Visiting the Undertaker for dinner is far more enjoyable than it sounds. In a previous life this tall brick building was a funeral home. Now, with a smart fit-out, it’s a glamorous local for lucky Hawthornites. There’s black-and-white signage from an old tram, arched windows, a long marble bar and rusty cages filled with light globes. At night it positively glows.
The Undertaker has an approachable, unfussy menu. The wine list favours Australian and New Zealand wines, while the impressive beer list travels round the world from Tsing Tao and Duvel to Quilmes. For an entree it’s hard to pass up the salt cod croquettes. These crisp missiles of deep-fried heaven are all light and fluffy on the inside and are served with a smoky harissa sauce. An ocean trout salad is spring on a plate. Delicate pink cubes of cured ocean trout sit amongst a jumble of pretty micro herbs, asparagus spears, paper-thin radish rounds and segments of soft-boiled egg drizzled with a barely-there ‘green goddess dressing’ with parsley, mint and basil.
At the meatier end of the spectrum are the slow cooked lamb shanks. Two shanks pointing at three o’clock come with saffron-infused orzo and peas. Though it’s generous and hearty, a little more tenderness and a heavier hand with the gremolata would provide a welcome lift.
Desserts such as pear puddings, pavs and brownies keep the sugar fiends happy. The warm pear pudding is surrounded by a moat of runny toffee sauce and fast-melting vanilla ice cream; it’s a gooey, plate-scraping joy. Alternatively, the peanut butter cookie is rich and dense, though only for serious lovers of peanut butter.
Young wait staff are unobtrusive and efficient, ensuring the overall experience is far from morbid.