It had been a day full of creativity. Planning for our housewarming was in full swing – by late afternoon we had already hit up ikea for some outdoor items and officeworks for arts and crafts material to make our housewarming decorations. Our bodies tired but our minds still a-buzzing with menu ideas, guest list choices, visuals of furniture arrangements and ambitions of funky artwork to make our housewarming festive (and dare I say hip?), we sat in our car outside officeworks at 15 minutes to 6 and pondered what we should do for dinner. We decided the day should go out with a bang since we had accomplished so much and had even more to look forward to. I suggested we should try one of the funky pubs I had walked fast the day before along Johnston Street on by way back from Yong Green (a great vegan place along Brunswick St).
With our energy quickly depleting, we each played to our strengths to most efficiently find a place to eat. With me at the wheel calling out pubs (Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel, Rochester Hotel) and other eateries (e.g. Mr Ottorino) along Johnston that we passed and Fran furiously researching said places (using technology kids these days use), we channelled the teamwork of Amazing Race contestants – eye of the tiger! Just when it seemed like we might need to default to Jim’s Greek Tavern (one of our favourite Greek restaurants), I saw a modest little restaurant dimly lit in warm lightning. Through the window I could see it was filled with diners looking like they were having the perfect casual Sunday dinner despite the Monday rush being right around the corner. The only signpost to lead outsiders to the restaurant was a signboard with the word ‘Liberty’ graffiti-ed on it. Curiouser and curiouser!
My partner in crime exclaimed ‘it is highly rated!’ so we hopped out of the car to have a look at Bar Liberty‘s menu. Perhaps we tend to go where we are familiar, but it is rare for us to come across a menu which has dishes that are completely foreign to us. This was one of those occasions. We probably did not know half of the dishes/ingredients on the menu. But with blind faith and optimism, we asked for a table and were led through the quaint restaurant into the white walled, high ceiling backroom of the townhouse-restaurant convert which was equally if not more classy and intimate than the front room.
We studied the menu carefully whilst trying to hide our bewildered expressions and the fact that we were googling every second ingredient. We narrowed it down to 3 dishes:
Peppered spaghetti with 3 kinds of cheese
Kent Pumpkin, Pepita Miso, Heidi Raclette
XO Pippies, Chinese Doughnuts
and 2 drinks:
Yuzu sake cocktail
The peppered spaghetti and pumpkin were served first. The spaghetti was wonderfully aldente (verging on being undercooked – just the way I like it), cheesed up like (in Fran’s words) the best macaroni and cheese ever with bursts of pepper to break up the creaminess. The pumpkin blew us away. It was roasted and sweet and accompanied by the perfectly sour, nutty and complex flavour of the pepita Miso with a generous dusting of shaved Raclette. Perfect balance of flavours and the epitome of silky creamy goodness.
Next came the XO pippies (which we correctly guessed was some kind of shellfish). After the French/Italian starters (with admittedly a Japanese twist), it came as a huge surprise that the dish was a delicate Asian broth with steamed pippies with a side of chinese fried doughnuts. It was weird that a restaurant that served flavour punching western rich food also understood the subtlety of Asian flavours. At this point, Fran was leading the team as she slurped up the wonderful light broth with the purest flavour of pippies (and of course a dash of XO sauce), expertly fished the pippie flesh out of its shell with her fork and piled the remains on her plate. She was the clear winner when the waiter came to take our plates away – she definitely had more sushi train plates in her pile than I did. Though not our favourite dish, it was an interesting dish to say the least. The Asian in me would have preferred rice instead of chinese doughnuts as it holds sauce better.
The yuzu cocktail was also delightful. I was weary Fran would not enjoy her drink since she wasn’t a fan of sake. But she sipped it like a wine connoisseur as I sipped at my red and though I was eyeing her drink eagerly for left overs, not a drop reached my lips.
A must try restaurant! Don’t overlook this wonderfully fusion, quaint restaurant in a quiet part of Johnston St like we almost did!