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The Fitz Cafe

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by H. Clare Callow (subscribe)
A die-hard Melburnian who keeps being drawn away by luscious food and drinks. Be a pal and click the 'like' link below if you enjoy my article.
Published August 29th 2014
Taking the brioche dare

"Well, I dare you to try it." These were the words from my waiter friend at the Fitz. We'd had an innocent conversation about brioche, but things had turned nasty. I was being asked to put my tastebuds where my mouth is, to coin a phrase.

I took the dare.

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Pulled pork roll at the Fitz on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

The whole thing arose from my dislike of brioche. Don't get me wrong – I do like brioche. What I don't like is the craze of the last two years for its use on hamburgers. Melbourne chefs have clearly gone insane (or worse, American – but let's not get into that). Brioche with a bit of panchetta and a mild cheese, absolutely. Brioche with mustard, melted cheese and a juicy meat patty – no. Emphatically no.

The Fitz currently has pulled pork on a brioche bun.

"You'll like it!" This, after my first mention of my dislike. "What have you got against brioche?" Nothing, except that as a sweet bread it's not suited to full-on savoury dishes. "I dare you to try it."

Dares are my Achilles heel. Soon I found myself with the offending menu item on my plate. My dining companion was looking on in amusement.

The Fitz is a Brunswick Street standard, one of those places that's been there for so long it's become a handy landmark. Its longevity is well-deserved. The staff are always friendly, the food is always good, and the chef is careful to add new and interesting items to the menu at just the right time. In fact, the Brioche Saga is the first time I've ever vocally disapproved, and of course my waiter friend couldn't let me get away with it.

The first bite: an unexpected crunch. The good kind. A burst of porky flavour on the tastebuds from the perfectly prepared pork. The brioche hung on to the end of the flavour trail, its sweet notes blending in with the barbecue.

Second bite. Now the subtlety of the pork was giving way to the delightful tang of the coleslaw, presumably the Fitz chef's own creation. Just the right mix of crunchy cabbage and toothsome carrot and something else. The third bite resolved this – little pieces of cornichon burst with salty high notes in my mouth. The brioche receded further into the background.

Was I sampling a pulled pork burger like a wine connoiseur? Hell yes. Never let it be said that this food writer doesn't take a low-stakes café dare seriously. Besides, this burger really does warrant some serious treatment. The pork is probably the best I've tasted; soft without being chewy, with a tangy sauce and pieces in just the right size. The coleslaw put the whole thing at another level, delivering a complex range of flavours with the genius addition of cornichons. If I had a hat, I would have gone to the kitchen to take it off to the chef.

However, to answer the question this whole review poses: No, I haven't changed my stance on brioche. The sweet bread pushed the burger over the edge. Pulled pork is already sweet; it doesn't need sugary bread wrapped around it.

My waiter coasted back past my table. "Well?" I delivered my results, and we agreed to disagree.

It's good to note that even at the Fitz some people aren't huge brioche fans. I had it on good authority that sometimes the pork can be eaten on its own, with the coleslaw as a side. Next time, porky goodness, next time.
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Why? Breakfast, lunch, dinner or coffee in all seasons
When: 7am-11pm Mon-Sun
Phone: (03) 9417 5794
Where: 347 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Cost: $5-$30
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