Last week, J and I braved the winds and pollen to pay a visit to ‘Old Melbourne’. There’s a timeless elegance to this corner of the CBD that I adore. A big part of that is establishments like Con Christopoulos’ The European, which, with its checkerboard floor, vintage posters, dark timber furniture and wood paneling, captures that old-style class to the T.
We arrived just past noon to a venue that was already bustling with the business lunch crowd. The menu, true to the restaurant’s name, spans the cuisines of France, Spain and Italy with occasional nods to British and Greek fare. There is also an extensive wine list that I will have to go back to peruse.
To start, some warm bread with fragrant garlic aioli.
J selected the confit duck and mushroom pie, with mustard and prune sauce and beautiful, seasonal watercress. Well-seasoned, butter-y sautéed mushrooms, tender duck pieces and golden flaky pastry were standouts, however, the flavour of the prune sauce was slightly over-powering.
For me, cotoletta of free range pork with Italian coleslaw. The thick pork cutlet with a golden parmesan and herb crumb (panko crumbs to give it that wonderful crispy finish) was perfectly cooked and juicy. The accompanying salad was fresh and textural; finely shredded cabbage, thinly sliced fennel, radish and onion, herbs and watercress, dressed simply with lemon juice, capers and olive oil.
Dessert was a slice of lemon tart for J. Not the best pastry but the smooth, tangy lemon curd was a win. Served with a quenelle of clotted cream.
I had the marscapone parfait with poached rhubarb and strawberry. This was not quite what I expected; two moulded parfaits arranged on a smear of strawberry gel, with cubes of jelly, dots of mascarpone cream and topped with a tuille and shards and batons of dehydrated meringue of some sort. A pleasingly light dessert to finish but it felt a bit out-of-place on the menu.
All-in-all, we had quite a good dining experience, with little to fault in our meal. If I could have one request, it would be to please remove the fancy gels and what-not. The staff did well during the busy service; a bit abrupt but not inattentive. A good location if you’re looking for a relaxed meal and simple, unpretentious food. It’s definitely easy to see why The European is considered a Melbournian institution. I’m looking forward to an opportunity to visit when it’s not so busy; maybe a bit later in evening for a cheeky dessert and coffee.