238 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
+61 3 9416 4747
When you live on one side of the Yarra river in Melbourne, visiting places on the other side always seem like such an effort! The Saturday traffic! The football traffic! Unreliable public transport! It all just seems too hard, despite how much one loves the inner-city burbs on the other side.
On this Saturday however, I was invited to have a late lunch with my beautiful friend N in Collingwood/Fitzroy and I jumped at the chance to rediscover my old stomping ground. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took 20 minutes to get from Prahran Station to the cnr of Gertrude & Smith and I heard myself saying (as I do EVERY time) ‘gee I love it here. I really have to spend more time over this side’.
N & I tossed up on whether to try Andrew McConnell’s latest, Builders Arms, or her old favourite, Birdman Eating. Being a week away from our monthly pay cycle the frugal side of us voted on Birdman (and have vowed to return to ‘that side of the river’ when our funds are replenished to try Builders Arms).
It was relatively quiet when we first arrived, but it was after 3pm so that’s to be expected. We were pleasantly surprised that at that time of the day we could order from either the breakfast menu or the regular lunch menu.
The décor was funky and quirky with various items suspended from the ceiling, including a lighting arrangement made from old style eggbeaters and Barbie dolls with bird wings! The staff were lovely and welcoming and were not at all like some of the places around this area where their attitudes match their attire (grungy and too cool for school).
To start we chose a plate of zucchini fritters with fetta ($9.50) as recommended by our waitress. They came promptly (but not too fast) and were deliciously crispy on the outside with soft shredded zucchini on the inside. N thought the inside was a tad watery, but I think with zucchini you can’t really avoid that. I would have liked these much better if they weren’t so salty. On their own they were salty enough and the fetta exacerbated it even further so it was a bit too much for me.
N opted for the breakfast menu and chose baked eggs with roasted veggies. She said they were delicious and cooked beautifully but maybe a bit too much of some of the veg for her liking. They had a variety of baked egg options and all of them sounded yummo and great value at $14!
I chose one of the shared plate options, pork belly with wasai, rasdish and caramelised apple and at $18, I expected it to be more of a main. It was definitely a dish designed to share though with small squares of pork aligned beautifully on a plate and no accompaniments. Our lovely waitress offered me some bread to go with it, which I gratefully accepted. The pork was superbly cooked with crispy edges and juicy, tender meat and worked wonderfully with the apple and radish. The only thing that could have made it even better would have been a side of salad (but that was my fault for not ordering it!).
The dessert menu was very extensive and it all sounded fantastic. In the end we had narrowed it down to either the rhubarb and pear crumble or the chocolate & hazelnut brownie. When we asked our waitress her opinion, without hesitation she replied “the crumble – it’s amazing!’.
How could we argue with that? And to her credit, it was in fact, amazing, and quite possibly one of the best crumbles I have had. The combination of the pear and rhubarb was superb and the ice-cream added just the right amount of creamy sweetness. The crumble itself was beautifully browned and the perfect ratio to the fruit.
OVERALL: Quality food and great service. We sat there for nearly three hours (the last half an hour with just water) and never felt rushed. I would say it would be best either as a brunch place, or to get a few dishes to share (although that could get quite expensive if you ordered a few from the upper end of the menu). I will definitely be returning to ‘the other side’ and to Birdman again!