After two years away from Melbourne, the first place I wanted to go back was the Melburnian institution – The European.
Located opposite the iconic Victorian Parliament and next to Princess Theatre, The European offers classic French bistro fare with a substantial wine collection in the next door City Wine Shop.
The menu is peppered with a taste of Spain, Italy and France. Drawing on their own in house butcher and farmhouse cheeses, they excel with using the best seasonal produce available, cooking simple classic food for lunch and dinner.
Freshly shucked rock oysters
Served natural with mignonette
Given the thousand year storm events and floods in NSW, the rock oysters were in short supply, and there were only three left for me. They were not the best I have eaten, but being the first oysters I had after two year hiatus from Australia, these still invoked the memories of those good times.
Grilled ox tongue
Mojo verde, grilled peppers
Mojos (pronounced “MO-hos”) originated in the Canary Islands and are sauces made with vinegar, garlic, and oil. A healthy slice of ox tongue grilled simply with salt and black pepper and served with grilled peppers, dill, sautéed spinach with a side of mojos verde (green sauce, primarily parsley). The meat was lean but soft, and grilled perfectly. The mojos provided some heat, it was the sprinkling of fresh grated horseradish that gave it that distinct wasabi taste.
For the uninitiated, ox tongue seems to be a terrible eat. Ox tongue is especially rich in vitamin B-12, which keeps your blood cells healthy and promotes good nerve and brain function. Eat one serving of ox tongue, and you’ll get 2.6 micrograms of B-12 – enough to meet your needs for the day. You’ll also get significant amounts of vitamins B-2, B-3 and B-6.
Chilli, crushed almond
Crumbed Lamb Brains
Horseradish, butter cream
I was supposed to be hor d’oeuvres, but it came right at the end of the meal. Luckily it was only three pieces. On the outside it looked like breaded deep fried oysters. But oysters they were not. Sweetbread (or lamb brains) fry is a common eat in New Zealand and many other places that produce lamb and mutton. We used to serve this in Singapore, but it is difficult to get the source of brain. They are creamy and taste fantastic if you get over the yuck factor.
The place resonates with Melbournians and can be measured in the place’s longevity. The European is not Spanish, nor French, Italian, Austrian or Greek. The European is a hybrid creation that evokes memories of the Old World and good times when we can travel to these places and spend those hours in the wine bars and cafes.
The food has always been bistro style, not fine dining. The service has been impacted by the pandemic, having only one of the three locations open at one time to juggle the shortage of manpower. But the old school ambiance, the quality of the food and genuine service compensated to the wait for a table or the food. Booking essential unless you want to wait, and then you may not be able to get a table if you walk in.
161 Spring St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
Tel : +61 3 9654 0811
Date visited : Mar 2022