Very cheap eats: The Undertaker and Cabinet Bar

So, in my first attempt at reviewing for very cheap eats I forgot my camera and, having lost my phone-with-camera last weekend in a moment of drunken idiocy, I therefore have no pictures. I also didn’t make any notes and, while I remember what I ate, remembering other menu options seems to be failing me today. Not really the greatest start to my reviewing career. However, I shall blunder onwards because I liked these 2 places and think they’d be much more convivial if they were busier…

Firstly, The Undertaker, 329 Burwood Road, Hawthorn (Tel: 03 9818

3944) I walk past here every day and have always been fascinated; partly because they seem to always be open, from breakfast through coffee and lunch to dinner and drinks at least Mon-Fri; I was also fascinated because it had such a high gloss, dark wood, very expensive look with fantastic floral displays that caught my eye. Then last week the downstairs windows were covered in newspaper. Underneath the newspaper a beautiful caterpillar to equally beautiful butterfly moment was occurring. When they re-opened the main dining room was a bit more comfortable and loungey rather than formal, still with cream leather booths, but also some galvanised steel chairs, and they had these fantastic light fixings consisting of aged-wire boxes, containing many lightbulbs, with one of those lightbulbs lighting up the rest. They really are very striking and look great.A friend and I dropped in for drinks Thursday night. Sadly, the bar/dining area was rather quiet and did not get that much busier before we left at 8pm-ish, however they had just re-opened and are still in the process of re-organising other areas. Their wine list seemed rather expensive (one red at $7/glass but the remainder at $9+). However, the bar/waiting staff were bright, enthusiastic and helpful as we moved from bar service for drinks to table service ordering food. However, there was one table they didn’t clear the whole time we were there. The big surprise was their new menu, where there were not only bar snacks for $5-$10, but meal options for $13-$28, with around 4 for $15 or less. Side dishes were $6 and the dessert list was $12-$18. My friend and I ordered linguine with prawns and kipfler potatoes with chorizo and a poached egg from the $14 end of the menu. Our food came quickly and looked lovely too, all stacked together on a large white plate. My kipfler potatoes were lovely: cooked just right and nicely balanced by the spicyness of the chorizo and the smoothness of the egg. I would have really liked a little aioli on the side as the dish was a little dry, however the flavours were great. Given the size of the serving (enough that I still had plenty of space for dessert) I’m wondering now whether the cheaper options are actually meant as entrees.

It fails on ordering “pretty much anything on the menu to get 2 courses for $20”, but the fact that you can get 2 courses for $20 here surprised me. And the toilets did have some fantastic wallpaper.

A nicely-decorated lounge in which to get some good food whilst having a few drinks in Hawthorn.

Secondly, Cabinet Bar, 11 Rainbow Alley, Melbourne (Tel: 03 9654 0915)

This is much closer to the category of 2 courses for $20. However, it’s still very much a bar that you can enjoy food at. If you can find it, that is. I had one of those Melbourne moments of walking straight past it and not finding it until I walked back in the other direction from which it was slightly more obvious. Up some stairs and into a long, rather dark room, with great wallpaper and ornate chairs and sofas. However it was bit dark so we sat at a table by the window, from which we were lit by the lights of Swanston Street. We ordered at the bar for drinks and then table service for food. The menu is on the blackboard and segues naturally from bar snacks for $3-$8, antipasto $19 for $2, arancini for $12.50 and a variety of flatbreads layered with flavours for $15.50. My friend and I ordered flatbreads, which arrived quickly. I had roasted duck on plum sauce with rocket, blue cheese and mushrooms. I love duck and don’t see it enough on menus and it works so well with plum sauce, then in a new flavour lesson for me, the mushrooms and blue cheese worked well too. My friend had the salami and bocconcini flatbread that looked very much like pizza with some great juicy olives. The service here was very attentive and friendly and it would be a pleasure to go regularly: this place could become very comfortable, very quickly. We also had a few drinks, little creatures pale for my friend and red wine by the glass for me, but precisely how much they cost is lost in the mists of time…I wish they’d turn the lights up, just a touch, but it was such a nice environment that I’ll definitely be going back.

And regarding the reviewing experience: next time I’m taking notes (digging this up from memory has been too painful) and photos. Oh, and being cheekier about eating my companions’ food, normally nothing stops me but I got all polite in doing this! Apologies for now but hopefully more to come.