A change is as good as a holiday.
Anyone that remembers what used to be at 123 Victoria Street may step into this freshly opened bar and eatery and immediately feel like they’ve been transported to the French West Indies.
In the ’70s and ’80s it was home to high-brow Butlers Restaurant, and more recently Mezzaluna filled the space for over two decades. The bones are still the same, but the previous contemporary fit-out has been replaced with wicker, white wood, botanic murals and tropical foliage. It looks like Sydney design and architecture duo Luchetti Krelle have another fab project in their portfolio.
The drinks list tempts with Australian and French wines, beer and cider from all over the trap, along with killer-sounding cocktails that almost had me ordering hard booze at lunchtime. Not this time, however, as it was time to rest the liver after a bit of a workout the night prior.
Just one menu is available at The Butler. A union of lunch and dinner offerings that take us on a French journey featuring Creole and Caribbean flavours within the “designed-to-be-shared” concept.
As we sat and took in the view of the city skyline, it was the salted cod croquettes (12) that snapped us back to tropical reality. Golden orbs of crunchiness and creaminess that, unfortunately, had frozen centres. No great drama, as they were much better when replaced. We all make mistakes. Fresh lemon and curried mayo gave them a welcomed secousse.
From the “Seafare” menu category it was grilled octopus (20) that made the pick. The moderately-sized tentacles are so tender that your nanna could eat them with dentures removed. Not entirely sure where the “grilled” came into it, but if they were, the flame didn’t lick for very long. A mound of soft white beans and eggplant purée bring a smoky earthiness to the dish, with pops of sweetness from a truss of roasted cherry tomatoes.
The “Field Folly” menu category is populated by things like jerk tofu, black bean boulettes and slow-roasted saltbush lamb; but the thing that outshone everything was the lamb brains (20). On first appearances they looked a little over-done, but this wasn’t the case, at all. Impossibly creamy innards, gorgeous buttery flavour and teamed perfectly with artichoke, peas, browned butter and a good dose of lemon. Many pleasured moans were made, and the declaration of joining some other brains as the best that I’ve encountered.
From the “Greenery” menu choices, it was the fried cauliflower (12) that brought the “veg” component to our lunch spread. Far from being crispy, the golden florets are very soft and jumbled with sweet currants, silverbeet and spiced nuts.
The final lunch choice is the duck sausage (28); a salad of sorts that also features confit duck, a tangle of twisted ribbons of celery and pickled beetroot. The confit is typically tender, yet the sausage is more akin to a rustic terrine with spicy aromats bouncing around its coarse texture.
With more than enough food consumed between two of us, it was a polite “no thanks” when offered desserts. No menu, as such, just a verbal explanation of the choice of chocolate mousse or a lemon cheesecake.