Northcote is a hip and happening inner-urban strip and developing a strong food reputation. Always with an eye to try something new and seeing a coupon offer flutter into her inbox, Greedy Girl decided to take up the option to head out into the suburbs and review Food Project 437.

Early one evening, we opted to jump in the car for convenience. The last time we’d dined on High Street, Northcote (less than half an hour north of the city) at Merricote, parking had proved tricky. Neither of us felt like using public transport and, as it turned out, this restaurant is rather further along the strip than the more well-known establishments. Finding a car spot was not a problem.

Welcomed heartily by a strapping lad (who we later discovered was the chef), we sat down and ordered a couple of Sol beers. The restaurant itself is a little confusing. It’s obviously had a few previous lives and the evidence of those is still to be found around the dining floor. The owners have tried to bring a bit of cohesion to the interior by the use of chair covers and paper tablecloths but there’s a distinctively Thai Buddha ‘mask’ on one wall and indications that, at some time, the place was a pizza parlour. Indeed, the pizza oven is still put to use, with the menu offering a fair variety of dishes.

Our coupon allowed us to order from any of the ‘opening project’ dishes, or tapas, our genial chef said before he whisked back to the kitchen. We were able to order six dishes so we promptly settled on prawn and chorizo options. The girl who came to take our orders said these were excluded from the coupon deal. Our pleas that the chef had said we could choose anything on the list were firmly refused. Our coupon, she said, had fine print specifically excluding these two dishes.

Okey dokey. We were struggling to find six separate dishes remaining that we wanted to eat but settled on five plates and doubled up on a slider. But more on that later.

First up were termed ‘spicy rooster lollipops’. These were essentially chicken drumettes with a tomato sauce. They were perfectly edible, if a bit on the dry side.

Restaurant reviews Project 437

Spicy rooster lollipops

Next we had the lamb cutlet, coated in a pork paté. When it arrived we thought we’d made an error by not ordering two, given there wasn’t a huge amount to share. Greedy Girl took the first bite and found the meat to be a bit tough. She handed it over to gluttonous husband. He agreed on the meat texture but the flavours were OK. A slight problem was that the charred bone disintegrated when we tried to pick it up. A bit messy.

Restaurant reviews Project 437

Lamb chop coated in a salsa verde and paté

We then had the slider of which we were persuaded to take two. This was called a calamari boccadillo – a semolina-crumbed calamari sandwich with mayo and some leaves. Greedy Girl isn’t generally fond of anything crumbed on bread (although she makes an exception for the occasional schnitzel sandwich). These were also perfectly edible. The moisture from the dressing was appreciated and the calamari was reasonably tender.

Restaurant reviews Project 437

Calamari boccadillo

Next was a tapas stable, their take on patatas bravas. Smoky potatoes with a tangy mayo essentially. Again, very easy to eat, quite crunchy and the interior of the potato was reasonably soft.

Restaurant reviews Project 437

Patatas bravas

Our final dish of the night is pictured at the top of this blog – a pork belly slider with chilli jam and watercress in a brioche bun. The pork belly was cooked quite well. It was tender and the combination worked. With hindsight, it would definitely have been the dish to take two of.

Draining the beers, we headed out.

Given it’s not in the centre of the main eating strip, there’s an opportunity for Food Project 437 to become a neighbourhood eatery and the standard of the pizzas we spied going to other tables looked reasonable. The environment gives a strong feeling that here’s a young crew trying to make a go of their own place, so the menu/website and decor don’t really have a lot that relates to the other. Having said that, for a cheap, quick, coupon meal, it was fine. Would Greedy Girl go out of her way to try it again? Not likely.

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