Lot 20 remains one of the best small bars going around. Over the past couple of months every time I have ventured into Northbridge for Friday lunch, I have made a point of meeting (whoever is lucky enough to accompany me) at Lot 20 where we will have a few oysters, a cold drink, and a chat with oyster shucker to the stars, Jerry Fraser, who plies his trade there on Friday afternoon and Wednesday evening, before going on to our chosen dining destination. It has been the perfect appetiser!
Lot 20 is great spot, in the heart of the Cultural Centre precinct, with a beautiful courtyard out front – and I noticed this week a couple of tables and chairs on the footpath outside the entrance gate – a wonderfully renovated interior – upstairs and downstairs – where excellent food, a lot of it designed to share, is on offer; together with a brilliant wine list – small but thoughtfully put together with some great inclusions – Pacha Mama Riesling and Tahbilk Marsanne both from Victoria; Howard Park Cabernet from Margaret River, as well as their Flint Rock Shiraz from the Great Southern.
Anyway so it was on Friday I landed there again – celebrating the birthday of old mate, Smokey Jack – and on this occasion we decided to stay and eat rather than go on elsewhere. It was a good move.
The oysters on offer are always high quality – creamy, salty, perfect – and Jerry also has an array of sauces and accompaniments for those who prefer to sully the taste of these magnificent molluscs. Those we had this visit were from South Australia and Tasmania, and were no exception.
After ordering our obligatory oysters we looked over the menu. A number of share plates are a feature; with other offerings denoted as from the farm, which are mainly meats; from the earth, mostly vegetables; on toast, as it sounds and sandwiches, more burgers and US styled sandwiches than TipTop.
The James Street deli board – featuring a host of meats – was one choice; together with white anchovies on olive ciabatta; white bean puree with zucchini; and a salad of wombok, red cabbage, mint and coriander. One enduring dish on the menu, and one I have had many times, is the magnificent Dutch fries served in a paper cone with satay sauce and mayonnaise. On this Friday a special was on offer – Tokyo fries – so we went for these for a change.
We started our meal with a glass of Pacha Mama Riesling – pale straw in colour with tints of green, lime and lemon on the nose, with undertones of orange peel. The palate has intense flavours of lime, with crisp acid and finishing very dry. This is a great food wine, and perfectly accompanied the oysters.
After that we moved on to a glass of Spanish rosé, 2013 Lopez de Haro. I drank one of their reds recently at another spot and was impressed – the rosé maintains the standard; made from a blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo, it has aromas of raspberry and citrus, with a dry, crisp finish set up by excellent acid. It is great with seafood.
The fries were as good as ever – crisp, but tender and moist inside – they were sprinkled with spicy chilli salt, and came with a ginger infused mayo. It was creamy, just a hint of ginger to lift, and all in all this dish was a hit. Hopefully Tokyo fries will stay on along with their Dutch counterparts.
The deli board – pork terrine, jamon Serrano, chorizo, smoked brisket, mustard, pickle and bread – was a beautifully presented dish. The terrine was rich, moist, full of flavour, and spread on bread with a dash of the mild mustard, just the thing. Lightly fried chorizo was juicy, with a hint of spice; the ham sliced paper thin, not overly salted, deep flavoured and delicate; while the brisket was meltingly tender, background hints of smoke, and with a smoky barbeque sauce to add to the taste. Quickly pickled vegetables – carrot, onion, water melon rind – added a salty, vinegary crunch to what was a very impressive array.
A couple of thick slices of olive ciabatta were draped with roasted red pepper, dressed with sorrel, and white anchovies topped it all; a similar set up saw more ciabatta smeared with white bean puree, topped with pickled zucchini, feta and lemon dressing. These were two simple dishes, put together with fresh ingredients and are a statement of the skill of the kitchen. The flavours were complementary, they looked good, they tasted good, everything came together to produce two delicious bread based meals.
Our salad – made with Denmark sourced wombok (Chinese cabbage) – crunchy, fresh, light, an excellent finish to our meal – again demonstrated top quality, fresh ingredients produce brilliant, simple dishes if put together by skilled hands.
The waiters, and managers, at Lot 20 are another reason to drop by – friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, never less than welcoming and obliging.
On this occasion Smoky Jack had asked if he could bring along a bottle of aged red to celebrate – although not something usually agreed, the manager, probably feeling sorry for the aged gent, said OK and we opened a bottle of 2004 Lancaster’s Old Vine Shiraz. The OVS from Lancaster’s has been a favourite since the huge jammy 2003 was released. The 2004 was a much more refined wine, and it has stood up very well indeed. Lifted plum and black fruit on the nose, a hint of peppery spice, and a palate full of flavour – silky tannins, plums, chocolate, velvety mouth feel, with a long and smooth finish, it has the body and structure to age for some years yet. We were glad we were able to try it. So thank you to Lot 20 for allowing byo on this ONE occasion!
I should note, too, recently a very large smoker has been installed in the courtyard and on my last visit it was being loaded with dozens of chicken wings which were to be smoked for about 4 hours before being set loose on the customers – we will have to go back to try these at another time, for sure.
What can I say? Excellent food, high quality wine list, brilliant staff, Jerry’s oysters, beautiful renovation, great courtyard, Lot 20 is just a top spot – trendy without pretension; do yourself a favour and get along…