Hell of the North

Hell of the North and its famous yellow door had been recommended to me incredibly frequently, and when I finally made the booking, more gushes of “I’ve heard that place is amazing” came my way.

The interior is a maze of rooms which house a various amount of heavy wooden dining tables, pub style round high seated tables, private room and a beer garden. Definitely eclectic, but the atmosphere is smooth and refined. The menu had my mouth watering for days, and our table ordered a fair whack of it, much to the amusement of our waiter.

I kicked off the night with an Orchard Mule: Vodka, Apple Liqueur, Shiraz, Lime, Ginger beer ($17.0) which was a sweet treat down the hatch.

The Heirloom Tomato Gaspacho, Buffalo Mozzarella, Smoked Tomato & Anchovy Sorbet ($7.0) was served frosty cold. The sorbet was exciting in words, but when I tasted it, it was too sweet and did not have the salty kick that anchovies usually have. The tomato with balsamic oil through the soup was refreshing and sweet. The cube of mozzarella had a nice earthy flavour, grounding the dish along with the brioche cubes. It was an alright start, but definitely not the best gazpacho I’ve had.

The next dish to arrive was the Pulled Pork & Gruyere Doughnut ($7.0) which was AMAZEBALLS. Hearty and meaty, and fried dough which wasn’t too thick to hide the pork flavour inside. You can’t get much better than this.

Only I wanted to try the Prawn Fritter, Tamarind Sauce ($7.0) but they ended up bringing out two, which was a bit of a waste. Though the prawn was definitely a prawn, a lot of the flavour came from the nice salty/sweet tamarind sauce. The dish was a lot like something you’d get at Yum Cha, but for double the price.

Charcuterie Selection ($28.0) included the Chicken Liver Parfait, Madeira Jelly, Brioche + Pork, Prune & Pistachio Terrine + Pork Rillets, which were delicious and fatty. The terrine was quite nice, especially if you managed to get all ingredients in one forkful. Next time I would just order the Parfait on its own, as it was the clear start of the selection. A smooth liver parfait with a layer of Madeira jelly on top meant there was the meaty tasted of chicken liver, combined with the sweetness of the Madeira.

I loved the charcuterie selection, and they even gave us an extra serve of bread when they noticed we had run out. Without us asking! I was suitably impressed.

The Beetroot Cured Kingfish, Orange, Pickled Cucumber ($26.0) wasn’t that good. It was lacking in salt to bring out the fresh sweetness of the kingfish, and there was an abundance of oil used which didn’t add anything to the dish. The cucumber and carrot were quite a neutral flavour, so the dish fell flat overall.

I wanted to try the Bloody Maria ($15.0) with tequila instead of vodka, and it definitely gave the drink a different dimension. The taste became deeper and heavier, but it wasn’t my favourite Bloody base, so it was hard to judge.

Navarin of Lamb ($32.0) was a deliciously cooked medallion of lamb; the red wine jus and peas gave the dish a sweeter element, and it was nice to sample a red meat and contrast it with the white meat in the following dish.

I quite enjoyed the Milawa Duck, Red Cabbage, Madeira Jus ($34.0) the duck was tender and had a substantial amount of meat on the thigh for a duck. On top of that there were additional cuts of duck fillet on the site. The crackling was like a combination of fried duck skin and prawn cracker, which was gone all too soon.

I always order Pommes Frites ($8.0) when I can. Delicious!

I am a big fan of the crunch from these Green Beans, Chilli, Garlic, Anchovy Crumb ($8.0), the anchovy crumb was quite subtle, as was the chilli spice (one piece pictured), but it offered a nice token vegetable dish to our meal.

Crème Brulee ($14.0) is Crème Brulee, a good creamy vanilla custard texture with a thin crust which shattered daintily.

The Baba au Rhum, Pineapple, Licorice ($14.0) was not as strong as other Babas I’ve had, which was good, as it’s still not my kind of dessert. The cake was very soft, with a nice springy texture, but I let the others finish this one.

Chocolate, Peanuts & Whisky ($14.0) was probably the most coveted desert of the night, with a unanimous vote of confidence. There was a good chocolate cake base, with whisky ice-cream and foam sprinkled with peanuts. I thought it would be a boring traditional dish, but it definitely tasted the best.

For some reason, in my mind the Apple Bavarois, Blueberry Sorbet ($14.0) was like a warm Tarte Tatin, but instead it came out as a cold, creamy dessert. Either way, it was quite interesting. It had a rather thick custard-like texture, with a crunch from the clever use of celery. It was a nice subtle sweet dish, without being too overpowering and filling.

TL;DR Try it, even just for the Pork Doughnuts

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