♚ Louie, South Yarra ♚
Address: 133 Domain Road, South Yarra
Phone: (03) 9866 5627
Open: Monday to Thursday & Sunday, 7am until midnight
Friday to Saturday, 7am until 1am
Complementary meals are a funny thing. Some say accepting them makes you a dining devil; others call them a necessary evil. I’m no stranger to the odd freebie and don’t see a problem with them, so long as you don’t inflate your review based on a gratis meal and you balance such reports with eating experiences you’ve paid for out of your own pocket. Bloggers don’t have the luxury of a publisher behind them to pay for their meals. I’ll admit that not dining incognito can lead to variations in service, but then again I’ve seen articles published in the big newspapers that transpired from fantastically choreographed media lunches.
Here are a few reasons why I’m impartial to a comp chomp:
- The fact they‘re offered means that people appreciate your work/hobby and opinion
- You get to eat at places you might not otherwise have visited - In a round about way, they contribute to my deposit on a house
- Blogging is new media, and with new media comes new rules
- The standard of eateries in Melbourne is so high that if a place is truly rotten, it’s rare that a freebie could disguise it
- They give me the opportunity to catch up with friends and family and educate others about food
That last point is especially relevant for me. A few weeks ago, I was invited (cue shocked, sharp intake of breath) to Louie. I hadn’t had some quality time with my father for a while, so I was excited to bring him along (I’m a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl). Formerly The Millswyn, the joint was due for a bit of a mix up. And who better to mix things up than Davis Yu, the young-gun restaurant-preneur behind Touché Hombre and Claremont Tonic. Louie retains its homely feel—like someone has decided to open a restaurant in the house in which your parents grew up—except now there’s a touch of cool, with cheeky artwork splashed on the walls depicting bums, sneakers and a mural that greets, “Welcome to Melbs”.
One can only assume from the crown logo that crops up around the room—including on the custom plates—that Louie is named after King Louis from the French Revolution. Or perhaps it was the ape in Jungle Book? Either way, our waitress didn’t know. Louie is open for breakfast lunch and dinner, but after having a quick look on the Interweb, it was the dinner menu that caught my eye. The food was different enough to make me raise an intrigued eyebrow, but not so different that the South Yarra yummy mummies would protest with their prams out the front.
A few days after I visited the head chef from Louie, Sean Judd (ex Chin Chin), was transferred down the road to Claremont Tonic. If you visit now, Simon Meagher, will be looking after you. He’s worked everywhere from Soho House in London to Rita’s in Abbotsford. Judd had the goods, but based on Meagher’s experience I have no doubt the transition will be a smooth one, perhaps even with a few improvements. The menu is made to share with small starter dishes around the $15 mark and larger ‘mains’ between $24 and $30.
We started with kingfish sashimi, a pretty little garden of pinkish fish, lime, coconut, shallots, sliced chilli and micro coriander. It disappeared in a matter of seconds, the kind of entrée where you wish there was more.
We weren’t left grieving about the end of the sashimi for too long; two supple steamed buns arrived within minutes of it being cleared. Each was stuffed with a crisp-fried oyster and tangy kimchi. The obligatory sriracha hot sauce—which, by the way, is now in the dictionary—added just the right amount of bite.
I’m a sucker for scallops, and ours were perfect. The seared morsels were barely cooked through, resting on a creamy pea puree and a chunk of hearty morcilla. I didn’t tell dad that morcilla was a type of black pudding until after he had voiced his approval with a series of impressed, ‘mmms’!
Our larger dishes came at once. The banana blossom salad with smoked trout and shrimp floss was salty, sweet and spicy all at once, if not a touch too spicy. We put it aside so we didn’t numb our tastebuds with chilli, and polished it off once we’d finished the other plates. Even after eating it, I’m still not sure what ‘shrimp floss’ is.
A side of triple cooked chips with aioli were too tasty to resist, but it was the Samjang-glazed pork belly (a sweet and fragrant Korean paste) with kimchi peach emulsion and cucumber watermelon salad that won us over. Almost all of the fat had melted off the pork belly, leaving luscious meat and a brittle layer of crackling with a tacky underside. It stuck to our molars and we unashamedly used our fingers to pry it off, slurping and sucking as not to let any saliva escape. The cooling side of cucumber and watermelon salad was the ideal match for the pork belly. We went to order it as a separate side, but the waitress explained that it already came with the pork belly, which was admirable.
Dessert simply didn’t compare to the savoury dishes. The combination of berries and crème fraîche was rather dull (if I had been a paying customer, I would have preferred to spend the $12.50 on a couple of punnets of berries and a tub of homebrand vanilla ice cream). The chocolate fondant was a touch dry, but still had the customary molten middle, which never ceases to seduce and went wonderfully with the passionfruit ice cream. Sadly, the ‘violet crumble’ turned out to be indelibly hard honeycomb.
I suppose the thing to ask yourself after a complementary meal is “would I visit again if I was paying?” Despite a couple of criticisms, I enjoyed the informal atmosphere inside a formal building, the cleanness of the flavours in most of the savoury dishes, the efficiency of the staff and the opportunity to have some alone time with my dad. But would I return out of my own pocket? Without a doubt.