Where: Northern Git, 757 High Street Thornbury
What: Pan-fried gnocchi so good you’ll never order anything else again
Bloat score: 1 – Had to loosen my belt a notch
As much as I enjoy dictating where my friends and I dine, it is often a welcome relief when someone else does the decision-making instead. Northern Git was suggested as the perfect place for a mid-week dinner, and after realising it was on my 180-page list of places I want to try in Melbourne, I started rapaciously scouring the menu – deciding at least two days in advance that we would definitely be having the spicy chicken wings with blue cheese.
As always, I started off with the best intentions and told myself I would order a main meal that ticked off all the low FODMAP checkboxes so I wouldn’t have to inflict my limited diet on anyone else, but those intentions went out the window once I was there. Why would I follow my intolerances and have one dish when I could ignore them and share six? I’d say “famous last words”, but I think this exact thought around five times a week.
The Northern Git menu has something for everyone – it has meat plates that comprise things such as duck liver parfait, habanero salami and beef bresaola; a selection of sumptuous sounding salads; and classics the likes of hamburgers, pies, fish and chips, and eggplant parmas.
We decided to go with the warm farro and cauliflower salad, the warm vegetable salad, the black pudding, the sautéed gnocchi and the eggplant wedges. We were dining with a friend who suffers from a deep-seated phobia of bones, so chicken wings were out, but she overlooked her inherent dislike of innards by letting us order the black pudding. I was very proud of her.
The eggplant wedges arrived first. Cut into small pieces, the smoked paprika and cumin-seasoned wedges were crispy and flavoursome, unlike limp ones I’ve tried elsewhere that become soggy after being deep fried. The accompanying tomato relish had traces of anchovy in it, or some fish remnant, and overpowered the eggplant – I much preferred it without.
In what was to be a common theme of the night, my heart sank when the farro and cauliflower salad arrived – crispy onions blanketed the entirety of it. As you may have realised by now, I take my intolerances as seriously as my promise to go to the gym 3 times a week, but there’s something about ingesting onion and garlic that I can clearly see that makes me physically ill. Puree it into a sauce, blend it into a curry, mash it into a paste – I don’t care which – but I can’t eat it when it’s staring right up at me. I’m clearly in denial
Fret not, as I let the others enjoy the untainted deliciousness of the crispy onions, and burrowed further in for my uncontaminated serve of farro, cauliflower, yoghurt, cucumber and pomegranates. While I’m sure the crispy onions were a welcome addition, I greatly enjoyed what I sampled – the salad was creamy and rich. Collectively, we demolished it in a few minutes.
The warm vegetable salad that comprised horseradish cream, roasted parsnip, fennel, sweet potato, smoked almonds and, you guessed it – crispy onions – was similarly good, although the ingredients didn’t mesh together as well as with the first salad.
I order black pudding every time I see it on a cafe menu and ate nothing else while brunching in Ireland and England a few months ago (as you do) so I know how I like it – crispy and aromatic. The black pudding at Northern Git was different however – it had an incredibly fruity vest, which was unusual and interesting, but it was far too mushy. We tried to cut the six serves into little pieces, but the casing subsisted while the wobbly black pudding dispersed into little chunks that can only be described as unappetising.
As a black pudding fiend, I was unfazed, although it certainly wasn’t the best I’d had – the consistency was a slight turn off, and that comes from someone who greatly enjoyed haggis upon first try. The overly soft black pudding simply blended into the cauliflower puree beneath it, and I felt like a baby who was being fed the Pete Evans diet.
My innards and bone-phobic friend, however, had something close to a panic attack and reluctantly tried a little bit, only to gift the rest to me while she ferociously wiped all traces of it off her contaminated fork.
Her memory was wiped clear (almost) when the sautéed pumpkin, black cabbage, confit onion, walnut and blue cheese gnocchi arrived. I’m going to put it out there — I’m not the biggest fan of gnocchi, but I was recently won over by the pillowy goodness of the gnocchi pomodoro at Kaprica, and this one pushed me a step further into the gnocchi-loving camp. Instead of being enveloped by a heavy sauce, the individual bite-sized pieces of gnocchi were al dente and encased in a perfect combination of cheese and caramelised pumpkin. I can’t even remember if I picked out the onion – I was too distracted.
By this stage, we could have sensibly called it a day, but why would we do that? I was still hankering for those chicken wings, so along with another dessert-adverse friend, I shared those while my other friend ordered the crème brûlée.
The dessert received a thumbs up, but the chicken wings were less satisfactory. They were termed spicy, but weren’t very, and the blue cheese sauce was not as sharp as it should have been.
I would go back to Northern Git for the farro and cauliflower salad and that pan-fried gnocchi (all to myself this time), and perhaps branch out and order either the meat plates or the individual main meals because they looked great from what we could tell.
Northern Git is also a lovely place for a mid-week dinner. Nestled in a quiet patch of High Street, the atmosphere is cosy and unhurried, and you feel as though you can stay for as long as you want. On a further plus point, the waiters don’t judge you for ordering chicken wings for dessert.
Northern Git is open from 5pm to 11pm Wednesday to Saturday, 12pm to 11pm on Sunday and is closed on Tuesday.