the Commoner, and am currently in the process of planning my second! Thank you to everyone there who made our experience so lovely!

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