298 Beach Rd Black Rock, VIC 31931300 878 360
|Opening hours||Tues-Thurs & Sun noon-9pm,Fri-Sat noon-10pm|
|Features||Wheelchair access, Outdoor seating, Private dining, Bar|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
298 Beach Road, Black Rock, 1300 878 360
Licensed AE MC V eftpos
Tues-Sat noon-3.30pm; Tues-Thurs 6-9pm; Fri-Sat 6-10pm; Sun noon-4pm, 6-9pm
Small $6-$14; medium $13-$25; large $36-$39
Just as cooler weather makes my shivery hands reach for coat and scarf, it makes my appetite lean towards rich, comforting food, stuff that warms the bones with gelatinous creep. That's why I'll be back in Black Rock before spring is sprung.
This will be chef Mauro Calleguri's second winter at True South, a large bayside microbrewery that would be hard to heat were the food not so warming. Calleguri is Argentinian, but he has a long history in fine dining in Britain, where he cooked at the House of Lords, and here, at Hotel Sofitel and Fenix. The food at True South is a dressy, accessible take on South American cuisine: dishes that would be slopped in a bowl in a Buenos Aires backstreet are turned into picturesque creations - and that's not easy when we're talking locro (stew). This white corn and meat braise is the traditional dish of Argentinian independence celebrations on May 25, so this is an especially good week to eat it.
The base of Calleguri's locro is starchy, dried white corn, pork trimmings (free range), house-made chorizo and pumpkin, which breaks down into a creamy orange sludge over seven or eight hours of gentle burbling. Green beans and mint are added at the last minute in a triumph of flavour layering, creating a fragrant, hearty stew that's also fresh and vigorous.
An impressive pork-belly baton is served separately: it's been smoked over hickory, confited, pressed, crumbed and fried. It. Is. Delicious. A wedge of lemon and green chilli sofrito do their best to counteract the richness, but it's sprat versus whale in this battle.
It's not all meat. The provoleta grilled cheese is similarly rib-sticking and there are enough vegetable dishes to build a meal, including a gorgeous roasted-carrot dish tossed with coriander seeds, peanuts, chilli and honey.
There's a good kids' menu, plenty for gluten-avoiders, and several desserts featuring dulce de leche, the caramelised milk paste that is Melbourne's favourite trendy tooth-rot.
True South's beers make good friends with much of this food: ales love the asado short ribs, the toasted biscuit notes of Red Truck lager get cosy with the locro. Argentinian malbecs and cabernets feature on the wine list. Enthusiastic waiters make sense of this not-so-obvious melding of drinks and eats, striving for a splendid experience.