The Commoner
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Justinian in Jaws, Port crackling

Jaws drools at Melbourne’s new darling of nosh … Thriller mushrooms … Ethereal gnocchi … Whimsical twists … Experimental meringues … Al fresco plating

“Modern British” is as befuddling a descriptor of a restaurant as “neo-trance” or “liquid funk” is to an opera enthusiast coming to grips with the beeps and bops emerging from his raver son’s bedroom.

Brit food is that bollocks wot Jamie Oliver don’t want no kids eating, innit?

Not at delightful Fitzroy eatery, The Commoner, where Antipodean owner Jo Corrigan reckons it’s about Southern Mediterranean and North African ingredients and a bit of imagination adding a whimsical twist to beloved seasonal dishes.

Imagine soft boiled egg with pork crackling and paprika, echoing the best of greasy spoons gone by.

Roast veg are pimped out with chickpeas, coriander and house made yoghurt. A special of sautéed wild mushrooms is all thriller, no filler. Oversized pillows of gnocchi deliver both pan-fried savour and ethereal fluff to the voracious vegetarian.

There are lamingtons … made of pork … three ways. Wow.

The happy-go-lucky waitress suggested these were plates to be shared, but she didn’t warn they would taste so good.

Mains are more traditional melt-in-your-mouth creations – beef cheek, pork belly, perhaps a fish?

On Sundays, show up and they’ll simply feed you something of that ilk from the wood-fired oven – no menu to speak of.

The adventures return with dessert – brown ale pudding with salted caramel fascinates and mollifies with each bite.

Lecce Merengada tastes like a meringue popped experimentally in the ice cream maker. It works – cleansing and uplifting the palate without the tooth-aching sweetness of a sorbet.

Come summer, I’ll be sitting out the back in the charming courtyard (I believe the modern Brit calls that al fresco).

In the meantime, I might look to further exploration of the reasonably priced wine list, which continues the Old and New World theme, in the newly opened bar upstairs.

Lovely jubbly!

The Commoner
122 Johnston St, Fitzroy, VIC

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (
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