Penny Farthing Espresso
Our 52 dinners comp winner, Hayley Brown, has her second dinner
Travelling to Melbourne for a weekend with my girlfriends was a great excuse for the second outing in my 52 Weeks, 52 Dinners journey, and the girls were only too happy to assist with my mission. The sole Melbourne native amongst us directs us to Penny Farthing Espresso: a little hole-in-the-wall brunch haunt in Northcote which added dinner to its repertoire last year.
The narrow space is split by the kitchen into two rooms, each decorated with various Penny Farthing ornaments paying homage to its namesake. The four of us are seated at a large communal table to the front, which we have to ourselves for the evening.
We take no time at all agreeing on the “Feed Me” dining experience, which, at $45 per person (or $40 for vegetarians), includes four smaller dishes, one larger dish and a side, all to share. The catch is that you don’t get to choose your dishes.
Over the next hour or so we are served a selection of sharing dishes such as White bean & fennel croquettes served with chilli & lime dip, which are beautifully crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, and some extremely tasty Baked field mushrooms stuffed with ricotta, lemon thyme, olives & sundried tomatoes.
We sample the more unusual Rabbit rillettes with caramelised carrots & garlic brushed sourdough, and marvel at the visual combination of ‘Bugs’ and his carrots.
My favourite dish of the night is the Seared scallops served on a pea & sage puree topped with red garnet & chervil; plump scallops only lightly browned and complemented wonderfully by the creamy puree. Close behind is the Confit duck legs on orange & sweet potato puree with beetroots, candied walnuts & coriander, which isn’t as tender as perhaps it could be but proves an interesting and light combination of flavours.
Worth a special mention are the spectacular Crispy chat potatoes tossed with chives & served with a mint aioli we receive as our side dish, which we have to restrain from ordering a second serve of.
A fun nod to the evolution of this casual café-come-restaurant is the cocktail menu featuring various coffee-themed concoctions. Our favourite of the night is the Penny Farthing Espresso, made with Fernet Branca, Kahlua, PFE blend double ristretto, crème de cacao, cinnamon and egg white, served martini style. This drink alone makes the trip worthwhile.
As tempting as the coffee-themed deserts sound, we resist, because our next stop is nearby LuWow for dancing. We leave satisfied at having tried so many dishes, but not ridiculously full, which is refreshing for a banquet-style meal.
The table is divided and we each have a different favourite dish of the night. The one thing we agree on is the value; $45 a head for six dishes of this variety is hard to come by. And importantly, it helps justify splurging on those phenomenal espresso martinis.