Words by Jerome Lebel-Jones
Pictures by Guy Lavoipierre
Dear hospitality people, why hath thou forsaken the west? Espresso Melbourne recently decided to go west (this is not a euphemism) in search of the area’s best cafes. It’s fair to say we came home disappointed.
Why is it that people feel compelled to open more cafes in suburbs that are already well serviced, but leave an entire region with barely a single passable offering? You couldn’t convince me there wasn’t an audience for it. The gentrification of the west has seen an abundance of cafe goers move to the likes of Yarraville and Seddon. So why, I ask you? Why?
Whilst I don’t have an answer to my question, I am pleased to tell you that the west does have a new cafe that is, as we say in France, le business; the Duchess of Spotswood. The Station Hotel’s head chef Andrew Gale and his wife Bobby Green opened a few months ago and are knocking the socks off the locals.
The coffee at the Duchess is excellent, which is not surprising given that Bobby has previously worked at Auction Rooms in North Melbourne. It is the food, however, that takes centre stage at the Duchess. At this stage I would like to issue a small warning; if you don’t like gushing, then don’t read on. The rest of the Espresso Melbourne team have had to listen to me rave about the food and now it’s your turn. In fact pretty much everyone that I have met since has had to listen to me express my love for Andrew Gale’s food. In fact the only person that is more jazzed than me is Nolan from Proud Mary. He lives near the Duchess of Spotswood. Bastard!
OK, so why is the food so amazing? Well for a start it’s pure madness. Madness I tell you. Sane people serve things like poached eggs, wilted spinach and bacon for breakfast. Yaaaawn. How do you like the sound of pan fried smoked pork neck and pickled pork rump, fried eggs and meat juices on toast for breakfast? WTF? Who knew losing your mind could be so delicious.
I had the brunch special: a piece of Trumpeter with a poached egg and Welsh Rarebit. The fish blew my mind. It is amongst the best pieces of fish I’ve ever eaten and I’ve been lucky enough to have fish in Michelin star restaurants. What amazed me most of all was that there was no sauce on the fish, which had me wondering how on earth it could be so toothsome. Andrew had brined the fish overnight and then smoked it. Alchemy!
Andrew Gale’s cooking is unashamedly English. I’m now going to put something in writing that may result in my French passport being revoked. I love English food. When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s not, it’s absolutely wretched. Thankfully Andrew is doing his homeland proud, even if he has forsaken it for somewhere better. I just wished I lived closer so I could work my way through the whole menu. Top of my list to try next is their Fruit Of The Forage. Wild Mt Macedon mushrooms with soft semolina, crispy double smoked pork neck and a poached egg. Boom!
I may have inadvertently made the menu sound like it’s totally over the top and impractical for a suburban cafe, but that’s more a reflection of what I’m drawn to than an accurate representation of the menu. There are plenty of more straightforward options and vegetarian choices. What distinguishes them is something that is common to the entire menu; the best seasonal produce. Which is why you’d better hurry. Wild mushrooms aren’t in season much longer.
So just in case you didn’t get it, I really like the Duchess of Spotswood. Andrew and Bobby have some big plans, too. I’m pretty sure that this place is going to be a big deal one day. I just wish it wasn’t so far away.
Pictures by Guy Lavoipierre
Originally published 23 June, 2010
87 Hudsons Road
Spotswood, Victoria 3015
T. 03 9391 6016