Dinner at The Grain Store

517 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9972 6993

Disclosure: Fatbee & I dined here courtesy of The Grain Store

Most of the restaurant invites that I’d receive tend to fall on evenings where I’d still be stuck at work. So it was quite nice that Fatbee and I could make it to this intimate little bloggers’ dinner at The Grain Store one Wednesday evening a few weeks ago.

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Most of you will know of The Grain Store as a brunch spot, but not many of us know that they’re also open for dinner service. Fatbee and I enjoyed our brunch here very much when we last visited in June, so we were pretty excited about how the dinner menu would turn out like.

We arrived early and sipped at a glass of rosé whilst appreciating how the last rays of evening light fell over the modern-yet-rustic tables in the dining room. Other fellow bloggers soon appeared, forming a cosy group of not more than 15 of us.

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Small little starters soon arrived in egg-shaped glass cups. They’re an amuse bouche made up of savoury mushroom jelly topped with a gently sweet layer of pumpkin foam and served with a triangle of chickpea chips.

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We were then led into our private dining room, our wine glasses filled, and then German-born head chef Ingo Meissner came out to say hello and explain a little more about the restaurant’s philosophy towards food. Amongst all the words like ‘fresh’ and ‘in-season’, I didn’t quite catch everything that Ingo told us except for one thing: they actually have a rooftop garden where they grow seasonal produce that ends up on your plate. For a restaurant that’s smack in the CBD, I think that’s fantastic!

I think it’s quite intimidating for a chef to face a table full of self-professed online ‘food critics’, so all I can say is kudos to chef Ingo for speaking to us all without wanting to hide behind one of Designani’s paintings… ha ha ha!

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Green asparagus, grilled burrata, mandarin, black barley, hazelnut vinaigrette, rosemary sablé
Poached veal fillet, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, charred shallots, white anchovies, caper berries
Pan seared scallops, smoked eggplant, butternut boudin noir sandwich, ricotta lemon curd, crisp leeks

For our entrées, each of us received a plate with a sample-sized serve of three of the small dishes from the dinner menu.

I enjoyed this offering because the flavours were distinct, fresh and unique without being ‘overworked’. Sandwiching a piece of gently-spiced blood sausage between slices of butternut pumpkin worked very well for me, as did the surprise combination of avocado and tuna in a mayonnaise paired with a delicate slice of veal.

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Free range Aylesbury duck breast, fennel remoulade, potato risotto, caramelised carrot, tomato, pine nuts

For mains, each of us had either duck or fish that night as they staggered the dishes down the table. Fatbee and I tasted our dishes and then promptly swapped plates because we preferred what the other one was having… perfect!

I went with the duck, which came blushing pink in the middle, succulent and with a lightly glazed skin that’s full of flavour. The crisp-crunchy ribbons of fennel salad helped cut into the unctuousness of the duck and I enjoyed how light and ‘summery’ this dish tasted overall.

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Lakes Entrance dory fillets, new season asparagus, soft herb spätzle, charred corn salsa

Fatbee’s preferred dish consisted of these lightly pan-fried dory fillets served with asparagus and corn. We swapped dishes because I personally am not a fan of the dense / bouncy texture of John Dory while Fatbee tends to wrinkle his nose at most duck dishes (except Chinese roast duck!) because of its ‘duck smell’.

The fish sat on a green bed of soft herb spätzle, which is a curious European dumpling of sorts made from flour and eggs. I once tried to make spätzle at home to go with my homecooked Hungarian Goulash and failed (they were like bricks!). So I was glad to try a ‘real’ version of it as cooked by an European chef… they had a firm-elastic texture that’s a bit like a denser, more rubbery version of gnocchi.

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Rosemary & parmesan polenta chips

We also had shared serves of these (jenga-stacked) polenta chips to go with our mains. They were lovely.

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Black forest gateau, chocolate ganache, cherries, vanilla kirsch panna cotta, cocoa nibs
Strawberry soufflé, goats cheese sorbet 

We ended the night nicely with a sampler plate of little sweets. I quite liked the hints of almond that came from the kirsch-infused panna cotta and the chocolate ganache was nice and dark. The soufflé had flavours that reminded me of eating strawberry yoghurt, but many of us found the goats cheese sorbet on the pungent ‘goatey’ side.

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I find it funny that these days, the fine dining experiences that Fatbee and I have either happens when we’re overseas or as restaurant invites extended towards myself as a food blogger. As such, we tend to treat it as a special occasion and our meal here was no exception.

Just like our brunch experience at The Grain Store, I think the quality of cooking for its dinner service is just as good. I’d like to thank The Grain Store and Sarah from Zilla and Brook for inviting Fatbee and myself to this cosy and intimate dinner. It was also very nice to have (finally!) caught up with Daisy and also get to know (if only briefly) a few more fellow bloggers like The Bake-a-nista, Little Miss Melbourne and Nouveau Potato.