Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gurney Drive, North Melbourne by Big Fil

One thing I should put on the table is that I just love Malaysian food. It doesn't matter if it's Chinese Malaysian, Malay, Nyonya or Indian Malaysian, prepared properly it's all good. If you like Malaysian food in Australia you should really try it in Malaysia where the ingredients are fresher, prices are much cheaper and the sheer number of eateries and competition between them means the general standard of hawker style food is significantly better.

What this means is that Malaysian food here generally leaves me feeling flat. Gurney Drive was recommended to me as somewhere that had clams in their char kway teoh, which I remembered from Penang but rarely find here, and I had high hopes for my visit.

For a place selling hawker style dishes Gurney Drive has a pretty upmarket ambience. Bright white walls with wooden tables and chairs give it more of an upmarket café feel than a lowly street dive. Getting there before 12.30pm we were the first customers to arrive, but over the next 40 minutes or so a number of groups came through so it ended up around half full.

Between the three of us we ordered three main dishes to share. Ruby Grapefruit is a big fan of char kway teoh and with that asthe main reason we were at the restaurant one choice was effectively made before we walked through the door. The menu was fairly extensive so it took us a while to settle on the combination hor fun and the nyonya fish with rice.

The first to arrive was the combination hor fun - fried noodles, prawns, calamari, fish cake and chicken with an egg based sauce. To me anyway one of the most important elements of this dish is the texture given by frying the noodles so that some parts are a little soft, some are crisp. The one at Gurney Drive is one of the better hor funs I've had in Melbourne. The serve was generous (although we could have done with more than two prawns to share between the three of us), the sauce not too runny and the dish had a touch of wok hei (breath of the wok).

Next to arrive was the Nyonya fish. Nyonya cuisine is a fusion of Malay and Chinese, marrying Malay spices into Chinese cooking. While I didn't mind the Nyonya fish it was a little sweet and lacking in depth of flavour and Ms Grapefruit wasn't that impressed.

But the dish we all really wanted to sample was the char kway teoh. This is one of the hawker dishes in Penang, and in parts of Georgetown it seems that every street corner has a café where you can see people eating this, talking and drinking tea. To be honest, we were a bit disappointed. The addition of clams didn't add as much to flavour as expected, and without egg and Chinese sausage the flavours were a little flat.

We were left a bit underwhelmed. The prices were good, the serves generous and the fit-out pleasant enough but the flavours were lacking. Would I go back? Yes, if in the area and looking for a quick and cheap Malaysian style meal. Overall, I think there are better places around Melbourne to eat but Gurney Drive is new and the staff seemed to be making an effort so it might improve.

Food - 6.5
Ambience - 7
Service - 6.5
Prices - 7.5

284 Victoria Street
North Melbourne Vic 3051
Tel: (03) 9329 6649

Gurney Drive on Urbanspoon

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