Grant Dow wanted to go into either beer or boats, but he could see more success in making beer.
“There’s been a bow wave of interest in craft beer,” he says, with no intended pun. He and wife Suzanne opened True South in September 2009, without a background in hospitality but with a dedicated passion for the amber fluid. Dow liked the name True South – he is a boatie after all – but the Black Rock location is almost due south of Melbourne, too. With award-winning brewer Sam Fuss on board from the beginning, the brewery restaurant and the craft beer brand have clearly set sail. True South draught beer is now available in 11 venues in Victoria, two in NSW and one in WA.
“Our focus has been on bars that want to serve something other than mainstream beers,” Dow says. “We are competing with the big brands and we pay the same taxes as they do. The only way for us to be successful was to set up the brewery in our own venue, so we established a footprint in Black Rock.”
The new chef, Argentinian-born Mauro Callegari (Mezzo Bar + Grill, Mandala Wines, Sofitel, Fenix), started at True South just before Australia Day.
“We needed to simplify the menu and drop off things that took large amounts of preparation time. Mauro will put his signature on the menu with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and his Argentinian flavours,” says Dow.
Callegari’s tapas selections include a grilled provolone cheese platter – a heated ceramic plate holding grilled portions of the salty, textured cheese; chicken tenderloins with a chimichurri dressing; and a generous charcuterie platter featuring Serrano ham, grilled chorizo, pork rilette, calabrese sausage, first-rate bread and an excellent house-made dark ale and almond mustard. It’s a great drinking and sharing plate.
Mouthwatering: Mount Leura lamb loin and garden salad.
The grill section includes kangaroo fillet and twice-cooked baby chicken; plus black Angus eye fillet and Mount Leura lamb loin offered in 220g portions. Each dish arrives with a fresh salad of heirloom baby tomatoes and young radishes in a light vinaigrette. A selection of dressings, including a spicy salsa criolla with capsicum, onion, tomatoes and parsley, is passed around the room.
The seafood list offers ricotta gnocchi with Moreton Bay bugs; pan-seared scallops with chorizo, tomato and shallots; an excellent pale-ale fish and chips and a crispy-skinned grilled Atlantic salmon that arrives with a fresh, bright cucumber, tomato and mint salad.
The dessert list includes a mixed berry salad, a chocolate trifle and a cheese platter featuring three excellent choices. We share a budin de pan (Argentinian-style bread-and-butter pudding) that’s given added interest with quince paste and a divine vanilla cream topping.
But the last word must go to the hot cinnamon doughnuts that arrive in a waft of spice on the table beside us and are quickly devoured by a party of four that enthusiastically expresses its delight.
True South is a fabulous venue, based on a great concept in an excellent location. It’s a craft brewery serving beer-complementing food in an Aussie-style indoor-outdoor setting across the road from Port Phillip Bay. Mauro Callegari’s menu is short and classy, with a strong Argentinian twist and consideration for the five beers and one cider on tap. The odd daily special wouldn’t go astray – we hope he adds one or two. Generally pleasant staff members are not particularly organised and easily distracted, while the kitchen pumps out dishes at a sometimes too-rapid pace.
298 Beach Road, Black Rock
Phone \ 1300 878 360
Chef \ Mauro Callegari
Prices \ Breakfast $6.50-$16; tapas $5-$25; mains $26-$36; desserts $10-$12
Open \ Monday to Friday noon-late; weekends 8am-late
Greenery in planter boxes dividing dining sections softens the industrial look of the bare white walls, exposed beams and polished concrete floors at this bayside brewery restaurant and bar. Indoor-outdoor seating with a view across Beach Road to the bay is at a premium.
Timber bench seats and versatile round and square tables are set against dark-brown feature bricks. There are five to six beers on tap, including a rotating single batch – try the Japanese-style Mint Ninja, and the Little Miss Muffet apple cider – crafted by Sam Fuss.
Beer styles change according to the season, moving from a summer ale to an autumn lager named Red Truck in March and a Scotch ale named Wee Jimmy in winter. There’s a view-catching function room upstairs that seats 120.