Named after the three hospitality guru's at its helm, G&J is an instant hit with its "Melbourne look".

Gorski and Jones

16:12:PM 15/02/2012
Kendall Hill

All hands on deck: The kitchen staff are kept busy at Gorski and Jones.
All hands on deck: The kitchen staff are kept busy at Gorski and Jones.

Let’s call it the Melbourne look. Frequent diners will know it well – that studied, once-industrial space of exposed brick and “distressed” paint, with a quirky-light-fitting-and-Bentwood-chair aesthetic that is de rigueur at any neighbourhood eatery aspiring to attract the in-crowd.

You’ll find it writ large at Gorski and Jones, a newish Collingwood restaurant and bar that has moved into the digs once occupied by the prophetically named Last Record Store. If we had space here, we’d publish a cut-out-and-keep checklist of the Melbourne design zeitgeist so you could tick off the wood-fired oven, the open kitchen, the hanging baskets, the terrazzo floor, the forest of warm timber finishes, the vintage objets, the charcuterie/salumi cabinet, the tiled feature walls – all of which you’ll find re-created down the Woollies end of Smith Street at G&J. Not to mention the deep rear courtyard finished in red brick and shingles to conjure a Swiss-chalet-meets-Manchester vibe. Quirky.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the interior. In fact, it’s so familiar that I feel relaxed immediately and settle in for a fun night, even though it’s my first time here. Still, we’ve probably reached the tipping point with this particular look, dontcha think?

G&J is named for the three partners behind this instant Smith Street hit – Paul and Linda Jones from Brunswick Street’s popular Alimentari, and Meaghan Gorski, ex-Jacques Reymond and St Peter’s. Their hospitality stripes show through in the way the floor copes on a crammed Saturday night. Personable staff only neglect us once during peak feeding frenzy, and we mightn’t have even noticed except we were waiting on more wine at the time. The music, meanwhile, is loud enough to scare older diners away and keep the vibe youngish and cool.

The important thing about the décor is that it does nothing to distract from the pleasures of Paul Jones’ food or the thrill of selecting an unfamiliar drop from the tight, varietal-heavy wine list. A Tiefenbrunner pinot bianco goes so well with the starters and pasta that we run dry quickly but are saved by an inspired selection available by the half-bottle carafe. Genius stuff.

Seafood Linguine
Seafood Linguine
You can kick off with plates of antipasti or salumi or cheese (the latter two keenly priced at $10/$20 servings) or go a bit more upmarket, like we did, with a bountiful entrée of fior de latte (cow mozzarella) wrapped in prosciutto and baked in the wood oven until crisp and stupidly irresistible. They sit on a simple tomato sauce and sport two basil leaves by way of herbal supplement. All up, it’s a wonderful way to start the meal. Cheese and bacon. What’s not to like?

Finely crumbed zucchini flowers are stuffed plumply with ricotta on a bed of roasted capsicum. Sprigs of dill add a fresh, almost healthy accent to the deep-fried dumplings.

Pollo tonnato sounds wrong but turns out to be a clever twist on the vitello version. Poached rounds of sliced chicken are drenched in tuna mayo and scattered with quartered egg and cherry tomato pieces. Some good anchovies and juicy capers round out the line-up. Purists might turn their pert noses up at the absence of veal but I’m looking forward to diving into that plate again some time soon.

The food so far has been gutsy and rich, and the serves are decent. Perhaps that’s why, by the time my linguine with seafood, chilli and white wine arrives, I’m underwhelmed. There’s a standard seafood selection of two prawns, inoffensive white fish, mussels and cockles, and it’s all perfectly palatable but just doesn’t punch as hard as its predecessors. The chilli is too restrained, so is the seasoning.

Curiously, the pork belly has a bone in it and looks more like half a cutlet than a piece of paunch. In fact, this toned, meaty cut is more abs than belly. But there’s enough fat to keep things moist and juicy and we fully support Mr Jones’ decision to pair the pig with beautifully baked and halved figs and pine nuts. The man clearly has good taste.

There is really only one dessert worth mentioning, but the baked peaches are nice, too. The shapely halves sit in a sugary cinnamon juice with an almost caramelly amaretto cream, but they almost defeat us at the end of our big blow-out.

And then comes the tiramisu. It’s not much to look at, just a modest serve in a quaint crystal glass with all the layers in the right places. But this is eye-poppingly good pudding. At the bottom there’s a morass of sponge blackened with cocoa and coffee until the colour of sump oil, overlaid with more ladyfingers, then plugged with a gorgeous gloop of creamy egg white and mascarpone that itself is paved with a bitumen of cocoa and chocolate. Best tiramisu I’ve had in months.

Forget the décor. Just come for the cake.

Eat this

Gorski and Jones

304 Smith Street, Collingwood

Cuisine Mediterranean

Chef Paul Jones

Hip pocket About $60 a head for the full three-courser

Open Tuesday to Saturday from 5pm

Highlights The vibe, the vino, the victuals

Lowlights Minor menu minuses

Bookings Definitely

Phone 9417 7779


Gorski & Jones on Urbanspoon

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