Affectionately known as The Rec, Mark Protheroe, Joe Durrant and Steven Nelson’s much-loved corner hotel is back after a handsome revamp at the hands of Melbourne-based sculptor and designer Hugh McCarthy – and this time, it’s brimming with snacks.
Here’s co-owner Joe Durrant with the lowdown on the new snacks on the menu at The Rec, plus everything else you need to order when you’re there.
How about a drink?
A solid place to start is a cocktail from the list. I would recommend trying a Suzerac. The focus is the powerful anise flavour from the gentian root in the Suze, paired with brilliant Gospel rye whiskey from Brunswick and washed with a little absinthe for an extra-herbal edge. Definitely a great sipper with which to contemplate the large wine list.
I’m here for a good time not a long time.
We’ve added a little list of bar snacks to offer in our new bar seats. Highlights include the barbecued king prawns with kombu butter, and the crisp pig’s ears with spiced salt and aioli, brilliant with a cold dry white such as the San Salvatore Falanghina Porconero from Campania.
Got anything light and fresh?
We always have oysters; they’re shucked to order and served with ponzu dressing and wakame. At the moment they’re from Coffin Bay in South Australia. Our head chef Juuso Haapamäki is from Finland and the gravadlax-style cured ocean trout with blood orange and Tasmanian pepper is another great light dish.
What if I like tasty food but don’t eat animals?
We get brilliant asparagus from Koo Wee Rup and I love the dish we’re serving with this special produce: a parmesan sablé tart shell filled with a cheese curd made from washed rind cheese from L’Artisan Cheese in Timboon. This is topped with shaved fresh asparagus, tender grilled asparagus spears and fresh peas.
Which dish best captures The Rec’s new vibe for spring and summer?
Barbecued chicken served with grilled leeks, ramen chicken jus and freekah. The barbecued chicken has been a long-time favourite at The Rec. Our chicken is cooked on a custom-built barbecue, which was designed in an Argentinian style. The interaction between the chicken and the charcoal grill is magic. We’re all about classic sauces, and for this dish we took the classic jus gras, a chicken jus made richer with added chicken fat (similar to the way a Japanese ramen stock is made with pork), and added some pig trotter to give some extra gelatinous richness. It’s served with leeks also from the barbecue and freekah to soak up all the flavour of that rich jus.
Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
A one-kilo T-bone steak. Think of the great flavour of Gippsland grass-fed beef served Tuscan-style with lemon, salt and olive oil. This is served with our fries, which have a following all of their own.
And to close?
Hands down, the tarte tatin with mascarpone ice-cream, and maybe a little Victor Gontier Domfrontais calvados on the side.