Poodle Bar & Bistro
Time Out says
Behold, the culinary king of Gertrude Street has arrived.
Welcome to Poodle, yet another art-deco inspired multi-level venue that’s graced our fair city, where head chef Josh Fry (Marion, Cumulus Inc) takes kitschy dishes and gives them a signature Italian-inspired makeover.
But this isn’t just another multi-level venue, this is more. The green, marbled and dark wooden veneered bones of the site designed by Melbourne studio Bergman & Co scream Italianesque grandeur, but the people within make you feel at home. Owner Zoë Rubino mans the door and partner Emilio Scalzo floats around, both providing service and smiles iterative of any ex-McConnell staff.
Downstairs you'll find intimate booths, doodles by previous guests framed on the wall and a locked and loaded bistro menu. We order the Padrón peppers, wrinkled, lightly charred and doused in a black garlic vinegar that lends its acidity to the spice and smokiness of the peppers.
Flaky vol-au-vents time travel into 2021 and meet their fate, filled with garlicky taramosalata, chunks of spanner crab and salty orbs of fish roe, the four marrying together quicker than a couple on Married at First Sight.
Soon beefy skewers of duck hearts emerge from a literal trial by fire, bronzed and content in their chargrilled state. Prawn cocktail, anyone? Yes, you heard me correctly – and no, you aren’t nose-deep in an Australian culinary magazine from the '70s. The retro summer staple distances itself from its gaudy prototype and arrives dressed to the nines in diced celery and prawn meat swimming in a lightly spiced cocktail sauce with sprigs of dill while whole, extra raw prawns delicately balance off the rim of a Martini glass.
Fry’s magnum opus is a nod to the surf and turf. A monster charcoal-grilled, dry-aged 800g hunk of O'Connor rib-eye steak, glistening in a pool of umami-laden prawn butter (a concoction devised of butter and heavy prawn bisque) and deep-fried school prawns. It’s pre-cut to avoid making an eton mess of the thing, and best paired with frites.
Sommelier Alex makes suggestions according to our preference and spruiks the extensive wine list as 'Octopus’s Garden' by the Beatles plays in the background. Classic cocktails make a very welcomed appearance here, but they’re guised under different names: a Gibson is known as the venue’s signature Wet Poodle; a smoked lemonade shandy is a playful iteration of a country pub staple; and the White Ferrari gives a cousin of the Negroni a makeover with a combo of Cocchi Americano, gin and Lillet Blanc.
Saunter on upstairs to the rooftop bar and snack on charcoal-grilled garfish topped with Champagne velouté and a Martini showcasing moss vermouth infused with orange and Szechuan peppercorns. If it's warm, lap up the rays outside, otherwise, you can sit by the fireplace like the king of Gertrude Street.
At Poodle, Fitzroy is your oyster, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger pearler than this one.