The man of the moment up in Brunswick East is Matt Wilkinson. His cafe – Pope Joan – is one of Melbourne’s all-day dining darlings. And recently, it produced a baby – a hip and edgy and perfectly formed little addition to this otherwise barren strip of Nicholson Street. As with all good parent-offspring pairings, they are the same, but different. Both produce top-notch food, but where Pope Joan does twee English teahouse and a cracking posh sarnie, the Bishop of Ostia is all mood lighting, sleek lines, concrete and cinder blocks, and a great wine list to take you into the evening.
We recently visited the Mornington Peninsula and passed through the welcoming doors of Merricks General Wine Store, where we were introduced to a winemaker named Kathleen Quealy. Famous in boozy circles, Kath likes to play around with the blends and has made a name for herself as a magician – doing things that the stuffy wine establishment would only thumb their noses at. I tasted her tribute to the super Tuscans – Quealy ‘Rageous’ – sangiovese (51%), shiraz (30%), pinot noir (19%) – and we loaded our boot with whatever the store had left in stock – it was that good. I point this out as you can find this on the Bishop of Ostia’s wine list. Do yourself a favour.
The Bishop is a night spot that allows you to easily find a seat, order some decent food and drink, and then depart into the evening to continue your late week/weekend exploits. There’s a bar menu on offer, so the place is better suited to pre/post-dinner drinks as opposed to a big feed.
Two different pork dishes? Both were duly ordered. Super-salty upmarket pork scratchings served in a terracotta pot made for a tasty bar snack with an edge of refinement. And then the dish of the day: ‘The Tom Allen’ – pig’s ear, chilli sauce, rocket and gribiche sandwich. The ear is crumbed and deep-fried to perfection and the chilli gives you the kick that gets your mind off the idea of eating a pig’s ear, should you need it.
Another no-brainer was the sticky Korean BBQ beef, sesame and coriander. The cubes of beef were so tender and the sticky sauce so perfectly balanced, I need to find out how they were able to get the outer layer of the beef to be so crisp without completely drying out the meat. Fabulous.
The smoked tomato gougerees wasn’t as much of a hit. The most similar item I can compare it to is choux pastry injected with a creamy tomato filling. I didn’t mind it but the warm pastry and the cold filling just wasn’t jelling with WordMonkey. I told her you can’t complain for $5.
Overall, menu items were very well priced with most being under $10 and not going past $15 you can pick and peck to your heart’s content. Off the day-to-day beaten track, it is well worth the effort to get a small group together and break bread with the Bishop.
The Bishop of Ostia
77-79 Nicholson Street
Ph. (03) 9388 8858
Thursday to Sunday 4pm onwards