We walked past the Duchess of Spotswood on our many visits to Candied Bakery just a few doors down (see our search for Melbourne’s Best Croissants), and been tempted by the menu. We decided that we should make it a meal destination one day, so rearranged our croissant collection plan.
The eatery has elements of Victorian decor, but with more cottagey charm than stuffy styling. There was the intricate ceiling rose above a small chandelier, “Duchess of Spotswood” in cursive lettering on one wall, and a gilt-edged mirror on another wall, but the rest was unfussy.
Water and glasses were ready at the tables. Music played in the background at a present but not too loud volume. When we were there, tone down big band swing was playing. It made for a lively atmosphere without being disruptive. There was a cooking area in the back corner of the space just behind the service counter, but the extraction was good enough that cooking smells didn’t permeate to the dining area.
The Duchess of Spotswood has been around for many years – long before we moved here – and looks to have changed hands a couple of times in the interim. While we never got to try the original, the current incarnation has some promising dishes on the menu. There were certainly more interesting options than your standard brunch fare. For instance, the Cauli Mouli, with crumbed cauliflower and cheese croquette, cauliflower puree, crispy kale, cherry tomato, pomegranate molasses, poached eggs, and mixed salad. Or the Circles of Life for those with a sweeter tooth, which were orange and ricotta pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, seasonal fruit, vanilla mascarpone, seed granola, icing sugar, and rose glaze. Out of the many potentials, we eventually chose the Earl of Cornwall and the Duchess of Pork (not just for the thematic names).
Starting with drinks, the flat white was done on a St Ali blend. It was light, but had complex flavours to it, with spice and cinnamon notes. It was a shame that it was small serve though, but that seems the creeping norm these days.
The hot chocolate could have been more chocolatey, and sadly they charge $1 extra for soy or other non-dairy milks (as previously lamented in other posts, an additional $1 for a fraction of the packet – in this case it was a small cup too – that you are getting instead of dairy milk and not in addition, when soy milk is commonplace and no longer a rarity, and doesn’t cost that much more than dairy, is a reach).
The Earl of Cornwall was listed in the menu as being Corn jalapeno fritters, dill, mint, smokey tomato, ricotta salata, and poached eggs. (Cornwall because corn fritters..) The line of fritters came hidden under the salad, flanked by the two poached eggs. We appreciated that these were proper fritters, and not the vegetable pancakes that some eateries call fritters. The fritters had good crunch on the outside, and were well seasoned. There were plenty of corn kernels in the fritters, and the batter had a flavourful curry spice mixed though it. The tomatoey sauce base underneath it had a hint of smokiness, and went well with the fritters, so the dish wasn’t too dry. The poached eggs had rightly runny yolks.
The Duchess of Pork had crispy pork jowl, cauliflower two ways, sage, smokey pork and cheese croquette, fried egg, Madeira jus, bacon aioli, and sourdough.(Duchess of Pork as a play on Duchess of York? There is also a Prince of Wales item on the menu..) This was one that was an easy decision when we saw the menu, as there were so many interesting elements in it. We were wondering how they would all go together, and as served, most of the components were standalones, with the cauliflower puree forming the base the others were placed on.
The smokey pork and cheese croquette was essentially a risotto ball, with a crisp outside, and a softly melded interior, with pieces of what could have passed for chorizo through it (essentially a smokey pork). The block of pork jowl also had a crisp surface, and they managed to prevent the inside from being dry. The meat was well seasoned, and had meaty flavour without being gamey. It could have done with a little more sauce though. The cauliflower puree had a subtle sweetness, and helped to gel the other components. The cauliflower florets done the second way were caramelised on the outside, but still tender inside.
We certainly appreciated the variety on the menu of the Duchess of Spotswood (and a guess at their punny titles). Their options are much more adventurous than the offerings of most other eateries currently around. They can also clearly cook, as the dishes were tasty, and not just things put together for the sake of it. If you’re on the hunt for something different, this is worth visiting.
Price point: Dishes more than eggs or spreads on toast $13 to $26. Our dishes $21.50 and $25.50.
Value: Alright (apart from soy).
Address: 87 Hudsons Rd, Spotswood
Phone: 03 9391 6016
Website: Duchess of Spotswood