43 Little Bourke St Melbourne, VIC 3000
Nestled away on Little Bourke St, Punch Lane is a well-known little wine bar that has been serving Melbournians for over 15 years. The shelves are stocked to the brim with a huge selection of wines, which the friendly staff members are more than happy to introduce and recommend. European influence is evident in both the décor and food, and the atmosphere is perfectly cosy for a night out with the girls, a pre-theatre meal or a romantic date.
To start off, the pancetta-wrapped dates with blue cheese were absolutely fantastic – simple, quality ingredients that perfectly complement each other – I would recommend these in a heartbeat.
The gruyere soufflé was a risky choice as soufflés are a simple dish that can often be disappointing. This, however, was quite delicious, and the accompanying brussel sprouts (which I usually dislike) actually added a nice bitterness to the dish.
For mains, K’s pork belly was great – in particular, the crackling was cooked to perfection. The fat was rendered well and the skin was crispy and not leathery at all. The leeks were perhaps a bit overcooked for K’s liking, but the apple puree provided a nice contrast in flavour. My dish was a special for the night – whole flounder cooked in a creamy sauce with orange segments. It was quite an intimidating task, having a whole fish to myself, but I found that it was just perfect for one person. The sauce was lovely and creamy, full of seafood flavour, and the fish itself was tender and falling off the bone. I didn’t have too much trouble with fish bones and I have to give kudos for the great job that was done in ensuring no scales on the fish skin. My main criticism was that the sauce was so creamy that the orange segments were really not enough to provide acidic relief – by the end of the dish I was feeling quite overwhelmed by the richness of the dish.
I had a lovely time at Punch Lane: the staff was friendly and helpful, the food was to a good standard, and the atmosphere was cosy and intimate. I’m not going to lie – the price tag is not cheap, but for a special occasion, it’s a great place to go.