You could easily pass by the bluestone home on Greeves Street, off uber-chic Smith, were it not for the canary yellow door. The gay yellow calls out to passers-by and entices them inside, giving a hint of the unexpected treasure that lies behind. The restaurant is Hell of the North, a European wine bar and bistro from trio of Adam Ferrante, Sean Marshall and Mark Grixti. Chef Marshall honed his local cooking pedigree with a few years working in rural France. He trained at Michelin star restaurants before returning home to share what he learnt with Melbourne's insatiable masses.
The menu is seasonal and designed to share. We started with the mushroom and blue cheese croquette with onion and cider jus. It was rich, tasty, salty, but a touch overpriced at $23 for a single croquette (to be fair it was large). The scallops and artichoke barigoule and John Dory with prawn mousse and crab fumet were both delicious and provided better value for money. The scallop artichoke combination was light and delicate, the John Dory cooked to perfection. You may need help from the friendly staff to decipher some of the menu items. They are knowledgeable and come bearing crusty bread to sop up the left-over sauces. They will also be able to help you find the perfect companion to the meal, be it a beer (imported and local craft options are available), a cocktail or bottle of wine. There is a supper menu available until 1am for wine lovers who would prefer a drink and a light snack. The wine list is long and considered.
This wonderful European fare is served in a a series of stone rooms that used to house the beer specialty tavern, Lambsgo Bar. Any hint of the former occupier's shabbiness has been ripped out, scrubbed and replaced with clean Scandinavian lines and blonde wood that compliments and balances the imposing, bluestone walls.