Raconteur Bar Brunswick East is a new “casual bar and eating space” that opened up on Lygon Street in Brunswick East earlier this year. This part of Melbourne has undergone some big changes in recent years, and the pace of change has increased in 2014. This is my neighbourhood, and barely a week goes by where I don’t spot somewhere new to eat or drink in the area. Located next door to one of my favourite small bars, Mr Wilkinson, Raconteur Bar seemingly popped up over night and I was keen to see what it was about.
The space is deceptively spacious and contains a mixture of couches, bar stools and regular/high tables. You’re free to park yourself wherever you fancy whether it’s just a drink you’re after or something more substantial. A few artworks and eclectic trinkets are dotted about the place and the lighting is low.
Owners Luke and Danica run front of house, while chef Nick Romano, who has worked in various Michelin starred venues takes care of business in the kitchen. A decent selection of craft beer on the 4 taps and in bottles is offered along with a short and sharp selection of wine and spirits. On the food side of things are a selection of small dishes, larger dishes (also available in small sizes) and bar favourites like pizzas, the house burger and fish and chips. All food items are made in-house.
Crispy Fish Balls Served With Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise ($9.00 for 3)
My wife and I were surprised when these came out, as each ball was very generously sized. There were on the “at the bar” section of the menu but they were anything but the snack that we were expecting. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The taste was not overly fishy and the roasted garlic mayonnaise was a cut above the usual aioli that’s found around town.
Seared A Grade Sashimi Tuna Salad With Butternut Squash, Asparagus, Baby Beetroot, Beetroot Leaves, Chard & Baby Spinach ($18.00)
This is my idea of a salad. The high quality of the seared tuna was apparent as soon as I bit into it and all of the flavours worked really well together, never overpowering the tuna.
Lamb Loin With Shredded Eggplant, Olive & Anchovy Powder, Rosemary & Tomato Infusion ($13.00 small / $26.00 large)
My wife and I ordered a small serving of the lamb and when it came out we were happy to see that it was cooked rare. It was super tender and, as was the case with the tuna, the other flavours really elevated the high quality lamb without overpowering it.
Bufalina – Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($16.00)
Moving onto something a bit more old school was the Bufalina pizza. A classic flavour combination and again I was not disappointed. The base was light and crispy and the toppings were fresh. The chunks of buffalo mozzarella were very generous in size too. A simple pizza done right.
Goat Cheese Mousse With Poached Rhubarb, Basil & Juniper ‘Soil’, Spiced Crumble Cake ($12.00)
I was quite full by this stage of the meal but couldn’t pass by an opportunity to try one of the desserts given my sweet tooth and the quality of everything else that had been eaten. As with everything else, I was not disappointed. This was a seriously tasty dessert. The savoury flavour of the goats cheese mousse and basil cut through the sweetness of the poached rhubarb and spiced crumble cake. Very much a winter dessert that fit with the cooler weather.
I didn’t really know what to expect from Raconteur Bar. One moment it wasn’t there and then without any fanfare or publicity, there it was. Owners Luke and Danica were really friendly and down to earth and helped give the place a real neighbourhood local kind of vibe. At first glance the menu appears to be confused – intricate and beautifully presented dishes containing things like kale and ‘soil’ stand side by side with pizzas and fish & chips. Start eating though and it all makes sense. It’s a menu that doesn’t follow any trend or rules, yet is unified by one thing – quality ingredients and great taste. The only real negative is that the sparse decor combined with the wood floors and brick walls makes for a very loud environment. There was a group of 6 sitting behind my wife and I and I was struggling to hear my wife talk at times despite her sitting directly opposite me. Conversation could prove challenging if the place was full.
Generally one dish stands out as being a highlight of a meal whenever I eat out but on this occasion I couldn’t single out any of the things that I ate, I was that impressed by all of the food. Combined with generous serving sizes, quality drinks, friendly service, and a casual vibe, Raconteur Bar is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood and a new local that I’ll certainly be returning to.
293 Lygon Street
Wed – Thu: 4:00pm to 12:00pm
Fri – Sat: 4:00pm to 1:00am
Sun: 4:00pm to 11:30pm