Recently Googlie and I enjoyed a flawless five course degustation dinner at Fitzroy’s The Commoner. I have for some time been curious about the intimate little restaurant tucked away on Johnston Street and having heard so many good things about the quality of their food decided it was high time we visited.
We were tasting a blind menu, which I believe is the best way to try a chefs star dishes, but this is probably not the best option if you have allergies, food restrictions or dietary concerns of any kind, although Jo and the staff at The Commoner are unusually accommodating where this is concerned.
Dinner kicked off with a tasting plate featuring teasers: boccerones – salty Sicilian white anchovies contrasted by sweet char-grilled peppers and aioli on a crostini, creamy Parmesan and truffle croquettes with a crisp outer casing, and a soft white in-house made bread with toasted sesame seeds and fruity extra virgin olive oil. It was the perfect way to start the meal, truly whetting our appetites.
The fried soft shell crab served with celariac remoulade followed next, again a great contrast of textures and burst of flavour.
For main we enjoyed a hearty, rich rabbit, prune and Pinot Noir pie with glazed carrots, brussels sprouts and bacon. The pastry was wonderfully flaky and the pinot noir and prune combination created the most luscious velvety sauce. It was a real winter warming main course. Probably unnecessary, given the courses and the reasonable portions, we enjoyed a side dish of broccolini with tahini dressing and flaked, smoked almonds which was cooked al dente, rather refreshing.
To finish off the night, keeping in line with the simple yet decadent meal we were served up a pudding that was perfect – brown ale pudding, salted caramel and cream. It may not sound all that, but the bar of fudgy, pudding was all too reminiscent of Christmas with subtle hints of chocolate. The salted caramel was a great offset, a modern take on brandy butter perhaps, and the cream tying the two components together effortlessly.
My verdict is simple – The Commoner is home to fantastic food – produce sourced from local organic growers, a clever chef that creates classic British dishes with modern flair and inspiration and is generous with his time, portions and presentation of food. And this is backed by fresh, forward front of house that break it down simply, making decision making a breeze.
So refreshing to see food of this calibre served in such with such a honest and humble attitude. Am really looking forward to sampling the Sunday Feed Me sessions, featuring entree, main (roast of the day) and dessert depending on what the chef is doing.
Ambience An old soul with a penchant for everything period, especially Colonial and Victorian art/decor. I am very appreciative of the restoration of the inside of the restaurant keeping fittings and facets true to their original design/ purpose. In a way it is like slipping down the shoot Alice-in-wonderland style.
Service Warm, easy going front of end really value add the experience pointing out gems the chef has to offer. Don’t feel scared to let them take control of your ordering.
Food Love the innovative and fresh approach to iconic British dishes. Clean, concise and clever the chef clearly uses modern techniques with constraint so as to keep things “simple”.