The Courthouse

Posted on July 29, 2011

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Looks, the exterior particularly, can be so very deceiving, and The Courthouse (90 Errol Street, North Melbourne VIC) is a prime example of that. I’d actually thought I booked the wrong place when we pulled up to the front of it. It’s a suburban hotel/pub. Didn’t I book a cute little French restaurant? Thankfully, I did not get it wrong. While the outside facade might not look like anything particularly flash, the interior, service and food was decidedly fine dining.

The inside is divided into 2 rooms, on the one side it’s a pub, on the other side, it’s a quaint European dining room complete with crackling fireplace. The mantel and ceiling beams are finished in a dark stain and tables are dressed smartly in white to provide the final touch of old world elegance. Perfect place to settle down with a glass of wine and warming winter meal.

For entrees we had the cured and confit ocean trout with roe ($18) and the roast quail with quail croquette and foie gras ($21). The first had simple and clean flavours while the latter was full of punch. The gamey pink roasted quail was delightfully tender, the croquette was superub and the foie gras was suitably rich. Yum, and clear winning dish of that round.

Mains then followed. I’ll start with herb crusted veal and press potato ($41). Crunchy coating of tender meat, that got a big tick from our table.

The special of the day was a roasted suckling pig ($41 I think). The meat was beautifully cooked, but they failed to deliver a good crackling. The tough and rubbery skin let down an otherwise great dish.

The wild venison ($38) was served medium rare and was generally could not be faulted, but it wasn’t necessarily a memorable dish either.

For me, and I suspect at least another dining companion, the duck breast with truffled confit duck sausage ($39) was the most interesting. The duck sausage was particularly spectacular, I just wish they gave us a bigger piece! The breast was nicely cooked, although I do hold it against them that they didn’t render off the fat to make the skin crispy. The chefs here seem to be able to cook meat perfectly, but have yet to master the art of crisping up the skin.  Perhaps that’s what has costed them their hat in the 2011 Good Food Guide (1 hat rated in 2010, but not this year)? I’m just putting it out there…

The dessert menu proved all too alluring for us, and we ended up with 3 of their 4 offerings. The textures of chocolate ($17) was interesting exploration of the different textures of chocolate as its name indicate. Is it bad that I can’t remember all the components? There was definitely a softer pliable bit of chocolate and also a chocolate ‘consomme’. Good choice for a chocolate lover, but not really a standout dessert otherwise.

The waitress had sold us the very savory sounding pumpkin brulee ($16), nominating it as her favourite. The custard had a light pumpkin aftertaste, but I found the custard to be just a tad too dense to be top rate.

Last was the coffee parfait and caramel salt ($16), easily my favourite sweet for the night. The parfait had a fantastic caffine hit and was nicely complemented with the salty caramel. Delicious.

Service on the night was attentive and friendly, and in spite of my ranting about them failing to deliver crispy pork and duck skin, the food was generally lovely. We had fantastic time eating our way through the three courses and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Courthouse to others.

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