“Hasn’t Du Nord been around for ages?” we hear you ask. And you’re right, astute readers. But you’re also wrong.
For a long time this brick bunker on Little Bourke Street has operated as a bar, serving up cocktails and pickled prawns to the business crowd in true Scandinavian style. Now, owner Thomas Kilthorp has partnered up with chef Matti Fallon to open a full Nordic-inspired restaurant, doing lunch from Monday to Friday and dinner through the week. And it’s a whole new delicious ballgame.
Fallon has been out of the kitchen for five years running front of house for Mamasita and Touché Hombre Electrica, but the guy hasn’t missed a trick. A creamy cauliflower sauce hits the table all butter-rich and gloopy like vegetable fondue. It’s dotted with golden cauliflower florets and mustard cress, with golden shards of chicken skin rising up like a poultry Stonehenge.
Fallon’s quick to point out that this is Nordic food by way of his imagination. It’s mostly the pro-pickle and weed pilfering principles he’s adopting. Golden eel croquettes are made nutty and just a little sweet by acorns he’s plucked from Yarra bend. Or there’s the fat tranche of pork loin, topped with glassy crackling, resting on a duo of walnut and wild sorrel purées.
It’s rich, dark, rib-sticking stuff, but there’s bracing freshness too. Pickled carrots and rhubarb batons add brightness to everything they touch. And there’s neatly diced beets, apples and capers in an apple cider vinaigrette – a pixelated artwork on a plate.
It’s all pistons firing on a Friday night. The suited and booted regulars cling to the bar, while the savvy snack pack descends on the sleek blond tables lined by banquettes up the back. It’s a perfect cliché of streamlined Danish comfort.
But back to the bar. Fans of the old Du Nord will be happy to know that alongside the freaky brews from insane Dane brewer Mikkeller and Nail’s oatmeal stout (on tap!) you can still get the ‘mystery beer’ – a randomly selected brew in a bag for $7. Gun bartender Paul Ramsay was here for a fleeting time, and he’s left behind a legacy of elegant drinks, driven by aquavit, fresh fruits and rosehip syrups.
Du Nord isn’t yet busy by day, but heed our words: it will be. Or it should be when Fallon has plans to serve ‘brog brood’: dark rye bread, malty beer and brown sugar are fermented and then cooked to make a thick, treacly porridge, which Fallon plans to top with a milk skin crisp and sour cream sorbet. It’s the most weird and alluring thing we’ve laid ears on this year.
This is the food of a chef with his head on straight, eyes locked forward and shoes tied tight. If you’ve been waiting for something to reawaken your sense of discovery, this is it.