There have been several occasions when we have wandered down Brunswick Street looking for a feed on a Monday to find St Jude’s Cellars with its doors closed. It actually prompted me to compile a blog post highlighting Melbourne Restaurants Open on Monday Night. Well, after our successive failures we made a point to visit on a Saturday when we would be sure to find the place pumping.
St Jude’s, like The Brix, is found at the top end of the street and seems a little out of place with the swarthe of more grungy-looking cheap and cheerful eateries located here. I have come to learn that the owners (James Langley and Laki Papadopoulos) also own Panama Dining Room on Smith Street – another place I have walked past many times but never knew the link.
I was bowled over by the size of St Jude’s – previously just peering through the dark windows it seemed tiny, thank goodness we returned to see it in all ties glory. It has an industrial Melbourne feel, a bunch of tables, benches and stools at the bar so you have a good choice of where to perch yourself. The addition of a DJ placed at the front doors keeps toes tapping.
The drinks selection is good with wines available to purchase from the ‘cellar’ at the back of the restaurant (with a $15 corkage charge), and a vast array of cocktails. I must say I was stunned when I ordered an Old Fashioned off-menu and was then stung with a bill for $18. But this was after having this same cocktail in London for no more than $12. Was the drink 30% better made? No. I won’t be making the same mistake again.
The menu offers a selection of small, meidum and large dishes. Like many places at the moment the food is centred around organic and biodynamic produce. As it was our first visit we went for a number of the smaller dishes to get an understanding of the quality of the produce they were playing with and started off with spinach, chicory, mahon cheese and nutmeg croquettes.
We matched this with the cherry tomatoes with herb vinaigrette. Every second dish coming from the kitchen seemed to be the croquettes and there was good reason. The cheese was soft and gooey – showing no sign of claginess once the filling had cooled. The spinich gave it some bite and the nutmeg provided the egde.
The next pairing started with the fig salad, oak leaf, walnuts, woodside goat curd and croutons. Ever since visiting an agritourismo in the heart of Italy a few years ago, where we were invited to pull the plump figs straight from the tree, I have been keen to jump on the fig bandwagon. I really enjoyed what the mix of creamy goats curd and candied walnuts did for the dish.
A meat dish had to eventually pop up. Rabbit ragoût with house-made pappardelle, dill, zucchini and grana padano again was a surprisingly refined dish. We were only provided with forks but if spoons were available we would have ladled the earthy stock from bowl to mouth.
Service overall was good and the atmosphere electric on the Saturday night we visited. We may not perch ourselves at the bar on a busy Saturday night next time but we did request it so we only had ourselves to blame. Will we be going back? Yes, to check out the Thursday Wine Night held each week.
St. Judes Cellars
389-391 Brunswick Street