Night of ‘Mess’ – Brunswick Mess Hall and Messina
When the weather is warm, like last Saturday night, it calls for cider and ice cream. The Boyfriend and I decided to have dinner at Brunswick Mess Hall, a local hot spot that we have been wanting to try for some time. After dinner, we headed to Fitzroy/Collingwood for Messina ice cream. So by some pure coincidence, we had a themed night of ‘Mess’ to our dinner and dessert venues.
Brunswick Mess Hall
Located on Sydney Road, Brunswick Mess Hall is trendy beer hall with both a private dining and communal area. It boasts a funky vibe with upbeat staff and a trendy crowd.
The venue, itself, is gorgeous. It is located in a heritage-listed Masonic hall which resembles an upside down arc. There are glowing windows and lush ivy hanging from the ceiling. There is also a small, narrow, outdoor area for those who wish to enjoy a drink or smoke outside. Despite not having a reservation, there was plenty of seating available in the communal area.
We ordered ciders, as originally planned. I had a delicious Gypsy pear cider which tasted light and summery. There is also an extensive beer and cocktails list.
The food is Asian, courtesy of the ‘Lucky Panda Kitchen,’ which I found very cute. The menu is simple to understand (complete with pictures!) and simple to order – you fill out your order form and take it to the bar, along with your drink order, I suppose. We chose the salt & pepper calamari, the warm chicken salad and the pork belly.
The calamari came with a side salad. I was surprised that the salad actually outshined the calamari, as the mixture of tangy lime and fish sauce dressing made it a refreshing start to the meal. The calamari was crunchy and thinly sliced but lacked flavor. A dish like this should be so strongly flavoured, that it can be eaten with plain rice, but instead, we found ourselves using several condiments including the pickled chilli and the sweet chilli sauce.
Next was our warm chicken salad. I enjoyed the mixture of cool iceberg lettuce with the warm chicken. It was a good addition to the rest of our meal but on its own, was not a memorable dish.
Finally was our pork belly. It came in three, thick chunks sitting in a bed of seasonal greens. It was nice enjoying a pork belly which was not deep fried (a la Red Spice Road or Burma Lane) and allowed the flavours to speak for itself. The meat was tender and soft, the crackling crunchy and thin. The seasonal greens were cooked to perfection – not soggy and not too hard. Just like my papa makes.
Salt & Pepper Calamari
Warm Chicken Salad
Three dishes, being the two entrees and one main, was enough to satisfy the two of us. We had a look at the dessert menu but I am not one to be tempted by Asian desserts, therefore we opted to go elsewhere for dessert.
Overall, the Brunswick Mess Hall was an enjoyable experience for dinner. I think, however, minus the beautiful décor and funky, Brunswick-themed crowd, the food would not stand well on its own. I struggled to name any dish as a ‘signature’ and looking around the room, I could not see a consistent ‘must-order’ dish amongst the other patrons either.
The food is food you can find in any standard Chinese restaurant on Chinatown Little Bourke Street. The difference being that it was served in smaller plates. It lacks a modern twist on these classic Asian dishes.
Messina – Fitzroy/Collingwood
I’ve been enjoying a lot of Messina lately – at the Gelato World Tour, the Night Noodle Market, and finally in Sydney a few weekends ago. I was excited to try its newly opened location on Smith Street and hoped it lived up to my expectations for yummy, creamy dessert.
My first impression of Messina was the queue! A long, long queue of people stretching almost to the corner. Kudos to the Messina staff though, as they thoughtfully handed out menus to those waiting in line.
Breathe easy and do not be deterred, my readers, as the line moves quickly. I estimated that we probably waited no more than 15 minutes before we were ordering.
The range of gelato is amazing – from fruity favourites (Mango, Strawberry, Lemon etc) to classic, creamy, chocolatey goodness (Bounty, Tiramisu, White Chocolate and Salted Caramel). There are also more adventurous options on the Specials board. I urge you to consider the Specials. When I was in Sydney, I tried the Peanut Butter, Brownie and Pretzel creation which was probably the best ice cream I have ever tasted (I love peanut butter).
This time, however, my favourite special was not available. I chose, instead, the peanut butter and caramel concoction (there’s the peanut butter again!) and the mango.
I think Messina is actually very good value. It’s $6 for two scoops (two scoops are the minimum) and the servings are very big. Most gelato places charge $5 for a scoop these days. We also bought a 500ml takeaway tub of Pistachio and Cremino for $10. I spoke with the waitress who advised the takeaway tubs allow almost a 30min grace period on a warm night, before it melts. I was excited to take some home to share.
The peanut butter and caramel was good but not as good as my last visit to Messina in Sydney. I enjoyed the mango as it was tangy, light and smooth. It was perfect paired with the creamier, sweeter options.
Messina is definitely worth the buzz, and I can only imagine how much busier it will get as the weather continues to get warm. I think the staff do a fantastic job and are very efficient to move the crowds along. I urge you to try the gelato this summer!