This is the story of our visit to Dig a Pony or, in the common tongue, “The Lurid Tale of the Greatest Pork Belly in Melbourne.” Yes, I’ve said it and I’ll say it again: Yarraville’s Dig a Pony does the best pork belly I’ve tasted in this fair city. But I enthusiastically digress…
Nestled in the charming post-industrial backstreets of the inner western suburbs, Dig a Pony is quietly and diligently making a name for itself with its mature take on tapas cuisine.
We kicked off the festivities with the Meat Plank – a selection of charcuterie including proscuitto, light and papery pancetta and a mortadella dotted with hints of green olive. It’s very rare that I’m surprised by a board of cold cuts, and while the meats themselves were delicious the real star of this experience were the cheeky black olives dotted around the plate just waiting to melt over your tastebuds: luxurious and rich with brine and a subtle bouquet that reminded me in a strange way of cocoa. Try it.
The baked field mushrooms topped with proscuitto, sage and goat’s cheese found its way swiftly to our table soon after. I love mushrooms – the strange angels of death that they are. If I were inclined to believe in past lives, I think I’d have been one of those eccentric characters who wandered verdant mossy forests, making friends with birds, eating loads of fungus and barely clinging to sanity – and I think I would have enjoyed it. Anyway, this is a fantastic dish with the buttery texture of the mushrooms pairing heroically with the goats cheese and what I think may have been a careful pinch of smoked paprika over the top. The sage, however, may have been overpowered by the louder voices here which is a minor shame.
And now we come to the money shot. Pork belly has proliferated the Melbourne dining scene to the point where it’s become a predictable staple on menus all over town. Dig a Pony’s head chef Luis Naval-Aguilar has put together a pork belly with a basil-infused olive oil nestled on an apple compote that simply left me speechless – the kind of first bite that leaves you reeling in some kind of post-coital daze. It’s food porn in the truest form: decadent, gratuitous and probably illegal in the Middle East.
The crackle is wafer thin and begs you to break into it like the crisp crown of a creme brulee. The layer of fat beneath is perfectly – perfectly – rendered so it washes earnestly over your tongue. Lastly, the meat itself is soft and delicate almost like pulled pork. I can’t heap enough praise upon it and my poor heart fears that it will be a long time before another dish compares.
Although we didn’t have the room to order it, I’ve heard whispers on the wind that the melting chocolate pudding with white chocolate sauce is worth devouring too. Looks like we might have to be back to raid again…