Hell of the North, now well-established in the bluestone pub that was formerly Lambs Go Bar in Collingwood, offers a great mix of well-chosen drinks and exceptional food.
The yellow door of Hell stands a little back from Greeves Street, just off Smith Street. The bar and dining rooms – there are several – provide options for atmosphere. Want something more relaxed? Sit out back. Formal? Main bar.
First, the cocktails. I started with a French 75, a mix of lemon juice, champagne, gin and Cointreau. It was recommended by the staff as an aperitif, and they were right: the mix was refreshing and tantalising, a great way to get the tastebuds warmed up. Having got off to such a good start, though, I couldn't ignore the rest of the cocktail menu. Next was the Paris Green, possibly the most un-martini-like martini I've ever tasted – and I've tasted a few. However, this shouldn't put you off. Lime, cucumber, Hendrick's, a touch of absinthe, egg white, all shaken up into a tart taste of heaven.
[ADVERT]To the food. Unable to pick an entrée, we tried the charcuterie plate, which was all deliciousness, a wooden board featuring duck liver pate with marsala jelly, a terrine of ham and foie gras, onion jam and all sorts of other offerings. Served with brioche, sourdough rolls and some cornichons to refresh the palate, it was an excellent start.
For the main, I tried the gnocchi. I have no idea why it was Parisienne, but with mushrooms and a lightly creamy sauce it was just delicious. Not too rich, even after the chacuterie plate. My companion had the chicken roulade which by all accounts was just as satisfying.
Later in the evening was the time for further delvings into the cocktail menu, particularly from the intriguing martini options. Along with the usual dry, there was the 'smoky' – a martini with a touch of whisky. It's like a peat fire just got too close to the martini shelf. The dirty martini, which uses a touch of the olive brine for flavouring, tasted like a small child, or possibly an angel, had cried into it.
This feast left no room to contemplate dessert, but the offers were tempting - it was a close-run thing.
The French-flavoured menu of Hell is enough to impress genuine Frenchmen (who, as it happened, were out for a celebration on the table next to us). Quite apart from this, the knowledgeable staff and creative drinks range make the place well worth a visit. I, for one, am very glad to have gone to Hell.