113 High Street, Northcote
A bon voyage lunch for Karina brought us to Denn restaurant in Northcote, a part of the city Orlando and I rarely frequent. A strip of cafes, bars, boutiques, coffee grinders and funky independent movie rental stores looked like it was worth a longer look on another Saturday afternoon. Bar Nancy, in particular, caught my attention, and will be the subject of another post in the future.
Denn sits next door to its sister bar, Ember (where you get 10% discount on showing your Denn receipt). The place is a little tardis-like, stretching far back to a bright airy extension with a tiny courtyard - a good place for a blast of sheltered sunshine on a wintry day perhaps.
The wine list looked fairly acceptable and reasonably-priced, however the selection of wines by the glass was a little disappointing. In terms of red, there was little more than one choice per grape variety.
The menu is modern Mediterranean, with a slight focus on wood-fired pizza and pasta. A short lunch menu caught the attention of most of our table of nine, with a dozen or so choices all for less than $15.
My choice was the "lunch pizza", the name and $10 price tag suggesting a more modest size than usual, with chorizo, Spanish onion, feta cheese and black olives. The vegetarian pizza was also a popular choice, with goat's cheese, spinach, zucchini and green peas. When served, they were standard sized pizzas, generously topped and cooked to perfection in the wood oven.
The fish and chips looked good but the chips were nothing to write home about. The pasta version of my chorizo pizza looked a little disappointing, with the half-moons of chorizo a little under-cooked for my liking. The Mexican breakfast of eggs, chorizo, avocado and home-baked beans again could have done with bit more cooking on the chorizo, but was a fine brunch choice. Karina's seafood linguine looked divine with plenty of shellfish in evidence including a couple of juicy-looking Moreton Bay bugs.
Service was average: it took a while to get our first and subsequent drinks, and at times we felt as if we were a bit of an irritation, with waiters trying to walk off in the middle of a large drinks order. My English breakfast tea had to be sent back as I'd asked for a weak tea, and what came out was unusually strong: the cafetiere had about three times the normal amount of tea leaves in. When I asked for it to be replaced, the waiter came back with a jog of hot water and I had to explain that the tea was not drinkable at all. She happily replaced my cafetiere, assuring me it was weak this time, but the same amount of tea leaves were used and it was still undrinkable. I gave up.
Nonetheless, Denn was an excellent choice for a leisurely lunch. I would have to be convinced that their service could put up with a busier evening crowd, but it's worth a try at those price. Lunch with plenty of wine and beer for nine people was $229, only $25 a head.