Saturday lunch by the sea – Lady Grange
Let’s face it, the water views close to Melbourne’s central business district might not be the most iconic or captivating in the world but there are much worse things to do on a lazy weekend than a Saturday lunch by the sea.
We headed for the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda, dominated by its ‘grand boulevard’ Fitzroy Street. The area has had a rather chequered past and looks a bit grungy, but there are still foodie treats to be found along its considerable length.
Our destination was No.1 Fitzroy Street, right at the point where the road swings around to the St Kilda esplanade. It’s a two-storey building dominated by large glass windows overlooking the nearby Catani Gardens and the water. The address has been host to a number of restaurants over the years but at the moment, it’s called Lady Grange.
We were there for a coupon deal – two courses each and a glass of wine. It was a sunny, if slightly cool Saturday and the lower floor of the restaurant was very quiet (a private party seemed to be happening upstairs) so we had no trouble pulling up stools to a high table near the windows.
Downstairs is very much a bar vibe and it has to be said, first impressions when it’s largely empty weren’t great. However, our welcome was warm and authentic and the menu read very well – there were more than a few dishes we would have been happy to try.
Essentially this is gastropub food with considerable emphasis on excellent produce, cooked and presented beautifully. After we’d made our selections, Greedy Girl took an unusual option – a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend from Hartog’s Plate in Western Australia’s Margaret River, while gluttonous husband had a glass of Turtle Beach pinot noir from Marlborough in New Zealand. Both were delightful drops. It didn’t matter that they weren’t particularly expensive wines – they were very enjoyable.
Gluttonous husband started off with half a dozen South Australian oysters natural. He pronounced them deliciously sweet little morsels.
Greedy Girl took the calamari dusted with semolina and served with a slick of aioli. Ordering calamari can be fraught with peril – sometimes it’s as tough as car tyres but this was soft and delectable, with a slight crunch from the coating. Very fine.
For mains, Greedy Girl had the dish featured at the top of this post – a sensational chicken Kiev served simply with a very good mash, some beans and a red-wine based jus. The coating on the chicken was delightfully golden and crunchy and the garlic butter oozed forth in a most gratifying way. The mash was a perfect way to mop up the remainder.
Gluttonous husband took a fillet of salmon served with a parnsip puree, salsa verde and vegetables. The fish had crispy skin which is a huge plus – many high-end restaurants don’t get that right – and the combination was sublime. The fish was moist and very flavoursome. It tasted as good as it looked.
And we were done. We were very impressed with the quality of the food and the service was happy, friendly and prompt. We can’t vouch for what it would be like on a busy summer’s night, but for a Saturday lunch by the sea, it was pretty much spot on.
So, what’s the story behind the restaurant name? The wine list helps out there. So, here, in a nutshell: Lady Rachel Grange was apparently a Scottish aristocrat and a bit of a party girl. That didn’t go down well with her dour husband who exiled her to St Kilda, which is an archipelago off Scotland’s western coast where she apparently died alone some years later. She was honoured by the crew of the ship that took her to the island who renamed their ship the Lady of St Kilda – it ended up in Melbourne and that, apparently is how the suburb got its name. Ah … history …
1 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda