266 Brunswick St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
Meatballs, or balls, as everyone in Melbourne cheekily calls them, are the current ‘in’ thing. And whilst I can’t fault the premise of jazzed-up dude-food, my visit to the popular Meatball and Wine Bar left me disappointed – I decided that I would much rather have a plate of Coles-mince meatballs made by Chris. But being perpetually hopeful when it comes to food, I was still excited to find an email in my inbox, inviting me to try out the brand new Meatballs and Sons in Fitzroy.
|Photo courtesy of Meatballs and Sons|
Humble and cosy from the get-go, Meatballs and Sons seems to have something for everyone. Whether you want a drink at the bar, a Sunday lunch with the family, or to throw a shindig in the private dining room upstairs, the 73-seater restaurant has you covered, and I haven’t even started on the food. These aren’t your garden-variety meatballs; taking their influence from across the globe, there were flavours like Tandoori chicken and Mexican Beef, and even a vegetarian option. And this hardly needs to be said considering we’re in Fitzroy, but all the meatballs are gluten-free as well.
|Photo courtesy of Meatballs and Sons|
Meatballs and Sons is very proud of their produce. All their food is organic, free-range, and/or sustainable, and sourced locally where possible. What they can home-make, they do, and they even have a beautiful little herb garden out back. We were invited to roll our own balls, which were then cooked and served up to us, and in the process we were able to see exactly what ingredients made the balls tick. I didn’t take any photos, but my ball-buddy, Jenny, did – take a look at them over here! (psst – I was the hand model!)
|Rose's Mint and Fresh Lemon Soda ($5)/Pressed Cherries and Basil Crush ($5)|
After a tour of the restaurant and some hand-on-ball action, we were seated and plied with drinks in the lead-up to our meal. Saying nay to alcohol, Jenny and I opted to share a couple of their home-made thirst-quenchers – Rose’s Mint and Fresh Lemon Soda ($5), and Pressed Cherries and Basil Crush ($5). The lemonade was sweet and strong with just the right amount of fizz, but it was the cherry and basil crush I couldn’t get enough of. Blended through with basil, the candy-sweetness of the cherries was broken down by the subtle pepperiness of the herb. It was a flavour combination I wouldn’t have thought of in a million years.
|Tasting Board ($24)|
It’s always a good sign when the Tasting Board ($24) is not just yummy, but exciting as well. The braesola was predictably tasty, it’s thicker cut and woody scent given a new lease on life by the pop of pomegranate. And whilst I’m really not much of a blue cheese girl, the slightly bitter wedge of cheese tasted stunning with fresh honeycomb.
|Crumbed Market Fish Slider ($6ea)|
|Pulled Duck with Asian Slaw Slider ($6ea)|
|Pork Belly Slider ($6ea)/Dough Balls with Herb Butter ($6)/Cheesy Chorizo Dough Balls ($7)|
Aside from the tasting board, our entrees also came with a variety of sliders, which I have to say were absolute winners. All of them were started off with a lightly toasted brioche bun, studded with sesame seeds. The Crumbed Market Fish Slider ($6ea) tasted like a fancy fish burger, whilst the Pulled Duck with Asian Slaw Slider ($6ea) was sweet and rich, carrying the faint but unmistakeable tang of wasabi. My favourite of all was the Pork Belly Slider ($6ea), the bun sandwiching a fat slab of pork belly, with crisp crackling and a melt-in-the-mouth texture, topped off with a hint of maple mustard. On the side were the Dough Balls with Herb Butter ($6), and the Cheesy Chorizo Dough Balls ($7), both of which were a bit dense by the time we finished taking photos, but the thick coating of herbed butter was spot-on.
|Slow Braised Beef Meatballs ($16, 5pcs)|
Then came the balls. The first one was a very traditional Slow Braised Beef Meatballs ($16, 5pcs) in basil tomato sugo, served with grilled ciabatta. What was special about these was the centre of oozing bocconcini, which was a welcome little surprise. These were good over a side of al-dente Parppardelle ($3) tossed in olive oil, but a thousand times better on Whipped Potato Mash ($3), which was smooth, buttery, and soaked up all the sugo.
|Skewered Bourbon-Glazed Pork Meatballs ($16, 5pcs)|
The Skewered Bourbon-Glazed Pork Meatballs ($16, 5pcs) was a bit of fun to eat. The pork meatballs, studded with capsicum, had a distinctly western feel to them, especially after a roll in the sweet bourbon sauce. The grilled and buttered corn was delicious. We had these with a side of Succotash ($3), a warm salad of broad beans and corn originating from the Native Americans. It was surprisingly moreish, and I went back for it several times through the night.
|Greek Lamb Meatballs ($16, 5pcs)|
A lot lighter were the Greek Lamb Meatballs ($16, 5pcs), juicy and fresh with a generous amount of oregano mixed in (I would know – I made these!) With a smattering of Greek salad on top, these were a meal in itself, but the Green Haricot Beans, Persian Feta, Almonds ($3) were too good to turn down. The chefs have made a thorough vegetable convert of me at this point.
|Achiote Mexican Beef Meatballs ($16, 5pcs)|
All the girls at the table cooed over how cute the Achiote Mexican Beef Meatballs ($16, 5pcs) were, nestled in their mini tortilla shells. These were very flavoursome from the ample additions of garlic, onions, and coriander, and the sweet dollop of chipotle chilli sauce on top brought all the flavours together.
|Thai Chilli Chicken Meatballs ($16, 5pcs)|
Last but not least were the Thai Chilli Chicken Meatballs ($16, 5pcs), a vibrant take on the traditionally comforting meatball. The ingredients of chilli, lemongrass, and spring onions gave it that oriental zest, and the house-made chilli chutney a sweet and sour kick. The slice of tempura eggplant was a creative and tasty base for the balls.
|Cauliflower Gratin ($3)|
The Cauliflower Gratin ($3) was the only side I managed to get a passable image of, and luckily it was probably the worthiest one of all. Unlike most gratins I’ve had, this one was indulgent but gentle, the crust of aging cheddar giving way to fluffy florets of cauliflower in a light cream sauce that didn’t overwhelm with its richness.
|Homemade Chocolate Brownie ($9)|
We were definitely all full by this point, but watching the desserts come out of the kitchen changed our minds. After all, no one can say no to a Homemade Chocolate Brownie ($9), still warm and chewy from the oven, topped with a dollop of cool mascarpone and tangy raspberry coulis.
|Homemade Mini Pav ($9)|
I’ve only recently started getting into pavlovas, which is little surprise given that most of them are sickly sweet and sticky. By this point, it was no surprise that the Homemade Mini Pav ($9) was a delight. Below the thick clump of cream and seasonal fruit was meringue that melted in the mouth as soon as you bit through the sugary shell. I only got a taste but I could’ve eaten all three by myself.
|Mum's Home Baked Apple Pie ($9)|
Equally good was the Mum’s Home Baked Apple Pie ($9). The thin pastry held slices of baked cinnamon apples that still retained a little bit of crunch, layered with warm custard and topped with cream.
|Ricket's Point Ice Cream Cones ($9, 3 cones)|
Exclamations of delight were heard once again around the table when the Ricket’s Point Ice Cream Cones ($9, 3 cones) came out on a rack. Not only was the presentation stunning, but the flavours were too – cherry ripe, vanilla caramel, and chocolate orange. Unfortunately not even my dessert stomach had enough room left for me to finish my cone, and I regrettably had to leave half of it uneaten.
Meatballs and Sons isn’t a Meatball and Wine Bar wannabe, and thank heavens for that. I really liked the food we had that night, but it was their vision I fell in love with. All it wants to be is a restaurant where people can come for an honest and good quality meal, and to be treated as familiarly as the wallpaper. They pride themselves on being family friendly, and they’re looking to get some crayons in so the kiddos can draw on the brown paper table covers whilst the grownups have a glass of wine. Although they’re not aiming to be the next big thing, I have a hunch they will be anyway.
Oh and did I mention? Their bathroom signs said With Balls and Without Balls respectively. Love it.
Rating: 14.5/20 – balls up!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Meatballs and Sons.