Cnr of Boundary St and Edmondstone St, West End
Despite Coles West End being my local grocery store, Habitat (which is located opposite Coles) caught me completely unawares. I started seeing all these mentions of 'Habitat West End' through social media and found myself thinking "where on earth could it be?" Finally, the most recent time we got back from Coles, Habitat was lit up and blaring with activity so I could hardly miss it.
I arranged to try Habitat with Kat last Friday night for end of week drinks and dinner. It was a sudden decision so we hadn't made a booking and since I got there first, I sussed out the scene for availability of tables. The place looked packed and staff were running around completely overwhelmed by the volume so the best I could do was leave my name and number down. I wanted to get some drinks while I was waiting but I wasn't sure if the bar was ok to go straight up to... plus, it was a struggle to push through the masses and even reach the bar. I hailed down another girl who took my drink order and then miraculously, found a table for me. It was a little outside table but to be honest, I preferred this because whilst the inside area looked nice, it was too noisy for this old lady. Besides, we were kept cosy by the big outdoor heaters.
By the time Kat arrived (she got thrown by my poor directions and ended up taking 15 minutes to find the place), drinks still hadn't arrived and our table still had used glasses from the previous occupants. It took about 4 attempts of waving down staff to get our table cleared up and then have menus provided. At least they were very apologetic about this.
I had ordered two mojitos because when I picked our drinks I had no reference to the cocktail menu and just plucked a classic from my head. These mojitos were lovely and strong and not too sweet.
The menu at Habitat has the standard entrees, mains and dessert options, which was a relief for me. Because this place doubles as a bar, I was expecting more of a tapas selection and while tapas are great for nibbling with drinks, when I'm hungry and it's dinner time, I want proper servings of food.
Crisp pork belly - with baby beetroot, rocket spanish onion and goats cheese salad Durif grape jus
My main of choice was the pork belly. I don't know where my expectations sat but I have been let down by the food at a lot of hyped up new establishments so I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty this pork was. The meat itself was tender, the fatty component was caramelised and the skin was oh-so-crispy. It went really well with the baby beetroot because that served to cut into the richness of the pork. I don't know if I've actually tried non-tinned beetroot in such big chunks before and I thought it was very simple but delicious. It's also nowhere near as sweet as tinned beetroot.
Handmade potoat gnocchi - with roast garlic, parsley, presered lemon and jeruselum artichoke
Kat was initially attracted to the duck main but got put off by the word 'broth'; I love broth but this isn't the first time I've heard someone hate the term. She ended up ordering an entree sized potato gnocchi. This was gnocchi unlike either of us had seen before. It sort of ressembled little cheese toasties. Kat said it tasted OK but not amazing. I pushed for more details and she said the gnocchi itself was like mashed potato with cheese and the whole thing needed some kind of sauce to bring it together. It was a small serve but she was glad because she didn't love the dish.
Vanilla panna cotta - with fairy floss, pistachio crisps and orange syrup
We finished off with a dessert to share. I was tossing up between the panna cotta and chocolate cake and ended up going for the former. It arrived looking beautiful on the plate with a cute topping of Persian fairy floss that reminded me of those troll dolls with crazy hair. The panna cotta itself jiggled alluringly and I pictured Matt Preston praising the sexy wobble. Yup I watch too much Masterchef. This dessert was delicious albeit difficult to eat because the panna cotta slid away from the spoon as I tried to cut it. That didn't stop us from demolishing the whole thing. It wasn't as creamy as some others I've tried but I think the lightness makes it easier to take in. I also enjoyed the pistachio crisps that tasted like peppery shortbread wafers.
Habitat has all the ingredients of a top venue: great location, comprehensive drink menu and delicious foods. I liked the interior decor, in partitcular the light fitting that zig zags its way across the ceiling. There are early day teething issues with service that I'm sure will get better with time but aside from our initial drama in first getting a table, then getting our table cleared, the food didn't take long to come out at all. I loved my pork belly but the gnocchi was probably a poor choice on our part. The dessert was yummy too.