A past favourite of mine, I really wish I had better comments from my recent lunch at the Courthouse. Perhaps a victim of the current financial times or the mycelium-like competitiveness of the restaurant sector, the Courthouse of North Melbourne (by day) lacks the glory of fine cut china that it exuded several years previously. For a lunchtime service, to have 2 tables in the restaurant and 3 others in the bar section is surely hardly sufficient to cover costs. Perhaps this could be attributed to the mid-week, however this used to be a place popular for December functions which are just kicking off. One would reason that it is more likely that the pricey nature of dining here or the lack of a simplified setlunch (if there is one, it certainly wasn’t made known to us) that dis-incentivises patrons from regular returns. For me, I know that I’d be happy to have a beer or two here, but would more seek my dinner elsewhere due to the Courthouse’s less-than-casual prices which certainly stickout in the Errol St locality.
There are still 5-6 interesting beers on tap which would occupy any after-office crowd for several hours. I had the Seven Sheds Razzamatazz ($7.50/310mL) which is a light wheat ale infused with clover honey and raspberries. Made in Tasmania, it is quite cloudy in appearance and makes for easy drinking on summer days. The Moylan’s IPA ($8/310mL) comes from Novato, California and has a full-bodied malty structure to it, something for the early summer days.
For my starter, I ordered the zucchini flowers ($16) which were presented in a lovely manner. Lightly coated and fried, it went very well with the accompanying quinoa and grains. The roasted quail ($20) had a lovely sheen to it, but was perhaps too hidden by the fried quail egg initially. The steak fillet on the special of the day at $38, and to this, I was rather disappointed with the conservative cooking of the kitchen for my request for a rare piece of meat turned up medium-rare with half of the steak cooked through. Consistent with this, others on my table had their medium-rare steaks served leaning towards the medium spectrum. Nonetheless, it was presented nicely, was of a good size, and the seasoning was sufficient. I have to declare that the house cut frittes lacked the angular precision that I’ve come to expect. Within minutes, the darker-than-i-would’ve-liked chips had started to dry out and when this happens, they turn visually unappetising.
I attempted to rescue the meal with dessert (as one inevitably does with too great a frequency) of a banana and stout ice cream sandwich ($16). Delicious by title, enjoyable by nature. The stout ice cream was not too sweet and had that creamy texture which I fondly recall of Dublin Guinness. The banana fritte was nice but the thin slice of caramelised banana had a touch of bitter detraction and there was probably enough going on already in this dish that it could’ve been left out.
Overall, the Courthouse is still the best restaurant in North Melbourne food quality-wise. Its price point is well beyond the typical North Melbourne fare, and this removes a substantial proportion of patronage since cheaper food is across the street. I’m not sure how it will cope if its customer base has shrunk, and it would be a great shame if cost cutting should be invoked to balance the books. Food presentation and quality is undoubtedly there, albeit the small inconsistencies. I had previously booked a work function here a couple of years ago, but in its present state, I am absolutely certain I wouldn’t now.