Bowery to Williamsburg
16 Oliver Lane Melbourne, VIC 3000
(Update: a new location has opened on 123 Hardware St in the CBD)
I have to admit, a long time was spend deliberating on which restaurant would have the honour (or misfortune?) of being featured in my inaugural review. In the end I gave up and just chose one at random – Bowery to Williamsburg. A bit of background – I’d had B to W earmarked (or wishlisted) on Urbanspoon for ages, mostly because of the excellent reviews, but had never felt an overwhelming urge to go. I suppose this is largely because the idea of a Reuben sandwich, their signature dish, didn’t appeal to me. Corned beef has always seemed like a strange concept, and the one other time I had eaten it before was when I bought it from the supermarket by accident. I thought it looked weird at the time but didn’t pay much attention, and by the time I’d gotten home, it was too late. I tried to work with it – even tried it in a stroganoff (which fixes everything), but in the end just gave up and threw it out.
In all honesty, it was the macaroni and cheese that really appealed to me about B to W – all of the photos of it just looked so decadently good that I finally decided to take the plunge. K and I took the train in to the city one Saturday lunchtime specifically for this meal, and after some semi-lost wandering, found the restaurant on a little side street called Oliver Lane. There was already a cluster of people waiting for a table, and we put our names down for an inside table (it was quite chilly). The wait ended up being quite long, but I think this was out of the ordinary – I heard one of the waiters explaining that they were understaffed that day.
Nevertheless, we were seated on a little table right next to their menu – a large display of mini chalkboards with their dishes written on them, which looked pretty cool. I ordered a peanut butter hot chocolate to begin with, and K got the cold brew (you’ll soon learn he loves that stuff). The hot chocolate was amazing, and the peanut butter flavour was really obvious but not overpowering. It also came with a little Reese’s on the side, which was an added bonus. To me, K’s cold brew tasted pretty similar to most other cold drips to me, but he seemed to enjoy it all the same.
It took me a good long while to choose what I wanted to eat. I was pretty tempted by the Southern Fried Chicken Waffle (that just sounds so very artery-cloggingly good), but decided on the signature Reuben with a side of Mac n Cheese and pretzels. K went for the special – smoked BBQ beef rib. When the food came out, I was pretty impressed. Both dishes looked great, and more importantly, of a decent size. In fact, K’s beef rib was MASSIVE!
I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the Reuben. The corned beef was salty, but it was balanced very well by the acidity in the sauerkraut and the lovely bread. The mac n cheese also did not disappoint – it came out in a little ramekin and was perfectly creamy and cheesy. My only wish was for there to have been more! The pretzels and pickle were pretty standard, nice but nothing special. Even though it was just one sandwich, it was deceptively filling – even after just half, I was already feeling pretty stuffed. I did try a bit of K’s rib as well. Maybe it was because I was already pretty full, but the beef rib didn’t taste as good as it looked. The parts I had were quite tendony and hard to chew, and the meat was actually quite difficult to cut. The highlight of that dish was definitely the bread, which was generously topped with cheese and worked really well with the beef and eggs. All in all, I was really happy with Bowery to Williamsburg. The waiters were all very friendly, the place itself had a great atmosphere and the food was decent. I’d definitely return another time – for the the Southern Fried Chicken Waffle!