Saturday, January 28, 2012

Heaven Gastro Lounge, Melbourne

Today in Melbourne is one of those desert-like, dry, hot summer days where to step outside is to become a melting puddle of a person, desperate to seek the cool shelter of a shopping centre or movie theatre.  Yesterday was the same.  The streets in my suburb are eerily quiet as everyone bunkers down inside to escape the heat.  I think the only way to keep cool would be to sit in a nice cool bath and change the water regularly - and unfortunately, I do not have a bath.

Last night, when it was slightly cooler due to the presence of a gentle breeze, my friend Tim and I went to dinner at Heaven Gastro Lounge on St Kilda Road.  It is an unlikely place for a restaurant open on weekends, nestled as it is in the basement of an office building, but it was a fantastic find, courtesy of a discount voucher that I purchased online.  

The top of this post shows the interior of Heaven - dark and moody, but with fairy lights on a latticework partition and Campari posters on the walls, with television screens silently showing MTV.  On its website, Heaven describes itself as "modern English Gastro Pub food with French, Italian & Asian influence".  I pretty much think that says it is unique and makes its own path.  The chef, Sanjeev Johri, has over ten years experience, and has worked for, among others, Jacques Reymond.

Our deal entitled us to an entree (described in American style as an "appetiser" on the menu), a main and a dessert, with a cocktail.  Our Cosmopolitan cocktails came out first (curiously, sans cranberry juice), and in the heat did not touch the sides.  Accordingly, I followed it up by purchasing a glass  of Fleur de Lys sparkling wine.

For entree, Tim chose the cured New Zealand king salmon served with salmon caviar:

while I chose the five spices calamari with lotus root, Spanish chorizo and spicy tomato sauce:

Both dishes tasted good, and with mine, I enjoyed the contrast of the cool vegetables against the zingy five spice coated calamari.

For main, I could not go past the pork hock with chilli caramel sauce, apple puree, Vietnamese salad, pickled melon and pan seared scallop:

The meat apparently slow cooks for 5 hours, and comes out crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle.  The chilli caramel sauce makes the dish - it is the perfect balance of zinginess and sweetness, and complemented the dish nicely.

Tim selected the crispy skin duck in traditional Yorkshire sauce served with potato mash, pumpkin and daikon salad:

The duck was pleasingly soft and moist under the juicy skin, and Tim liked the citrusy tang to the sauce - not immediately what I'd associate with Yorkshire, but that is being nitpicky.

For dessert, Tim chose a very fine tiramisu made with chocolate cake:

while I chose the trio of icecreams (chocolate, vanilla and a raspberry sorbet) with chocolate stick and brandy snaps: 

The brandy snaps were absent, but I didn't mind - I deliberately chose the icecream as a light option for dessert after my rich pork hock main.

Mains at Heaven are around the $30 mark, entrees are around the $20 mark while desserts are around $15.

The staff were very attentive and friendly, and it was suitably cool and dark inside the restaurant to provide relief from the heat outside.  All in all, it was a good experience, and I'd definitely go back.

Heaven Gastro Lounge
580 Lower Ground Floor,
St Kilda Road,
Melbourne VIC 3004
Ph: (03) 9041 2129