What to Order at Poodle Upstairs

Published on 25 March 2021

Photo: Poodle's buckwheat crumpet with Yarra Valley caviar, kefir cream and chives

And at Poodle, too. Here's the inside word on both menus from chef Josh Fry.

Poodle is a multi-faceted, Art Deco-inspired restaurant and bar on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy. Its bistro menu is inspired by the tastes of Europe, while the new Poodle Upstairs, the restaurant’s cocktail-focused upper-level bar, opens Friday and Saturday nights with a separate menu made for snacking and an open fire made for Melbourne weather.

Chef Josh Fry has cooked at some of Melbourne’s best restaurants, including Andrew McConnell’s neighbouring wine bar Marion, where he was head chef, and at Cumulus Inc on Flinders Lane. Here are his picks of the menus, downstairs and up.

How about a drink?
I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for a schooner of Furphy, but our Mosse Martini is an absolute banger: Mosse vermouth infused with oranges and Sichuan pepper. It’s usually only available at Poodle Upstairs but if you ask the bar for it downstairs they’ll happily make it for you. We also have the full range of Chinati Vergano, a cool range of experimental and delicious vermouths and amari from northern Italy. If you want to go hard, too, we’ve got some magnums of vintage Rolet Jura tucked away in the cellar, which Alex our somm is very excited to pour.

Which of the dishes on the new menu best capture the vibe at Poodle right now?
Vol-au-vents! I have been wanting to put these on a menu for years, and Poodle seemed the most logical place for them. We’ve done them a few different ways but our signature version is taramasalata, spanner crab and salmon caviar. They’re a very decadent mouthful for the start of your meal. The duck-heart skewers are also very Poodle; we do love ourselves a bit of offal. We brine the hearts and skewer them with some of our house-made guanciale, and we brush them with a tamarind glaze as we grill them. Awesome with an ice-cold beer.

What if I’m here for a good time not a long time?
We offer a two- or three-course express lunch on a Friday ($45 or $55) served with a glass of our red or white house wine. The menu changes weekly and is pretty Euro-bistro focused: charcoal-grilled garfish with Champagne velouté and pipis, perhaps, or escargots cooked in a tonne of bone-marrow garlic butter. We also have a full bar menu for our public bar and courtyard, too. Come in for a schooner and a club sandwich or a plate of house-made charcuterie or our patio burger (mortadella patty, Comté, Rocco's special sauce, lettuce and onion).

Got anything light and fresh?
Apart from the tonne of bone-marrow garlic butter, you mean? We have a few vegetable dishes on the menu along with some lighter seafood dishes. One of my favourite dishes, and one that will probably stay on forever, is our leeks vinaigrette. We steam the leeks and then char-grill them till they’re super-soft, peeling the charred outer layers off to leave the leeks smoky but not burnt. We dress them in mustard and our tarragon vinegar, shallots and curly parsley (the number-one herb!) and cover it all in garlicky bread crumbs. We have also been getting some of the best potatoes I've ever tried from Somerset Farm, some amazing Dutch-cream chats which we confit in oil and olive brine. We serve these with some horseradish cream, poached Mooloolaba prawns and a heap of sorrel. It’s a jazzed-up, lighter version of a potato salad.

I like tasty food but I don’t eat animals.
The vegetable dishes are my favourite on the menu. I love how seasonal we can get working with some really great producers. If I was to dine vego for the night I'd start with some padrón peppers dressed in our house-made nasturtium vinegar and a plate of leeks vinaigrette. I'd also have our bread service. This is something we’re very proud of. We bake every day, so it's super-fresh. Our light rye sourdough is flavoured with spent coffee grinds, served with our house kefir butter and a punchy radish escabeche. For mains I’d smash a bowl of goat’s cheese and pine-nut tortellini. The tortellini is dressed in a burnt butter sauce with a heap of sliced heirloom zucchini, pine nuts, lemon juice and chives, and finished with a generous amount of Parmigiano Reggiano and raw zucchini flowers. I'd have that alongside our roasted and spiced butternut pumpkin served with macadamia cream, fried sage and a pumpkin-seed pangrattato made with that awesome sourdough. Everything except the butter and pasta are vegan if you are that way inclined.

Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
Our upstairs bar is open Friday and Saturday nights from 7pm to 1am and we serve a pretty cool caviar service, if I do say so myself. We have a few different types of caviar from Yarra Valley Caviar along with a tin of Polanco Sturgeon Oscietra Grand Reserve, all served with some buckwheat crumpets, kefir cream and chives. Really yum. We have our ever-changing Poodle seafood selection which at the moment consists of blue swimmer crab, pickled Spring Bay mussels, prawns, half-shell scallops and Wapengo Lake oysters. The seafood is served with house-made hot sauces, and other various dipping sauces. It’s a pretty fancy way to start a night out at Poodle. To finish, how about surf and turf? Need I say more? We grill an 800-gram dry-aged O'Connor rib-eye over charcoal and serve it with prawn butter (basically 50/50 butter and a strong prawn bisque) and then top it all off with bunch of crisp fried school prawns. It’s a decadent delight.

And to close?
Our signature dessert is the strawberry, sumac and white chocolate ice-cream sandwich. We make a white chocolate parfait, and ripple through a balsamic roasted strawberry purée. We sandwich that between fillo that has been layered with butter and sumac and baked till it’s golden and crisp. We cover the exposed surfaces with a caramelised white chocolate, sumac and freeze-dried strawberry crumb. Or, for a lighter option, we have a fig-leaf cream served with fresh figs and a verjuice granita.

Poodle’s upper-level cocktail bar, Poodle Upstairs, is open 7pm-1am Fri-Sat, walk-ins only (spontaneous drinks are back!), while Poodle itself is open from 5pm Tues-Thurs, from noon till late Fri-Sat and from noon to 5pm Sun, 81-83 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, (03) 9086 8971, poodlefitzroy.com.au, @poodlefitzroy.

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