Food and Drink
Posted by Dan Kuseta
02. Jul, 2012
There’s something undeniably comforting about a roaring log fire – the smells of wood, smoke and roasting tucker tick more than one of the primal boxes. So naturally I felt very nice indeed stepping out of a wintery Melbourne morning and into the warmth of The Workers’ Food Room, that not only has a handsome log fire but a wood oven on the go too.
Opened a few months ago in the legal-eagle end of town, this cafe might be serving more barristers than blue collar joes, but the food’s as hearty as a miner’s beard (and a lot tastier). Kirsty Chiaplias, a chef with 18 years experience at places like Alimentari, Innocent Bystander and most recently Easy Tiger, makes everything except the bread onsite, including a tempting array of sweets, muffins and donuts at the front counter.
Breakfast includes Baked eggs ‘Shakshuka’ style ($14), fried eggs with farmhouse bacon, sucuk and tomato ($15) and house made muffins ($3.5). Coffee is by Veneziano.
But what really sets this place apart is the wood oven, which inspires the Workers’ menu with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours. I’m here for lunch when it all fires up and smoky options include the Levantine with spiced lamb, pinenuts, tomato and hummus ($12), Moroccan spiced Kingfish tagine ($21) and the kofte with chicken, date and pistachio ($16). All pretty good, but I head east with the special of the day, Peking Duck ($16) and a glass of red to boot (it is Friday, and pay day, after all).
Soon the room fills with the sweet scent of roasting duck and I’m too hungry to wait, and order Spanish anchovies with shaved fennel ($8) to tide me over. The wee fish are fantastic, fresh little bursts of salty goodness, while the fennel adds a bitter counter. Then the duck lands.
With its dark, crispy skin and pink thigh meat atop a bead of greens, it looks ducking good (couldn’t resist). The generous serve of bird is covered with a soy glaze, the sweetness merging with the salty crispness of the duck skin, while the meat is delicately flavoured with the smoke of the wood oven. Washed down with a glass of red it’s pretty much a perfect winter meal, and as soon as I’d finished I felt like curling up in front of the fire and having a nap.
Sadly I couldn’t because table three had a one o’clock booking, so I had to console myself with one of Kirsty’s fine house made donuts to sugar lift me from the duck coma.
I heartily recommend The Workers’ Food Room as a antidote to winter, just make sure you schedule in a nap afterwards.
THE WORKERS’ FOOD ROOM
472 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Mon – Wed 7am – 5pm
Thurs – Fri 7am – 9pm
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