MELBOURNE | Named as an homage to the original name of Manhattan Island, Nieuw Amsterdam Melbourne has been serving American-influenced cuisine since late 2013. We have been fans of Nieuw Amsterdam for quite some time so we were very excited when we were invited to come in and try their new Autumn menu.
Located at the former site of Pugg Mahones on Hardware Street in Melbourne’s CBD which is the site where I witnessed sporting triumphs including Australia qualifying for the 2006 World Cup and Hawthorn’s victory over Geelong in the 2008 Grand Final, the outside of the venue retains the old-style brick frontage that is characteristic of the city’s many laneways.
After heading inside we ventured downstairs and were seated at a basement bar that combines brick, arched windows and soft lighting resulting in a feel that is very characteristic of the iconic Melbourne small bar culture.
The drinks list includes a long list of both Australian and American craft beers and an impressive range of craft spirits, including my current favourite gin from the Margaret River area, the West Winds Cutlass.
The cocktail list is also extensive, consisting of twists on a variety of classic cocktails as well as some house specials – I started of my meal with the ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Rum’ which was an interesting take on the classic Dark ‘n Stormy, using spicy ginger foam in place of ginger beer to give the drink its signature kick.
Upon heading upstairs owner Michael Rozbach welcomed us to the dining area has been fully renovated and bears little resemblance to its Irish pub origins, with simple wooden fittings that create a comfortable and causal dining atmosphere.
The menu on the night we visited was a preview of Nieuw Amsterdam’s Autumn offering, which launched on 1 March. The first starter for the night was Nieuw Amsterdam’s take on French toast which was served with house-made tomato jam, goats curd and candied black olives. This was a nice light start to our meal and was done without the usual egg wash making it less sweet and more suitable as a savory entree.
Southern Fried Quail
Next up was the Southern Fried Quail served with romesco sauce and pickled grapes, a variant on a classic dish from the American South. The coating was not too heavy (which is often a problem with fried chicken) and the gamey flavour of the quail meat was balanced well by with the spices of the sauce and we would definitely try this dish again. The quail was paired with the ‘Peas Go Sour’ cocktail which was a pisco sour done with snow pea syrup – the sourness of the drink really helped to cut through the strong flavours of the meat.
Mac ‘n Cheese Waffle
The last starter for the night was the mac ‘n cheese-infused waffle, topped with cheese wizz and bacon jam. This was an interesting dish which reminded me a little of the bacon loaf from Bakers Delight that I used to enjoy as a kid which seemed appropriate given the status of mac ‘n cheese as a staple childhood memory of most Americans. The waffle itself could have been more cheesy but the bacon jam had excellent flavour and the whole dish in combination ‘just worked’.
Curry Spiced Lamb Ribs
Kicking off the main course was the lamb ribs slow cooked in curry and served with cauliflower, eggplant, coriander and lime. The ribs themselves were very tender with a good ratio of meat to fat and were not too rich like other lamb ribs can be, although the curry spices did not really come through as strongly as we would have liked. This dish was matched with the John Mayer Negroni which substituted tea-infused Lillet Blanc for Campari and was a refreshing complement to the meat-focussed main courses.
Continuing the slow cooked meat theme was the beef brisket, done with a coffee rub and served with mushrooms and a red wine and blue cheese jus. Although the flavours of this dish were good, given Nieuw Amsterdam’s history we were expecting a dish that was more like a traditional American barbecue brisket, cut relatively thin, pink and tender inside and with a nice charred crust on the outside, whereas this brisket had no noticeable crust, was cut quite thick and was not as tender as we have become accustomed to. Like the lamb ribs we also found that the flavours of the coffee rub had not really infused into the meat. We would suggest that the menu description be quite clear on what to expect so as to not create incorrect expectations for this dish.
The knowledgeable staff at Nieuw Amsterdam suggested that we have a Bleu Carre, a Manhattan made with a blue cheese-infused vermouth, to go alongside the brisket which turned out to be an excellent recommendation – this cocktail also showcased the hand-cut ice which is always a very nice touch.
Our final main was the Tasso Pork, which is something of a cross between cured ham and jerky and a staple of Louisianan cuisine (it is also used in dishes like gumbo and jambalaya). The tasso pork at Nieuw Amsterdam is made from a pork neck which is then slow cooked (naturally) and served with a smoked ham stock which really brought out the flavours of the meat. This was the highlight of the meal for me, the slow cooking process compensated for the use of pork neck rather than a juicier cut of meat resulting in very tender meat which was complemented well by the red cabbage and currants it was served with.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
By this stage in the meal we were getting quite full but we were very intrigued when the first dessert arrived. The Mexican Hot Chocolate was a rich spiced hot chocolate mixture, balanced with black petter, cranberry coulis and candied coriander. We found the candied coriander to be a bit of an odd addition but otherwise the combination of ingredients worked well overall.
New York Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a New York classic (and a personal favourite) so we were very pleased to find out this was the second dessert for the night. This cheesecake was served with ice-cream, house-made honeycomb and a Laphroig whisky marmalade. We thought the cheesecake was spot on, just dense enough and not too sweet, our only criticism would be that there was probably a bit too much honeycomb which dominated the cheesecake itself. Paired with this dish was our final cocktail, the Stonewall which matched citrus flavours with Laphroiag whisky and, consistent with the rest of our experience, again demonstrated skills of the staff at Nieuw Amsterdam at food and drink matching.
Overall we were impressed with our preview of Nieuw Amsterdam’s new Autumn menu, the entrees and desserts were all great and the couple of misses with the slow cooked meats were nothing that can’t be rectified. We would definitely recommend heading in and checking them out and if you do we’d suggest asking the staff for a drink suggestion or two – you won’t be disappointed.
106–112 Hardware Street
Mon – Sun: 12:00pm to late