11 Sep Punchbowl Canteen, Port Melbourne
Punchbowl Canteen is one of the new cafe entries to hit Port Melbourne, from an owner that once had a hand in Hardware Society. It’s a breath of fresh foodie air in this industrial area, set up in a building which was once the Red Tulip Easter egg factory.
Smoothies and on-trend hot drinks are on the cards. We receive an early hit of summer with the Sunday Peaches – peaches, mango nectar, banana, and the Jane Fonda raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, acai, chia seeds. Matcha Lattes are made with Matcha Maiden powder, and taste like they’ve been made with soy milk. Industry Beans is used for their coffees, but there are also Golden Grind golden lattes for those who enjoy their non-caffeinated energy kicks.
The menu is created using locally sourced ethical produce. We begin with some comforting fruity and nutty variations of porridge. The first is a semolina porridge with poached mandarin and pistachio. There’s also a tapioca porridge with peanuts, coconut and banana, spiked with some lime zest. The chia seed pudding has lemon curd, buckinis, rhubarb and strawberries layered enticingly on top. Slightly salty, it comes with some crunch from the buckinis.
One of the not-so-typical breakfast items here are the popular Pumpkin Doughnuts. Super fluffy and not too sweet, the subtly flavoured doughnuts are coated in a cinnamon sugar, and freshened up by some crushed, freeze-dried mandarin and whipped yoghurt.
Asian inspiration can be seen in their warm Red Curry Chicken Salad with Asian slaw, the sauce delivering a decent spicy kick. Peanuts and crunchy noodles add extra texture. Another such dish is the Korean Fried Chicken Burger with kim chi slaw, full of sweet and spicy crunch.
It’s not often you see beef cheek in a bun, but it’s served here. The beef is ridiculously pull-apart tender, and the redkraut and pickled onions lift the flavours to create one delicious dish.
Vegetarians after savoury options are not forgotten either. The squares of Baked Semolina Gnocchi taste better than they might look. They’re smooth, light and airy, not stodgy, and the cauliflower cheese sauce is not too burdensome on the stomach. The Warm Pine Mushrooms are dressed up with mascarpone, hazelnut dukkah, radicchio, parsley and poached eggs. These cumin-spiced mushrooms also provide a good option for lighter appetites.
On the other side of things is the Wood-fire Pork Belly. Though some of the crackling isn’t quite so crunchy on this occasion, the meat is succulent, and the miso adds a nice twist to the carrot puree and crunchy apple remoulade accompaniment. Thick Cut Bacon is present in all its delicious grilled glory. The gruyere potato cake underneath is moist and tames some of the bacon’s saltiness. The beetroot relish also provides extra fresh relief and the chipotle mayo rounds things over.
It’s hard to narrow it down to one favourite dish, but their avocado on toast is a winner. Instead of being smashed and smothered onto toast, half an avocado comes whole, drizzled with a scrumptious and slightly spicy black bean dressing. It’s enjoyed with a delicate house tea-smoked trout, and everything is moistened with an oozy poached egg.
Also a standout are the Fish Cake Scotch Eggs. Eschewing the heavier, traditional meat coating, the lightness of the fish cake outer goes nicely with the crispy crumb. The hero of the dish is also well complemented by the delicate radish, pear, chard and shaved beetroot salad, and a smooth curried mayo.
Punchbowl Canteen serves up great food in an open, vibrant and colourful airy space. Though it does seem like it’s in an odd, out-of-the-way location, passing it over for this reason would be a shame.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Punchbowl Canteen as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own, and are based on my experience at the time
1A Fennell Street
Port Melbourne, VIC, 3207
(03) 8534 9957