02 Aug Punch Lane, Melbourne CBD
A long-time favourite in the laneway dining scene, Punch Lane finds its place between the entertainment district and Chinatown. It’s a little tight for space, but dark and cosy with a great intimate vibe. Punch Lane is a place that suits both diners, and those just wanting to enjoy a tipple.
Head chef Giselle Saffigna’s experience of kitchens started in childhood, learning the ways of her Italian grandmother from a young age. Her professional experience includes Vue de Monde, Pei Modern and also Michelin-starred Alimentum in Cambridge, as well as Hix Soho in London. always wanted to be a chef. Born in to a large Italian-Australian family, food was a centre point of daily life. Her mother was a passionate cook and a young Giselle could be found rolling gnocchi with her Nona from the age of two.
Our appetites are whetted with a croquette of pulled pork and cheese before we get on to the entrées. Our first is seared venison loin, Jerusalem artichoke, red wine glaze, raspberry, and pine. The venison is almost melt-in-the-mouth, and the dehydrated raspberry adds pizazz. It’s an exciting beginning to the meal. Our poultry option is the roasted quail with smoked cashew, black eyed beans, radicchio, and tamarind vinaigrette. The smoked cashew puree is tart, matching with the slight tang of the tamarind vinaigrette, and there’s a slight hummus vibe to it. Candied cashews add sweetness and crunch.
For mains, there’s the Flinders Island wallaby, kohlrabi, quandong, macadamia, saltbush and finger lime. Not well-versed in this meat, I had difficulty differentiating it from kangaroo, but it was a tender, slightly sweet meat that went well with the native Australian ingredients used in the dish. M was rather excited that she managed to nab the last serve of today’s special of pan-fried duck, girolle mushrooms, smoked almond puree, braised almonds, truffle, and artichoke. It did not disappoint. Heartier in flavour than the wallaby dish, it was warming and comforting, the truffle contributing to that extra sense of indulgence.
Punch Lane is one of those restaurants that I’ve had on my list for a long time, but never got around to visiting. After our experience tonight, it may not be the last.