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One Friday evening, J and I found ourselves in the V-town area of Victoria St, headed not to a Vietnamese or even a Chinese restaurant but rather a building with an ancient-looking facade that is home to The Aviary.
A combined bar and restaurant, we were immediately greeted with the typical after Friday work scene as soon as we stepped foot through the door: people kicking back with a drink or two, laughter and merriment in the air. The restaurant area was situated towards the back left hand side of the establishment and was somewhat empty in comparison to the front pub area. Adorned with plenty of decorations that included low hanging light bulbs, an assortment of birds and bird cages (look up), the interior possessed a lot of character. And olden day charm. They also had an actual fireplace! Perfect for the cold Winter days (which worked out great for us when we visited on a cold October night).
Cloudy apple juice.
Complimentary sourdough bread served with olive oil.
Fine quality bread with a crispy crust. I would probably prefer it toasted and served with butter, but it was still great to munch on whilst we waited for our food. Particularly for J, who was feeling quite hungry.
For most restaurants that I visit, there is usually only a handful of dishes that I really want to try. To put a value on it, let’s say 20%. However it was very much the inverse at The Aviary. If I wanted to order everything that caught my eye and stomach’s attention, I would’ve had enough food for a few days. Narrowing down the list was particularly tricky.
Oysters - with nam jim & fried shallots.
The fresh oysters were served with a sweet and potent fish sauce, which overpowered the natural flavours of the oyster and provided the overall seafood taste. The fried shallots were very crispy and helped to restore a little balance so that we weren’t just eating fish sauce. The oysters were perhaps a little small, contributing to their minimal presence in the dish but the flavours would have otherwise worked well with more oyster or less sauce.
Gruyere croquette - with tomato sauce.
I’ve had more than my fair share of croquettes (as many of my previous posts can attest to) but these were most definitely one of the tastiest I’ve eaten to date. It possessed the prerequisites of a good croquette: namely the crispy, well-crumbed exterior and a perfectly balanced interior. I was quite skeptical about the cheesy filling at first because they are usually quite heavy/sickening but the velvety smooth gruyere was quite light (similar to mashed potato).
Fried smoked egg - with oyster sauce, chilli & enoki mushroom.
Somewhat like a distant relative to son in law eggs, The Aviary’s fried smoked eggs were one tasty treat that would’ve paired well with some rice. The egg yolk was the perfect amount of runny and much flavour was provided from the sesame oil-like sauce. The chilli presence was deceptively dangerous - minus the seeds, the chilli provided a gentle poke instead of throwing a spicy punch.
Mini pork belly banh mi.
Banh mi, Vietnamese for ‘bread’, is the term that is now synonymous with Vietnamese bread roll sandwiches prepared from baguettes with pate+mayo, some sort of meat, and pickled carrots. Located in Richmond, the mini banh mi dish at The Aviary appears to pay homage to the larger versions sold at the various bread stores nearby.
Like music to my ears, crunchhhhhhhhh went the oh so crisp bread as I cut the miniature banh mi into halves. Crisp just like the bread rolls from Vietnamese bakeries. The filling however added The Aviary touch; tender and smokey pieces of pork belly with a crispy crackling, spruced up with a spicy capsicum sauce.
Potato cakes with rosemary salt.
If you’ve ever made potato cakes at home, then this will taste familiar. Both the potato and the battered layer were quite thin and the results after a good deep frying was essentially a thicker version of potato crisps.
'KFP' kentucky fried poussin - with potato mash, gravy & coleslaw.
The KFP, no doubt a play on KFC (not to be Captain Obvious), was perhaps the only dish that wasn’t on par with the tastiness from all the other dishes. Putting the flavour of KFC chicken in mind thanks to the name, the lack of Colonel Sander’s secret herbs and spices was very noticeable. On the plus side, the chicken itself was significantly less oilier and more tender than the KFC equivalent. The coleslaw wasn’t as sweet and a little drier.
Banana split fritter - with vanilla ice cream, chocolate ganache & chopped nuts.
The banana split was quite standard but a great and light way to end dinner.
Unexpectedly, behind the historical building that sits on 271 Victoria St, one of the best meals that I have eaten all year was served. Even J was thoroughly impressed, which speaks volume in regards to the quality and tastiness of the dishes that we were served!
271 Victoria St,
Abbotsford, Victoria, 3067.
(03) 9428 7727