Albert St Food & Wine

Albert St Food & Wine.
Albert St Food & Wine. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

382 Sydney Road Brunswick, VIC 3056

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Permanently Closed

When a restaurant is open all day, it can be hard to create a sense of rhythm and occasion. Breakfast rolls into coffee morphs into lunch seeps into arvo tea bleeds into beer o'clock fender-bends into dinner. It takes a nimble game plan to manage the transitions and transmutations.

The Albert St team nails it: the handsome Victorian bank building has myriad moods and zones, including a courtyard and a casual table in the produce store, which looks like a particularly friendly hang-out: it's nice to sup among fancy cheese, jam and wine.

The menu from chef Philippa Sibley is a celebratory collection of full-flavoured French-Italian food.

Also try.
Also try. 

I arrive for dinner as the last high chairs are being stowed and pre-dinner drinkers are wobbling into blurred sunsets. The please-all-comers menu includes charcuterie (from a handsome cabinet), wine-friendly nibbles (delicious medium-rare beef skewers on silky, smoky eggplant), pizzas (a fabulous pissaladiere with jammy onions and blistered crust), a short-grill menu (I love the quail with sharp, herby Bois Boudran sauce), pasta dishes (prawn spaghettini with charred corn) and proper mains. Of course, sharing is encouraged.

My meal's only let-down is the fritto misto seafood basket: the flathead, prawn, fennel and asparagus are a little indistinct in their tempura crust. Only a zucchini flower stuffed with crab mousse has the firepower to cut through. I do feel rather basted in oil by the end of the savoury courses. I'm no a fat-phobe but an oversupply leaves me at risk of forgoing dessert. That would be disastrous here.

Sibley has spent much of her career being feted for her amazing pastry skills. Here, she eschews extravaganzas for classics. We have a plum frangipane tart so marvellous that I begin to wonder pseudo scientifically about the magical properties of fat, sugar, eggs and starch before sinking into a glorious cake daze.

The tiramisu is a studied but respectful deconstruction in three pots (layered cake, milk sorbet, espresso shot).

The waiters slip from easy aplomb to articulate, though I find the wine service of the ''it's really nice'' school not much help. Perhaps that's due to the fact Albert St opened and got immediately slammed in high summer. As it settles, there will be tastings, the foodstore will include more house-made produce and, no doubt, the waiters will offer more adjectives with the wine.

Albert St Food & Wine  ★★★1/2
382 Sydney Road (corner Albert Street), Brunswick, 8354 6600
Licensed AE DC MC V eftpos
Daily, 8am-late
Breakfast $6.50-$16; starters $9-$21; mains $14-$35; desserts $14-$18