When we talk about venues 'growing up', it's usually because we've seen it shift to simpler branding and — inevitably — some sort of price hike. Like when a rough and ready eatery relaunches with nicer linens. However, this is not what we mean when we say that Grub Food Van, Fitzroy's inside-outside diner, has grown up in the last few months.
Grub is a prime candidate for a bit of accelerated maturity, having started it's tenure as a food truck and organically expanded into a ramshackle but charming café in a greenhouse. Grub's menu was always good — a genuine, fresh and interesting kind of good — but now it's phenomenal.
And so when we say they've grown up, we don't mean they're unrecognisably chic (or would ignore you at a party like a jerk) — they've just matured. The ideas that were always there, marinating, have refined themselves. This may be thanks to the influence of their cool and calm parents, proprietors Tim Mann and Mark Murphy, who've brought their significant ingenuity and experience (with a little help from new chefs Scott Blomfield and Ben McMenamin) to deliver a new menu bursting with flavour.
Apart from protein-heavy and surprising, there's no obvious theme here (unless you count being flavoursome a theme). If you're a fan of seafood, don't walk past an entrée course of oysters with sea grapes, wakame and ponzu ($4.50 each) and black pearl barley risotto of crab served with snow peas, a burnt butter emulsion and konbu ($20). It's technically a main, but at $20 a pop you can share it between two to three people, and you won't have to worry about specifics.
The all-day mains menu will make you feel like you're eating Sunday dinner at home with your family (which is, really, what all hearty food should make you feel). Try the spiced lamb shoulder, which falls of the bone and is beautifully balanced with a garnish of sweet pomegranate, walnut, glazed witlof, couscous and tart pickled onions ($30). Share it out with a bottle of red wine and grab a group serving of both the wild mushrooms served with potato fondant, pine needle powder and truffle and parmesan cream ($20) and the winter garden seasonal vegetables ($22). Hot tip: the winter veggies — comprised of smoked goats' cheese, radish, roasted chickpeas, baby carrot and cumin puree —is the secret star of the menu. To quote another patron: "There's more flavour in a mouthful of this salad than in every dish I've ever made combined." Solid.
If you can fit it in, order the burnt mandarin, dark chocolate, bush anise, thyme and shortbread ($15) for dessert. Those more inclined towards the savoury side of the dessert trolley should try the Roquefort and truffle profiterole served with local honey bubbles and apple paste ($10) — eaten all together, it's an incredibly rich and satisfying mouthful.
While the beloved greenhouse interior and the relaxed, familiar service is the same as ever, Grub has upped its game and elevated itself from a quaint café to a dinner menu worth travelling for.