Refined Mediterranean in a back alley
Gemmill Lane, Club Street's quieter sidekick, has long been a haunt for chilled-out drinks at Beaujolais and Club Street Social, or a celebratory night out at Luke's Oyster Bar. Now, the alley is in the thick of its own restaurant revival. Count Maggie Joan's as its equivalent of a hipper-than-thou secret dining club, or Platform 9 3/4 with a Mediterranean meal lurking in lieu of Hogwarts.
The restaurant is the sibling of Moosehead Kitchen and Bar. Father-and-son team Glen and Daniel Ballis, along with their friend Darren Micallef, are the brains behind the operation, named after Daniel’s two grandmothers. Sleuth down the Gemmill-facing back alley off Amoy Street, enter the metal door marked by an unlit signboard and you’ll find yourself in a twinkling cosy cave of a long, darkened dining room.
More brightly lit is the open kitchen with ex-Pollen sous chef Oliver Hyde leading the cooking. Contrary to the grandmotherly connotations of the restaurant’s name, the seasonally driven plates are more refined than rustic in plating and execution. Those looking for the brasher, smokier INKA-kissed meats should continue to hit up Moosehead – only a few elements on the limited menu are fired in the wood oven.
Seafood is Maggie Joan’s strong suit. Thick, robust slices of marinated yellowtail ($23) is arranged in a row among artfully tousled carrot shavings, pickled shallot rings and a mildly salted cod emulsion. A thick fillet of mellow bass ($28) sits in pesto soup with vanilla and balsamic-steeped tomatoes. And although not immediately recommended by the servers, the chunk of tender lamb shoulder ($29) is another good bet – that said, we still miss the base note of smoke that Moosehead has perfected.
Even if we're not in the mood for a full meal, we can see ourselves popping in for a drink, some tapas and maybe even lunch just to soak in the atmosphere. The ‘appetisers’ – they’re snacks, really – make good padding for drinks: try the wobbly sphere of poached egg and saffron mayo paired with dukkah crumbs for texture ($6), and crusty garlic and rosemary boule with hummus ($5). Lunch offers two ($30) and three ($38) plate riffs on the main dishes, and a smaller portion of the Rangers Valley steak, which is served at dinnertime only in a 400g hunk ($88) to share.
With the opening of Maggie Joan's, diners seeking the same unassuming charm from Moosehead – but with less smoke – now have somewhere to go. Just don't expect to find yourself in grandma's kitchen.
|Venue name:||Maggie Joan's||Contact:|
110 Amoy St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm, 6pm-11pm; Sat 6pm-11pm|