Two very different lunches

I used to call my husband Mr Lunchalot but I have to admit that I have well and truly taken the crown away from him. People often ask me “So, what do you do in your retirement?” And quite frankly, I think the simple answer is : Lunch.  

Two lunches this week (well, three if you count A la Greque in Airey’s Inlet on Easter Sunday, but I’m not counting that as this week!) – and how different they were. Yesterday saw me happily slurping down a bowl of congee, whilst today was a much more sophisticated affair.

So, let’s start with the congee. I became a bit of a congee devotee after our foodie stopover in Kuala Lumpur in 2014, where I ate it for breakfast each morning. When I heard that the Lee Ho Fook gang had opened a buzzy little place serving congee at the serious end of Little Collins Street I was keen to try it out, aided and abetted by my fellow congee devotee, Lizzie. And, even if you’re not keen on congee (I’m looking at you UGGD) how could any Warren Zevon loving person not want to try a place called “Lawyers Guns and Money”? But, there is more on offer than just congee, on both their regular menu and the daily specials.

  

  

But, first you have to find it. Yes, it is in the building at 505 Little Collins Street but it is actually located at the back of the building, and the entrance is via Church Lane. Thanks to Telstra the phone number doesn’t actually work at the moment, although they have been promised that a new number will be up & running shortly, so ringing for help will get you nowhere. Nor does their signage give much away as this is their logo (and, sign):

  

But, perserverance pays off and I finally find the door. We are 5, as Lizzie has brought some of her co-workers with her, one of whom is from Hong Kong, another from Malaysia – both make congee at home, so they are our congee judges. Four of us order the special congee of scallop & prawns, the fifth opts for the chicken congee with added fried bread (our special congee comes with fried bread) and century egg. The special congee is delicious, with a distinct lemony flavour. Our congee testers judge the congee a 9.5 out of 10. High praise indeed. Being greedy guts, we also ordered the Shangdong style fried chicken wings – yummy – and the fish fragrant eggplant – a little spicy, and excellent.

  
An affordable and delicious lunch (which cost me $25, including a tip).

Next day saw us (this time I took the ex Mr Lunchalot with me) at wunderkid Clinton McIver’s new venture, Amaru. We had the extreme pleasure of dining at his pop up restaurant at the Clayton Bowls club some 18 months ago. Since then he has been in Brazil, returning at the beginning of this year to open this intimate restaurant in High Street Armadale. Our expectations were high – and largely met.

  
The restaurant space is tranquil, helped by the fact that our table of 5 is joined by only one other table (of 3) this Friday lunch. There were as many staff as there were clients. This talented chef deserves more business, but perhaps there isn’t the market in Melbourne anymore for complexly constructed dishes. Yes, each dish is very small, but each morsel was delicious. This is certainly not the place for a big feed ( we needed 2 serves of the excellent bread to make us feel we had had enough to eat), and the 3 course lunch (at $59) could be more generous in serve size, but you have to applaud the vision.

  

There is no menu, and even our waiter wasn’t quite sure about the exact details of some of the dishes, as they seem to be created on the spot. 

To start, we were presented with an amuse bouche of dried kangaroo with a tiny spiced fig dollop.

  
Next up was an entree of an egg thingy with swede noodles. Tiny but truly delicious.

  
We had the choice of Hapuka or Pork for main course. The Hapuka had a jus made from wallaby bones, with slivers of crispy pigs ear on top. The pork was melt in the mouth, and had a small side of shredded radicchio, and goodness knows what else – one of the problems of no menu, senior citizens forget what they were eating! The pork was the better of the two dishes.

   
 
Dessert was simply sensational – a spoonful of mozzarella ice cream with basil and dried strawberries, and some other stuff. One of the best desserts I’ve ever had. 

  
With 2 bottles of wine for the 5 of us it ended up costing $90 each (there is nothing under $70 on the wine list), so this is not the spot for your everyday lunch (or dinner). But, it is the place for interesting food, well executed (and, we enjoyed our meal here a lot more than we did at Brae 12 months ago). I will certainly return to try the evening menu (priced from $120), but it will have to be a special occasion.

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