Pelican tapas in St Kilda resonates with laidback cool, the funky wooden exterior houses achingly trendy young hipsters out on the prowl. As we step inside the sultry restaurant we are greeted by a friendly staffer who promptly finds us a table and some menus. Inside the space almost feels a little colonial, dark wood abounds and ceiling fans keep the customers cool (who thought they could get any cooler?)
The menu is simple yet enticing. It features the classics but adds a touch of flair with dishes such as popcorn chicken. We were considering a bottle of viognier and as they sold it by the glass, I asked for a taste and this was no problem for our waiter. After ordering our wine, we sat back in our chairs and settled in for a proper catch up. Our food arrived in two stages which was perfect for the size of our table and avoided food becoming cold whilst languidly hanging out on the plate.
First cab off the rank was the aforementioned popcorn chicken with tarragon and lemon aioli, closely followed by Moroccan spiced meatballs with tomato sauce and yoghurt. The chicken was perfectly cooked and very well seasoned, it was better than the colonels’ incarnation of popcorn chicken. Small nuggets of moist, tender chicken were enveloped in a spiced, crisp batter and the dish was studded with popcorn kernels which added a nice textural element. Moroccan meatballs were a benchmark dish, they were everything you want from a meatball. The lamb was moist and the meat was not too heavy, the sweet Moroccan spices were perfectly nuanced and the rich tomato sauce had the perfect foil in the form of yoghurt.
After the first round we were showing our enthusiasm by salivating on the table, well, not quite but we sure were keen for what was ahead. Round two was comprised of prawns with chilli, garlic and tomato; chorizo with romesco, broad beans, cherry tomatoes and potatas bravas. Once again we were lulled into a place of comfort and satisfaction, which is just what we all needed after the previous night of debauchery and four am pizza scoffing. The romesco was punchy and flavoursome, with the cherry tomatoes and broad beans adding a fresh touch to lighten the smoky chorizo. I could tell from the other side of the table that the prawns were perfectly cooked; they still had that tender translucency which reassures you that they haven’t been cooked into oblivion. They were juicy and cooked expertly but the sauce would have benefited from a sprinkle of salt. However, the potatas bravas found the perfect accompaniment in the leftover prawn juices. The crispy potatoes were elevated to another level when dipped in the seafood residue. I must say, the tatties were good but I think I can do better myself, which is never really a welcome thought when dining out.
We had ordered on the light side as I had previously spotted the ridiculously reasonably priced desserts. Bil (brother in law) and Sis (sister) had joined me for dinner and we all decided to indulge in dessert. It’s almost rude not to when they only cost $6. So Bil and I opted for the peanut brittle ice cream with tuille biscuit whilst Sis chose the white chocolate rocky road. The ice cream was creamy and crunchy and all round pleasant, if I try hard to find a criticism, it was a tiny bit gummy. White chocolate rocky road was yummy and appeared to be made from good quality chocolate and was a generous portion.
All in all, it was a really lovely evening, made better by the consistently good food with no frills and frippery. To me, a wee country lass, Pelican represents what I imagine mainstream Melbourne dining to be. Pelican was trendy, simple, yet displayed flair and they make it all look so effortless. It just had that cool Melbourne thing going on, let’s hope it’s contagious.
Next stop, the Great Ocean Road….