Friday, July 27, 2012

Birdman Eating

"Birdman" is more than just a name for most Melbournians as the first thing that springs to many minds is the annual lets-see-if-I-can-fly contest at the Moomba Festival. I'm not sure if this crazy celebration of silliness is exactly what Birdman Eating is trying to capture, but the atmosphere of the cafe has a certain degree of whimsy to it.

More popular for its breakfast and brunch menu, they've recently started a dinner service which seemed to be fairly busy the Saturday night we visited. A quick chat to the waitress revealed they'd been absolutely packed the night before as a direct result of the Gertrude St Projection Festival opening night. As it was, there was a steady trickle of people past our outdoor table, taking in the scattered pieces of illuminated artwork.

We weren't too sure about what we felt like eating, so after perusing the varied menu which contained numerous vegetarian dishes, and at least one rendition of lamb/chicken/beef/pork/seafood/venison, we ordered six dishes between four people at the recommendation of the waitress. These included a few vegetarian starters, then some mains from the specials menu.

Bread with Hummus Dip
The bread and hummus weren't particularly special, but they were at least decent. I have still yet to find a hummus that can top the homemade version that a friend made for my birthday potluck last year much to my disappointment. Still, all was not lost. 

Zucchini & Fetta Fritters
I thought the zucchini and fetta fritters were a delicious combination of crunchy crust, soft filling, and a creamy & salty accompaniment. It's unsurprising that I enjoyed this dish as I have a weakness for fetta.

I also have a particular fondness for roasted pumpkin.

Roasted Pumpkin, Rosemary, Black Olive & Fetta
Pumpkin and fetta in the same dish really is a winner for me. The combination of sweet roasted vegetables and salty cheese seems to work every time without fail. The rosemary brought out even more of the sweetness of the pumpkin (and reminded me I should add more herbs when I'm roasting vegetables). The olives probably added too much saltiness but who can argue against good fats?

Overall, we were pretty satisfied with our tasty (and wholesome) starters. It seems like a lifetime before the mains came however. Perhaps they only started cooking the mains once they'd cleared away the first set of plates.

I waited impatiently until the food finally arrived. When they did arrive, I was surprised at how small the serves were. Did the waitress really expect the six dishes to feed all four of us? Perhaps if we'd already had first dinner, but then again, we're not Hobbits (usually). 

I have to admit that the food was good quality though, regardless of the serving size. My favourite of the mains was a serve of grilled venison.

Grilled Venison with Quince Chutney , Silverbeet, Spätzle and Juniper Berry Sauce
The venison was a perfect medium rare, and all traces of the taste-spoiling fat had been removed. The sweet quince paste was a nice counterpoint to the game flavours of the meat, but unfortunately I could barely taste the spätzle (a type of German pasta) or the juniper berry flavours. 

Venison is one of the luxuries that I will inevitably order when it's on the menu, but will tend to neglect searching for at the markets. It always makes me happy when something I consider hard to find appears on the menu, and is cooked well. For some contrast, we also ordered some pan-seared barramundi. 

Pan-seared Barramundi with Baby Beetroot, White Wine Sauce & Pine Nuts
The barramundi was beautifully cooked; tender with a crispy skin. I couldn't fault the taste, and love the contrast of the sweet and soft flesh against the crunchy and slightly crunchy pine nuts. Once again my issue was how small the fillet was, and being a bit of a beetroot fiend, two tiny pieces only resulted in me craving more (even though the others ended up having no beetroot).

The next dish really should have been called crustacean soup with scallops rather than the other way around.

Chargrilled Scallops in Crustacean Broth with Orange and Pea Sprouts
The broth was beautifully rich with a strong crustacean flavour that served to enhance the sweetness of the scallops.The scallops were few and far between however, and I think there was exactly one for each of us.

My overall impression was that for the price (around $20 per main), even though the food was good quality, I expected the serves to be bigger, and I was disappointed at how little food there actually was.

This restaurant was definitely for those that eat like a bird, and as I'm decidedly non-avian, I was still relatively hungry afterwards. The food was decent but a little slow to arrive at the table, yet the service was friendly. I'm not in a terrible hurry to return, but I have heard good things about their breakfast, so it is in the realm of possibility.

Birdman Eating
238 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Mon-Fri 7am-late, Sat-Sun 8am-late 

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  1. Mmmm venison and acallops!!!! Varramundi I'm OK with but just not that big a fan of it's earthy/gamey taste and aftertaste for a fish lol

    1. Barramundi I love, but it has to be fresh.