Enoteca; meeting place for great coffee, food and wine.
While passing through Fitzroy on a sunny afternoon this week, I dropped in to Gertrude St Enoteca not really knowing what to expect. I’ve heard some great reviews and having walked past it previously and quickly glanced in, I picked up a few hints of what they were all about. I saw a Synesso, an amazing library of wine stacked around the building and some diners in cheerful conversation eating what looked like delicious food. I thought maybe it was a wine bar/café with a kitchen. Well, as it turns out that’s exactly what it is — but that’s not all it is.
Traditionally in Italy an Enoteca is known as a meeting place for travellers and locals to experience locally produced wine and food of great quality. This is a concept that co-owner of Gertrude St Enoteca, James Broadway, fell in love with while working from Italy importing rare and exceptional wines over ten years ago. Teaming up with highly respected chef Brigitte Hafner back in 2004, the pair set up Gertrude St Enoteca in the hope of providing a simple and relaxed dining experience, focusing on the thoughtfully sourced produce they serve. Brigitte and James have spent the last eight years seeking pathways to this produce, resulting in a place where people can experience amazing quality food, wine and coffee in a relaxed and welcoming environment.
Upon sitting down, I was given a friendly greeting and took the chance to order a flat white from Julia, the barista for the day. Sitting behind the bar was a shiny 2 group Synesso Sabre, so it was safe to assume that I could expect a tasty brew, and I was not mistaken. The coffee looked wonderful and tasted just as good — it was beautifully sweet with a big body, low, rounded acid and a lingering chocolate finish which was truly satisfying. I followed this up a bit later with a long black, which had a great balance of sweetness and body, with some caramel and dark cocoa notes on the finish.
While I drank my flat white, I was joined by Brigitte and chatted to her about all things Enoteca, starting with their espresso blend. Hearing about their coffee origins explained why it had such great body in the cup; Gertrude St Enoteca uses a house blend comprising PNG, Indonesian, Brazilian and Costa Rican coffees resulting in the big, satisfyingly chocolaty notes I experienced. Yum!
“Finding high-quality ingredients was our biggest priority,” Brigitte said as I quizzed her on the history of the business. “Wherever possible, we have sought out local, biodynamic and natural produce and rare-breed meats.”
Rare-breed meats? Brigitte explained that as the world gets bigger and food supply gets smaller, many breeds of animal are being lost in the face of demand for mass-production. It’s not just the animals themselves which are endangered, but also the dairy products and other by-products they produce. Along with this, some age old practices of creating cheese are being lost as time goes by, something which Brigitte has gone to lengths to overcome in sourcing all of her ingredients.
Examples of Brigitte’s extensive pursuit of quality are especially evident in the menu. She currently serves a jamÃ³n from Guijuelo Salamanca, produced using pigs which are rare but extremely flavoursome. The meat is then cured for two years using a natural, mountain-air process, as opposed to the factory processing which permeates the majority of meat products. It’s good to know what you’re eating, but it’s the superior flavour, texture and healthier eating experience that really make this level of specificity and sourcing worth the effort.
It was time to order lunch. I settled upon on a caramelised onion, watercress and goats cheese tart. It came out quickly, was simply served with dressed lettuce and was delicate, delicious and warming. I have no regrets, but with so many other delicious items on the menu it was hard to resist fantasising about a second meal. “The Vitello Tonnato is a favourite,” Brigitte suggested. “Veal cooked tender and pink, served between roquette and a tuna mayonnaise with capers and parmesan.” Sounds good, right? James has carefully paired the dish with a juicy and refined Terre Di Corzano Chianti, which alongside the other dishes and wines on their lunch menu makes for some difficult decisions about what to eat. First world problems indeed.
I was very satisfied by everything I experienced at Gertrude St Enoteca. In addition to serving amazing coffee, James and Brigitte have put together a wine list and accompanying seasonal menu of the highest quality, but which is luckily priced to preserve your holiday fund. Regardless, you wouldn’t need to look much further than Enoteca on Gertrude St in Fitzroy, Melbourne, to experience a little slice of the finest quality.
Gurtrude Street Enoteca
229 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy, Victoria, 3065
Monday — Sunday 11:00am — 11:00pm