Syracuse

Posted on August 15, 2010

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Seems like the only topic on my mind is food these days…or the only topic I seem to think is worth blogging about. This weekend was a venture to Syracuse (23 Bank Place, Melbourne VIC), a quaint wine bar/dining hall. To be honest, I haven’t heard about this place before, despite it having been around for quite some time now, and it doesn’t look like much from the website. But boy was I in for a pleasant surprise.

Bank Place is a nice enough little laneway and it always appears quite happening. Well how can it not? It’s sandwiched between Vue de Monde and the ever popular (for a reason I do not understand) Silk Road. The paved walkway is lined with old ornate lamp posts and old financial buildings provide the surrounds, it’s almost like taking a walk back in time. Anyway, Syracuse is lit with big chandeliers with big wine racks obscuring the kitchen. It has lovely high ceilings and beautiful arches. A big arched mirror on the back wall provides a clever illusion of an extra room behind the bar. A mish mash of tables, some round, some square, litter the dining room but somehow it all just goes. To complete the feel, old wine bottles provides a nice decorative touch along the walls.

The menu is fairly small, under 20 items in total, most of them being the small tapas type dishes. Being one to eat with my eyes, we ordered 3 small dishes, 1 main and 1 dessert. It was more than enough food to feed 2 hungry people, and the bill rang up to just under $130 including drinks, then throw in the 25% discounted thanks to the Entertainment Book makes for a very reasonable night out.

First up was their ‘fried pig’s head with quail eggs’. The ‘head’ thing threw me, but definitely had me intrigued. It was a must try, and the waitress assured us that it was a very interesting dish. Don’t let the name alarm you, it’s basically a pork dish, the meat being from the cheeks hence the ‘head’.  I would have to say that this was the standout dish, cute name, lovely presentation and great taste!

The other small tapas dishes we selected were from their daily special. A spiced quail and a seared duck on braised lentils. The duck and lentil combo was divine and reminded me of a dish from MoMo.

We also went with the day’s special for the main, which was a grilled swordfish with stewed peas and leeks and some natural oysters. I have to say that this was the least impressive dish for me. It tasted good, but for $36, I don’t think it was very good value considering the tapa dishes were so substantial and only priced between $16-22. If I had a do-over, I’d skip the main and just stick with the tapas.

To finish us off was an anzac panacotta with raisin crumble, tea puree and shaved apple. This was quite nice and light, although the tea puree is slightly strange – it takes some getting used to I think.

It was no doubt a great meal in a fab venue. I liked everything about the place: the ambiance, the causal yet attentive service, the mixed clientele and most of all, the fact that you can stay and enjoy a really long dinner (nearly 3hrs!) in good company. Ticks all my boxes!

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