Monday, March 12, 2012

Money Order Office

Location: Driver Lane (near corner Bourke/Elizabeth Streets), Melbourne 3000
Phone: (03) 9639 3020
Cuisine: Tapas, Modern Australian, European

One place that's been on my list for a long time now has been Money Order Office, and on my latest trip back to Melbourne, I finally had the opportunity to try it out.

Tucked away at the end of a little laneway opposite GPO, Money Order Office isn't exactly the easiest place to find. It has a cute little exterior, and upon entering, you descend down some steps before an automatic glass door opens for you. We suspect there is a sense somewhere on the stairs, but we couldn't find it (not that we tried very hard).

Inside the ambiance is classy but relaxed. The lighting is dim, and there are seats in booths, as well as proper tables. We're allocated a nice booth along one of the walls with a nice view of the rest of the restaurant.

A waitress introduces herself and runs through the 8-course chef's selection for the evening. It's her first night  on the job, and I'm very impressed that most of the dishes roll off her tongue with little hesitation.

Despite the degustation sounding lovely, we opt to design our own menu for the night. A couple of small bites, two larger share dishes and a salad.

First out is the charcuterie. I think Cumulus Inc, Coda and the Aylesbury have spoiled me when it comes to cured meat, and charcuterie has become almost a staple for me when dining tapas-style.

charcuterie - serrano ham, chorizo-style cured meat and salami with pickles 
This charcuterie board came with a selection of three types of cured meats - a serrano ham, a chorizo-style meat (the name of which escapes me) and a type of salami - accompanied by mixed pickles and a few slivers of raw garlic. The serrano ham was salty and with a delicate texture very similar to thinly sliced pancetta. The chorizo style meat was a little heavier with a subtle smokey flavour and slightly more chewy. The salami was what you would expect of salami, but again delicately sliced. Impressed? Yes. A good appetiser start to the meal!

Being avid seafood fans, the next dish that came out had us almost salivating just from reading the menu description.

crab & avocado toast - sous vide spanner crab on avocado toast, served with a spiced watermelon gazpacho 
Toast is a little misleading, because the base was more of a crispy cracker than anything bread-like (I'm going to refrain from making a tax-related joke). The cracker was topped with a mound of sweet and juicy diced crab meat, pieces of creamy avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime. The freshness of the topping was evident from the first bite and an amazing taste sensation.  The watermelon gazpacho was served shooter-style (designed to be shot after eating the 'toast'). We ignored those instructions, and whilst the other two found the taste a little odd (shot it before finishing off their 'toast'), I found it went surprisingly well eaten with the 'toast'. For me, this was dish of the night.

The next dish was an interesting one that we had never seen nor heard of before, so we weren't quite sure what to expect. (Wikipedia tells me that a 'brandade' is an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil.)

salted cod brandade with fennel jam, green olives and broccoli
The dish was definitely different. Pieces of salted cod were tossed through were small pieces of broccoli, small green olives and fresh fennel which was then placed atop a mound of fennel puree. The salted cod was fairly salty, and went well with the subtle flavours of the fennel. I wasn't entirely sure of what role the broccoli or olives were meant to play, but the dish itself was quite pleasant to eat.

My fascination for pork belly always seems to override the risk that I may be disappointed by yet another badly done pork belly (too dry, too oily, too bland and not crunchy enough are the usual faults). So we took a gamble and ordered the pork belly from the list of larger dishes. One thing caught my eye the most with this menu entry - the cider foam.

twice cooked pork belly with jamon, savoy cabbage & cider foam
I was not disappointed. The pork belly was perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned and the crackling was crispy. Not quite Red Spice Road, but this was good in its own way. The meat was tender and had retained most of its juices and the fat was well-rendered such that the meat did not taste too oily or fatty. The savoy cabbage had been softened through either blanching or stewing, which brought out its natural sweetness (I'm not the biggest fan of the cutting taste of raw cabbage). And the cider foam was definitely a venture into molecular gastronomy. The cider used was sweet and lightly tangy without a very strong beer taste, and had been aerated to a consistency just lighter than that of whipped cream.

Our other meat dish was a slow cooked duck breast.

slow cooked duck breast with cauliflower puree, plum jam (right) & orange caramel
Whilst the other dishes had come out in fairly quick succession, the duck took its sweet time coming out. But when it was finally brought out, it didn't disappoint. The duck meat was still tender and soft, although perhaps a little overdone. The cauliflower puree was smooth and creamy, providing a nice base which soaked up some of the duck juices. The plum jam and orange caramel provided a nice sweet and zingy contrast to the gamey flavour of the duck.

heirloom tomatoes, shallots, goats curd, basil & apple cider vinaigrette
To finish it all off, the we ordered the heirloom tomato salad. The salad consisted of a few types of tomatoes, shallots and creamy pieces of goats curd, drizzled in fresh cider based dressing.

Service was extremely polite and pleasant, and aside from the duck, the dishes came out very quickly. Definitely a highly recommended place - particularly if you're fan of Cumulus, Coda or the Aylesbury.

Overall Impression: 9.5/10
Money Order Office (Moo) on Urbanspoon


wayne said...

Hi there thank you for such a nice review, could you possible post this to our new urban spoon as we are new owners and a new style?
i am glad you enjoyed it and hope to see you soon

jenster said...

Hi Wayne

I have updated the Urbanspoon link, it should hopefully take effect in the next day or two.