Where: 351 Queensberry St North Melbourne
When: Tues, Weds Dinner, Thurs-Sun Lunch and dinner
Contact: (03) 9329 3353
Vego: Mildly Friendly :/
Payment: CC and EFTPOS
The peeps at The Crimean in West Melbourne don’t want to put a label on their cuisine but the general consensus is that it is of Eastern European influence. To me, it tasted like stuff my Slovakian mother makes, with lots of guts and artistic flair. Like Polish Pub goes Chef Hat…or something. The prices lie somewhere in-between these two extremes with mains around $25, more if you order big ticket items like the Bigos Polish Hunter Casserole ($32). The drink list is very exciting with plenty of imported options such as the intriguing Birch-infused vodka, cos you’re not a man if your vodka hasn’t got bits of tree in it. Speaking of, The Crimean is a very masculine sort of place; it’s dark, it’s woody and it’s meaty. Vegetarians are offered one option per menu section for a fleshless feed with a little more range in the entrees.
The service at The Crimean is, as you would expect; not at all pompous. Yet the professional details such as the borscht shot on arrival and the warm good-quality bread, butter and sea salt make you feel a bit spoilt. Even in the bright early evening when we arrived, it was seductively dark inside. The coffee-coloured light shades threw a soft light over the comfortable wooden furniture, creating an intimate ambiance.
Cherry Martini ($16)
Feeling relaxed, I ordered a cherry martini. With real morello cherries on the toothpick and fumes which could burn your nose hair off, it wasn’t as nearly as ditzy as it sounded. Once sufficiently tipsy we ordered the pork and beef pelmeni dumplings, which everyone should try because they’re fantastic. Similar in dough to Asian dumplings, these babies have thicker skin and tastier filling. Best of all they come drizzled in a heavenly sauce of paprika butter, horseradish and sour cream. Also from the Dumplings Menu we ordered the Baked duck and prude piegrogi ($10). This time with a pastry-bun shell, these dumplings were rich and gamey but I was unable to recognise much of the prune in them.
Beef and pork pelmeni, sour cream, paprika butter, horseradish ($11)
To balance things out we ordered the Tomato Salad with chive quark and crisp rye bread ($12). You’ll be glad to know that this isn’t a cold, sloppy, watery mess of a salad with bits of bread in it. Well it is and it isn’t. The quark (A Russian version of cottage cheese) actually tasted of lemon rather than chive which gave it an amazing dessert feel, although not at all in a bad way. The softness of the cool cheese and tomato balanced perfectly with the course rye crisps.
Just as successful was the Salad Olivier, new season potatoes, apple, celery ($12) a classic creamy potato salad but with tangy blades of green apple.
Tomato salad, chive quark, crisp rye bread ($12)
To finish off the feast we shared a main, The Bigos ($32) , a Polish Hunter Casserole which boasted pork sausage, smoked pork belly, braised pork neck, juniper and sauerkraut. While it was well-cooked and of good quality, it was my least favourite part of our order. It was just too bland, and the price tag didn’t help either. Perhaps if the sauerkraut was zingier, it would’ve been quite good.
Overall I was very impressed with the exciting dishes The Crimean had on offer and would return in a heartbeat. Dumplings, martinis and salads are the only food groups for me.
Salad Olivier, new season potatoes, apple, celery ($12)