During this period of social distancing, I will be reviewing restaurants I visited way back when but who are still doing pickup and/or delivery during this time. Please support them by ordering whatever you can from them – whether it’s food, merch or fresh produce – to help them stay afloat in these difficult times.
Where: Pinchy’s, Level 1/200 Bourke Street Melbourne
What: A pescatarian’s idea of heaven
Who: Slow Eater
Bloat score: 3 – I could have balanced a glass of wine on my bloated stomach
I visited Pinchy’s on one of the hottest days of 2019 – if I remember correctly, it was pushing 40 and the idea of a cold lobster roll in air-conditioned confines spoke deeply to me. I was accompanied by Slow Eater, who has previously appeared in this Whatever Floats Your Bloat review of Pezzo (RIP)
Pinchy’s was previously a pop-up store in Emporium but I never visited because the idea of a $23 Maine lobster roll seemed slightly excessive for a workday lunch, so I was glad to see them set up permanently in the space that used to be Red Silks, an every-type-of-Asian restaurant that I used to frequent back when I was at uni.
Pinchy’s was definitely designed with the ‘gram in mind. Pink velvet couches sit ensconced in a pink glow with a neon lobster claw the centrepiece of an arched rose gold mirror.
Ostentatious gold bubble light fittings are worth turning your gaze upwards for, but if you choose not to, soft peach walls are every which way.
We thought of sitting in the open-air balcony because the air conditioning wasn’t quite as powerful as we thought it’d be, but the daybeds (!!) we found outside weren’t conducive to a sit-down shared meal.
We were there for the Maine lobster roll ($23), but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deeply tempted by the prawn roll, which came with a fried prawn head piped with mushroom, tarragon and shallots and then drizzled with sea urchin aioli!! Prawn heads are the definition of umami and I have two distinctly pleasurable memories of eating them – at Atlas Dining, a king prawn head was submerged in a salted duck egg yolk and chilli miso sauce in a homage to Nikkei (Peruvian Japanese) cuisine and at Ima Project Café, deep-fried prawn heads are served alongside their ebi katsu burger. I resisted because the lobster roll is all anyone ever talks about when they visit Pinchy’s, but I’ll be back for my prawn head.
I enjoyed my lobster roll without loving it. On the menu, it said the Maine lobster would be chilled but it arrived at our table somewhat warm, which dulled what would have been a beautiful contrast with the toasted crispy roll. The baguette itself was more lightweight than I imagined, similar in a way to a Cruskit if a Cruskit was fashioned into bread, and I expected it to have more heft. That aside, the interplay of flavours between the buttery chives, the mayonnaise and the slightly piquant housemade seasoning was toothsome and Slow Eater enjoyed the creaminess of the lobster. To allow us to sample a few other dishes, Slow Eater and I shared one lobster roll and it was kindly cut into half to facilitate this, but Slow Eater thought she could’ve tackled one by herself.
I enjoyed the other dishes more than the feature lobster roll. Fresh tuna sashimi spiked with the unusual accompanying spice of chermoula (owing perhaps to Algerian executive chef Pierre Khodja’s influence) arrived on a small crispy nori cracker ($14 for a serve of two) and it was incredibly moreish. It harked back to my favourite dish south of the river, Mr Miyagi’s salmon nori taco, and a spicy tuna taco which I recently blogged about having at Kumo Izakaya.
I can never go past a crumbed deep-fried parcel of creamy mashed potato so we ordered the local saffron croquettes ($12), which came in a serve of three topped with dollops of saffron aioli. It did not disappoint.
Another highlight was the grilled octopus with potato salad and shellfish oil (another concentration of umami flavour!). The shellfish oil sat in a pool beneath the potatoes and octopus, and was a treat to drag my forkful of octopus and potatoes across.
Slow Eater is a huge fan of truffles so we ordered the truffle fries with white truffle aioli ($10). I’m not the biggest fan of truffles but I am the biggest fan of chips so it wasn’t hard to throw a few handfuls of these down, but they weren’t particularly memorable.
Pinchy’s is a great summertime hang, or wintery hang with Khodja’s new seasonal menu with soups, stews, pies and fresh fish. When I return, I’ll be making a beeline for that prawn roll and tuna sashimi nori cracker. In the meantime, below is how you can support Pinchy’s until it’s safe to visit them once more.
Pinchy’s is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5pm to 9pm. You can order ‘Pinchy’s At Home’ takeaway menu online for pick-up or delivery via UberEats and Doordash. Pinchy’s is also running a competition to win an at-home dinner cooked by executive chef Pierre Khodja once lockdown restrictions are lifted.