Welcome to Viking Territory aka Lucky Penny
‘What’s Viking food?’, they asked curiously, when I told friends I was going to sample a new winter dinner concept, The Hunter’s Kitchen, at Lucky Penny on Chapel Street.
What indeed. I was excited to find out.
Inspired by our Scandinavian cousins’ ancestors and traditional Nordic fare, the menu, created by head chef Jason Chan, offers delicious home-style sharing food that is comfortingly familiar, but deliciously different.
The Lucky Penny’s white-painted exposed brick walls and dark wood flooring is the backdrop for the cafe’s breakfast and lunch crowd. It transforms easily, with the help of simple lighting, into an intimate dinner setting that’s surprisingly cosy and welcoming on a winter’s evening.
Our Nordic food journey kicked off with a warming Gluwhein; a mulled wine with treacle, cinnamon and clove. Mulled wine can be heavy and sickly if the blend isn’t right but the Lucky Penny’s offering was light, aromatic and fruity and up there as one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
Out came the small plates, one from the sea and one from the land. The cured salmon, celeriac purée with cornichons, dill and crispy shards of rye was tasty and fresh with balanced flavours. Being more of a meat eater the land dish was my favourite. Thinly sliced mouth-melting morsels of wagyu beef was served with some mustard and a creamy puréed cauliflower.
The menu, was explained to us as ‘hearty comfort food’, and nothing says ‘hearty’ like a slow cooked Hunter’s Stew. Three variations of which were the main course and pinnacle of the Hunter’s Kitchen menu.
Designed for two to share, each dish arrived in a cast iron pan, warming the air with the promise of something utterly delicious. They didn’t disappoint.
Venison is slightly rich for my taste, but I can’t fault the venison stew, made with the osso bucco cut of meat and venison sausages slowly simmered side by side. The standout spiced pear slices and confit red cabbage that accompanied it was the ying to the gamey meat’s yang, along with some simple boiled potatoes.
The Bannockburn free range farm house chicken was a delightful surprise. It was a tasty reminder of just how good the humble chicken, can and should be. Crispy seasoned skin encasing juicy – not greasy – meat on the bone in a creamed potato gravy with chunks of bacon, roasted celery pieces, topped with crispy kale chips. We were still talking about how good the kale chips were even after dessert!
Both of the sides were simple but glorious in their own right, with roast beetroot, buffalo mozzarella and rhubarb on one plate making a good sidekick to the venison, and burnt broccoli, brown rice, almonds and currants tumbled together, teeing up nicely with the chicken.
For dessert we chose a fresh, tangy blueberry and elderflower crumble with a dollop of classic, creamy vanilla ice cream. There was less crumble than I would have liked but it’s a good option if you’re in the mood for something light.
The real sweetheart though was the saffron sponge which was light, golden and drizzled with treacle sauce and ice cream. Look out for a slightly crispy edge to the bottom of the sponge, in a true home-cooked style.
The menu is interesting, well-thought-out and you don’t have to take a longboat voyage across the ocean to sample it.
The Hunter’s Kitchen concept menu is available for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout winter.
481 Chapel St, South Yarra VIC 3141
(03) 9827 5789