from one generation to the next
An unplanned flying visit to Melbourne the weekend before Christmas was jam packed with good things. We spent some quality time with family, we shopped a little, but most importantly we dined well.
My old home town still tugs at my heart strings. I especially miss the high quality bar and dining experiences easily found in Melbourne, the intimate atmospheric haunts offering unfussy high quality food prepared and served by people who are passionate about their craft.
Not one poor quality morsel of food passed our lips that weekend. One especially memorable experience was a return to an old favourite, Bar Lourinha. There are a few tables but the small space is dominated by the bar. At most, 30 people can be seated at any one time so there’s always a few hopefuls hanging about the doorway waiting for a chair.
Bar Lourinha is currently celebrating 10 years of serving wonderful wine by the glass and simple rustic bar food inspired by the travels of chef Matt McConnell and his partner Jo Gamvros through Portugal, Spain, Italy and Turkey.
Warmed olives and chilled white wine marked the beginning for us, then charred sourdough toast with Spanish Yurrita cantabrico anchovies served still in their can. We then chose salt cod croquettes followed by Spanish style cured Kingfish. Every morsel was superb, but the piece de resistance was a plate of simple unadorned cucumbers with a generous dollop of thick sheep milk yoghurt for dipping.
I like the sophistication of Bar Lourinha, it’s self assured, honest, welcoming and friendly. The decor is quirky, the service outstanding and the food fresh, simple, thoughtful and bloody delicious.
Last week, with a sense of anticipation I bought some sheep milk yoghurt, and cucumbers, Yurrita anchovies and jamon Serrano. I baked sourdough ciabatta and chose a couple of other dishes to create my own “bar” menu to serve to friends with a large jog of icy cold sangria.
Feta cheese baked in vine leaves fitted beautifully into the theme. The recipe is from “Sirocco” by Sabina Ghayour. I only made a few minor adjustments to the seasoning quantities. It was delicious although a little salty due to my choice of cheese. I regret not putting a little more thought into my purchase but it didn’t detract from our overall enjoyment. The baked feta was the perfect foil to a warm salad of sweet baby carrots cooked in verjuice. I’ll share that recipe next time.
To celebrate their 10 years of success, the folks at Bar Lourinha recently published a book of recipes “Eat At The Bar.” They may be 2000 kilometres away but as a small consolation I can now recreate their delicious food at home.
Feta Baked in Vine Leaves
6-8 large vine leaves* see below
200g block good quality feta cheese, rinsed
grated zest of 1/2 unwaxed lemon
1/2 teaspoon pul biber chilli flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 teaspoons of garlic oil
Preheat the oven to 200C and line a small baking pan with paper.
Set one large vine leaf aside the lay out the remainder on the bench to form a rectangle big enough to enclose your block of cheese.
Place the block of feta in the centre, then scatter over the herbs and spices.
Drizzle over the garlic oil.
Fold the vine leaves over the cheese to make a tight parcel the lay the reserved leaf over the top to seal it off.
Bake the cheese for 20-25 minutes.
Open the parcel and serve warm with bread.