When it comes to food, the only thing I associate with Port Melbourne's industrial area is the occasional wafting smell of Vegemite from the Kraft factory when driving along the freeway.
But that is no longer the case thanks to Punchbowl Canteen, which injects some much needed vibrancy (oh so much colour!) and tastiness to the industrial landscape. I recently experienced a BIG TASTE of Punchbowl Canteen (as much as my stomach could handle anyway) at a bloggers lunch where a whopping 13 dishes was served... I failed to pace myself properly and didn't get around to trying every single dish but I suppose that just means I'll have to return!
The crowd favourites included the pumpkin doughnuts, fish cake scotch egg and avocado on toast. Understandably so. The pumpkin doughnuts were delightfully crunchy on the outside with an airy-light pumpkin dough. The overall flavour palette was well balanced and not overly sweet. I finished my share of one quite easily but was left with cravings for more. Punchbowl Canteen's take on the scotch egg comes with a lighter, herbaceous fish filling that works just as well as its meatier sausage counterpart typically used in scotch eggs. The flavoursome curry mayo lifts the dish from great to spectacular. By now, you're probably wondering what makes the avocado on toast so special. It's really the accompanying salmon and black bean sauce. The marriage of ingredients is quite unique but absolutely sensational; the spicy punchiness and saltiness of the black bean sauce teamed beautifully with the natural sweetness of the salmon. And let's not forget the avocado, which brought with it a butteriness that helped round out the flavours.
Honourable mentions go to the tapioca porridge, baked semolina gnocchi, wood-fire pork belly and beef cheek burger. In their effort to make porridge not boring, they succeed with three porridge variants. While I wasn't too taken with the semolina porridge, I quite enjoyed the texture and dessert-like flavours of the tapioca porridge. Comfort food at its best, the baked semolina gnocchi was pillowy soft and combined with just the right amount of cheese to make it indulgently satisfying without being too heavy and overwhelming on the taste buds. Well cooked, the wood-fire pork belly was tasty but the stand out was its pairing with the fragrant ginger and miso presence in the sweet carrot mash. Lastly, I only managed one bite of the beef cheek burger but it was love at first bite. The beef cheek had that incredible fall-apart texture and I can only imagine how great it would have been to finish one of these burgers. Yeps, mentally pencilling in a return visit...
Other dishes served on the day:
1 Fennell St,
Port Melbourne, Victoria,
(03) 8534 9957
Disclosure: I attended the bloggers lunch courtesy of Punchbowl Canteen and Milk Bottle Projects. All opinions expressed in this post are based entirely on my experience and observations made during the time of my visit.