Happily, Cider House, on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, does come through with the goods. After an uneasy start (their first year featured a less-than-impressive range as they kept running out of things) they've become a familiar Fitzroy face. They have most of the things a good cider fan needs: some scrumpies, some perries, and a bit of the Australianised sweet stuff for the fraidy-cats.
This is an impressive effort for a barnlike space on Brunswick Street, where bars are more likely to attract general drinkers than specialised ones. Making some allowances by offering some decent beers on tap and some mundane ones in bottles, Cider House has stuck to its guns in delivering good cider. They have been known to have Weston's both on tap and hand pump, for heaven's sake.
The food is where the fun falls down a little. The menu itself offers a pretty good range, with salads and tasters as well as an impressive choice of fries to go with the three burger styles on offer.
Certainly chicken, allegedly Cajun; my burger didn't meet the expectations the cider menu set.
While the menu was exciting, the stuff that arrived on my plate was disappointing. Once upon a time I had a great Cajun chicken burger there. I sighed in reminiscence of that burger when the current version arrived on my plate: a miserable crumbed schnitzel that had been cut up to make it look snazzy, sitting on a lonely lettuce leaf with far too little mayonnaise to make it interesting. My companion somehow fared even worse, with a veggie burger which consisted of a grilled mushroom, lettuce, and a plentitude of roast capsicum. Roast capsicum isn't really something you ever need in excess.
While I can hold out hope that these burgers aren't the current norm, the fries are another thing altogether. With these, it's a case of a menu setting a bar that the kitchen can't deliver.
The fries at Cider House have always puzzled me, in that you get a choice of seasoning and a choice of sauces, but they all come out tasting much the same. I love that they have a choice of sweet potato, french fries or potato skins. I love the idea of rosemary salt, but the reality is that the salt choice doesn't make much difference, as I've found from experience here.
Cider? An emphatic yes. Munchies? While my experience might just be a chef's bad day, next time I'm not going to get my hopes up quite so high.