Marked by a distinctive yellow door on busy Gertrude Street, Charcoal Lane has a long and interesting history. Once a bank and then an Aboriginal community health centre and safe meeting place, Charcoal Lane is now an upmarket restaurant that is unlike any other. Serving delicious unique cuisine with native herbs, the presentation of food is simply stunning.
We were lucky enough to meet a young chef named Stevie, who was proud to explain to us about the quality native products they use. For example, I did not know that Australia had four different types of limes. He also educated us on native rivermint, coastal succulents and muntrie berries from the coast near Adelaide. He told us that they had four times as much antioxidant than any blueberries. We were able to taste gum leaves that smelt like strawberries.
At Charcoal Lane, they carefully select a wide array of fruits, vegetables and herbs and creatively combine them to produce modern native Australian cuisine. The seasonal menu carefully combines flavours to produce unique Aussie dishes.
Today we visited for the lunch specials which were $20. There are no kids menus, but my kids enjoyed the fish and chips and tried the kangaroo. I've never tried kangaroo myself, but my son said it tasted delicious. If I were to go out another time, I would try the Chef's native food tasting plate for two which is only $30.
Some other examples of interesting meals include roasted emu felt $9 and Parmesan ham wrapped wallaby with rosalla flower and red wine $31. The macadamia and pesto crusted kangaroo sirloin is $20 with chargrilled zucchini ribbons, muntrie berries, blood orange and sunrise lime salad and pepper leaf jus sounds fabulous.
Despite having the children, when my meal came out I decided that I had to eat it very slowly to appreciate each mouthful. My meal was lemon myrtle cous cous, deep fried zucchini slices, hummus, chargrilled red capsicum, goat's cheeses with succulents. It looked and tasted amazingly good. Their presentation is second to none. We also indulged in the ice cream, coconut, mango rivermint with strawberry gum syrup. It was absolutely divine.
This comment is going to reflect on the quality of restaurants that I usually take my son to. He noticed that the waiter has his hand behind his back and commented that it look like he was being handcuffed. The waiter said it was an old habit to which my son enquired curiously 'of being handcuffed?'
The staff at Charcoal Lane are very obliging and friendly. Sam also noticed that the waiter kept filling out glasses even though they were not finished. It worked to my advantage because he tried to drink a lot of water as if it was a competition to finish.
The quality of the food and the ambience will not disappoint. I didn't indulge but the waiter told me that they try to stick to Australian beer and wines.
The staff oozes pride and enthusiasm for sharing their passion for native Australian food, culture and hospitality. These attributes make this the type of restaurant worthy of many special occasions and I can't wait to go back.
A Great Cause
If that's not enough, it's also worth considering that Charcoal Lane is a Mission Australia social enterprise restaurant that provides opportunities for vulnerable young people (many Aboriginal) to gain both accredited hospitality qualifications and professional experience achieve their potential and gain long-term independence. The program is delivered in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the William Angliss Institute.