I think if I had to choose anywhere in Melbourne to live, I’d pick somewhere in or around Carlton. I’m a sucker for all that abundant greenery, the amazing food and its inherent calm and peace despite being so close to the city.
I was struck by a strange convergence of these feelings as we rolled up to Cure Bar and Eatery last weekend. A sense of place. A sense of feeling like this is somewhere I want to stay and never leave, augmented by an internal monologue loudly pointing out that there’s a whole freakin’ fridge full of delicious charcuterie and cheese just behind the bar next to the Fleetwood Mac vinyl.
I really dig what Cure Bar has to offer, and I almost feel bad for writing a review of a place that I’d rather stay secret – because it’s so damn good and I don’t want to share. There’s a complete lack of pretension that is quite refreshing for a place that does what it does so well.
Speaking of doing things well, how about a nine course degustation menu for $39? I thought so. Let’s get into it.
Cure Bar’s food has a focus on tapas-style dishes, but broadens the scope of flavours to incorporate much of what western Europe has to offer. You’ll see the favourites, like the meaty and fragrant olives pictured above as well as some surprising and creative dishes.
Then you get cheeky little creations like the bites of mozzarella with basil and smoked tomato relish, drizzled with olio and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It just shows that you don’t need espuma and all that fancy crap to make something interesting and memorable. Seriously, if I had the time and means I would just hire someone full time to just follow me around with a plate of these bad boys.
So, by this point of the meal you’ve settled in and the mix of whiskey and wine is waking up your palate to the savoury delights pouring steadily out of the kitchen. The difficulty, however, lies in trying to restrain yourself from getting all over those battered pieces of whiting while you wait for them to cool down. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
The zucchini fritters bring another perspective on crispy funtimes to the table, this time with a punch of cumin to make it interesting. The powerful pop of the hard aromatics bring an interesting flavour profile to the zucchini fritters,which I liked.
Look, honestly I have no idea what order the dishes came out in from this point on. All I knew was I was having a great time by the time the gnocchi and the croquettes came out. The former – crispy, fluffy little pillows doused in butter and sage. The latter – I will never turn down a croquette and it was interesting to see cauliflower championed for a change.
Beyond that, the evening rolled on in that very European fashion of comfortable and indulgent dining. Elegant tapas bites gave way to more hearty and warming dishes as we found ourselves sinking deeper into our seats and deeper into conversation (mostly about the food).
To punctuate the feast, a slab of beef brisket. The kind you don’t need a knife for, if you catch my drift. Do you ever feel guilty about eating something that tastes really amazing? No, I don’t either. Because perfect, succulent meat will always be a winner and there’s nothing shameful about winning.
I’m astonished that you can get this much food at such a high quality for such a low price in Melbourne. I was really charmed by Cure Bar and I don’t understand how it’s gotten away with being such a dark horse for so long.
Maybe that’s what makes it so great.