Story by Jim Mathers
The city’s food scene has developed splendidly in recent years, with city visitors now almost spoilt for choice. You can grab a coffee to go from almost every street corner, sit outside for some casual dining or head indoors for everything from bistro style to upmarket food establishments.
And Albert Street offers its own smorgasbord of nosheries.
The Croft House Town Kitchen & Bar, on the corner of Albert and Charlette streets, for example, has a seasonal menu, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also has a coffee window that opens from 6.30am.
While it’s a good place for a meal, it’s also a pleasant option for a pre-dinner drink, or for somewhere to kick on with a few friends. Charcuterie platters (pictured above, available from 3.00pm) are a speciality here, with a $42 ‘signature’ Croft Board providing enough quality cheese, artisan meats and assorted nibblies to provide a decent drink-accompanying snack for four people. Choose your cheese from local Australian cheesemakers, or from France or Spain.
It’s not full table service, so you need to order and pay at the bar as you go, but the prices are reasonable, with a dozen or so wines available by the glass.
Breakfasts are in the $11-$18 range, lunches average around $16 and dinner mains range from $28-$46. It’s a cheerful place, with bistro-style seating.
You’ll find Asana, on the ground floor of the Capri on Fraser boutique hotel. It’s open from early in the morning until late at night, and serves a ‘paleo-inspired’ menu which is also mainly gluten-free.
Asana is particularly busy early in the morning, when hotel guests are down for breakfast. There also a good coffee bar at the end of the restaurant, which opens onto the street.
For dinner, as an example, you can choose from small plates ($17-$20, including lamb koftas, pumpkin bhajis and steamed fish curry), large plates ($29-$35, including zucchini lasagne, roasted barramundi and pork belly) and pizza ($22-$23). Deserts for one are $16, but you can also opt for a shared tasting plate.
It’s an interesting menu, in a bistro-style environment where you can watch the kitchen activity.
There are few more enjoyable food experiences than sitting down to great, traditional Italian fare, and this is what Pan E Vino is all about. Diagonally opposite Croft House, Pane e Vino is a fairly basic looking place from the outside, but whatever it might lose in external ambience, it makes up for by the bucket load inside with good food and helpful service.
Again, this friendly establishment takes a seasonal approach, with an over-riding philosophy of keeping it simple. In a sense, it’s like having a quality home-style Italian meal.
A two-course lunch special is available, with one drink, for $24.90, or three courses and a drink for $27.90. Choices are offered for each course.
Otherwise, of course, you can choose from the a la carte menu for lunch or dinner. There is a large selection of entrée dishes ($8 olives to $34 antipasto platter). The fresh and tasty pasta dishes include lasagne and carbonara (both $24), duck ragu ($29) and marinara ($30), amongst others.
There are also some fresh risottos (from $25), salads (from $18) and other hearty meals include veal scaloppine ($32) and chicken breast filled with spinach and mozzarella and wrapped in prosciutto ($32). Some very nice deserts also feature.
On the drinks side of things, there are several beers and cocktails on offer, as well as more than 20 wines (including Australian and Italian), at least half of which can be bought by the glass.
Run by the D’Arienzo brothers, Pan e Vino has been operating successfully in the city since 1995. It’s a place you won’t leave feeling hungry.
On the more casual side of things, consider Master Toms, located on the corner of Albert and Margaret Streets.
Sit outside and watch the world wander by as you tuck into a casual menu featuring such thing as tacos, nachos, burgers and salads. Master Toms is licensed, with a selection of beer and wine available. It generally opens from early in the morning until around 9pm (serving breakfast, lunch and dinner). Smoothies and juices are also on offer.
All in all, it’s straightforward but tasty fare at reasonable prices.