A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published June 17th 2022
Go for the vibe, go back for the food
I was fortunate enough to be invited to The Gertrude Hotel's launch in March this year. I was so impressed with the venue that I flagged it as one to return to. I recently visited again, this time to test out the food.
The Gertrude Hotel - bold colours and designs
Even before you walk into The Gertrude, you can see the influence of the owner Tracey Lester. The two other hospitality venues currently in her stable - The Carlton Club and The Windsor Castle - are also canvases for her flair as a designer. Lester likes bold, vibrant colours.
The bold colours continue when you walk inside
The bold colours go to another level when you walk inside. On entering, we were given a warm greeting. It's a cosy ambience, intimately lit, with tea candles on each table. The music had a gentle funk edge, suiting the environment. And the decor is stunning. There are feature walls panelled with glass circles and domes of varying sizes and colours. Tracey Lester later told us she had them custom 3D printed.
But to the matter of food. The menu is divided into five sections: snacks/share, large dishes to share, large/mains, sides, and desserts. It's notable that as well as some pub favourites, such as fish and chips, cheeseburgers and pork schnitzels, there are a number of more unusual dishes - such as salt-baked swede, whole baked flounder, and crumpet with shiitake mushrooms - that suggest the influence of a creative chef. The chef in question is talented young chef Serraden Sharp (formerly of Maize and the Press Club).
Confronted with many delicious sounding food options, the only thing to do is plunge in and try as many as possible! We started with the crumpet with shiitake mushroom and macadamia butter ($12). I didn't know what to expect from this dish, I wasn't sure about pairing the mushroom with the crumpet - but as soon as I tasted it, I was hooked! In fact, this was probably my 'dish of the night', so we were off to a good start. The nutty flavour is strong, but it works so well with the mushroom. And pairing it with a toasted-until-crunchy crumpet - well, it all came together beautifully. I'd go back just for this dish!
Crumpet with shiitake mushroom and macadamia butter. The photo doesn't do the dish justice.
The next dish tried was the cured kingfish, with a citrus dressing and delicate dots of yoghurt ($15). The fish was served with a bowl of prawn crackers, and we were encouraged to try eating the fish and crackers together. We did - and it worked really well! I loved the texture and crunch of the prawn cracker. It was like an uber classy version of a fish taco.
Cured kingfish, served with prawn crackers
The charcoal roasted Skull Island prawns with 'ndjua butter ($18) were next up. This was the dish of the night for my partner, David. We loved the spicy notes of the butter, which were flavoursome without overwhelming the prawns.
Charcoal roasted Skull Island prawns with 'ndjua butter - David's dish of the night
Also tried from the snacks/shared list were the Comte tapioca fritters ($14). These presented as cubes of crispy fried deliciousness, served with a jalape˝o relish that had a sweet note to balance out the chilli.
There are two dishes in the 'large dishes to share' section of the menu: whole roast chicken ($42) and whole barbecued flounder ($45). We tried the chicken, which is served with pickled sweet corn, corn puree, and bitter leaves. The chicken was perfectly cooked, tender and succulent.
Whole roast chicken with pickled sweet corn and corn puree
We tried other sides: heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella and basil ($12), charred broccoli with almond puree ($11), and Dutch carrots with orange and cardamom ($11). In some restaurants, the side dishes are almost an afterthought; at The Gertrude, the sides had clearly received the same thought and attention as other dishes and were seriously good in their own right. I think I would have been perfectly satisfied just with a round of the side dishes!
Side dishes - certainly not an after thought!
There are two dessert dishes on the menu - doughnuts ($12) and pavlova ($12). While I was pretty much stuffed after all the food I'd already eaten, I did manage to find a space to try the doughnuts. Again the presentation was beautiful, and they tasted as good as they looked. They were served with individual pots of lemon curd, strawberry jam and spiced cream. I think these were the best doughnuts I've ever had.
Doughnuts with lemon curd, strawberry jam and spiced cream
As well as a great range of beers, The Gertrude has a strong offering of Australian wines and French champagnes. Cocktails are also available, from classics to creative concoctions, all $20.
You can view the food menu here and the drinks menu here.
As well as being a great place to drink and dine, The Gertrude turns into a music and dance venue on the weekends, with DJs from 9pm.
There is also an upstairs bar and two private rooms that open up onto the rooftop, perfect for a private party or corporate function. This upstairs area would suit parties or dining experiences between 30 and about 140 people, depending on the format.
The Gertrude Hotel is located at 148 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.