Another evening, another bar
It was a warm Friday evening and it called for an early dinner in the city somewhere. not because we had anywhere else to go later in the evening, it's just that this ha become somewhat of a tradition for the Gourmet Wife and I. We met after work at Longrain at the eastern end of Little Bourke street (for some reasons we both thought it was Little Collins, despite taking different routes and arriving seperately).
As regular readers may know, shared tables aren't really our thing, so as we've done previously (see Cumulus Inc. and Coda) we elected to sit at the bar and watch the action of the evening unfold in front of us. We were far from the kitchen (where all the best theatre happens), but it made catching the eye of a bartender easy enough. That being the case, the evening began with cocktails before we dove head first into the Thai and Southern Chinese inspired menu. The cocktail list is pretty extensive, reasonably priced, and laced with the sort of humorously named cocktails one comes to expect.
But lets not get side-tracked, we were here for the food. One dish in particular jumped straight out and demanded to be ordered: the caramelised pork hock with chili vinegar and crisp garlic ($29.50). We had been forewarned that we couldn't come to Longrain and not order the hock, and we were not disappointed. The sweet exterior quickly gives way to falling-apart mouthfuls of deliciousness, the vinegar giving a little extra bite was hardly necessary but a welcome inclusion.
Along with the pork we ordered the angus short rib ($39), and a side order of Chinese broccoli. The beef, like the pork, was literally disintegrating under the force of the cutlery (which is kind of handy since you don't get a knife, merely a fork and a spoon).
It was at this point that we made a realisation that we'd only ordered two dishes from a menu of around 15 possibilities, any of which we would have happily shared. Which brings me to a possible flaw in Longrain's intention of designing a sharing menu: it doesn't really work when there's just the two of us. I would have preferred the dishes be about a third cheaper and a third smaller, then the Gourmet Wife and I may have been able to sample more of them (around a third more probably). For larger groups they'd work fine, everyone would get a taste, but for the two of us at the bar it meant we couldn't sample everything we'd want to. I guess that's good for Longrain, it means bigger groups will favour it, but for misanthropes like myself who don't want to share with large groups it's a bit of a shame.
That being said, the dishes we did try were great, and the cocktails a perfect antidote to a long week. I find it fascinating that Melbourne seems to have a wealth of great food which you'll pay quite a bit for, but which isn't the white-tablecloth fine-dining setting that the prices might suggest. This isn't a bad thing in my book. Sure, sometimes I want a waiter to cater to my every whim, but other times I just want to sit at a bar, have a drink or two, and have a fantastic meal.