EARL Canteen

8 November 2010
EARL Canteen @ 500 Bourke St, Melbourne

The gourmet baguettes at EARL Canteen have a cult following. Tucked away at the back of a courtyard on Little Bourke Street,  EARL is a magnet for city workers willing to pay a few extra dollars to do away with run-of-the-mill lunch time sandwiches.

The pork belly baguette is their signature item, and the best sandwich I have sampled at EARL. The guys at EARL have truly mastered the art of pork roasting. The Otway pork belly is succulently roasted to retain a porky juiciness, achieving a healthy layer of melt-in-the-mouth fat in the process. The feature item in the sandwich is the crackling which possesses the ultimate crunch and acts as the ideal seasoning for the pork meat. Coupled with a crisp apple, cabbage and fennel coleslaw and a few leaves of silverbeet, this baguette is a true beauty. However, be warned – the chewiness of this unheated gourmet French roll can give your jaw an unsolicited workout.

On the other hand, the 12 hour slow cooked lamb baguette contains a heated baguette roll which is crunchy rather than chewy and so minimises jaw strain. Although the lamb is wonderfully moist, sinking my teeth into the lamb pieces is deceptively similar to biting into fibrous rope -  the kitchen staff at EARL made the amateurish mistake of cutting the lamb with the grain, rather than against it. This textural flaw aside, the lamb baguette is highlighted by the captivating flavours and aromas of the lamb, honeyed carrots and mélange of garlic, lemon zest and parsley. 

EARL also offers some of the most delicate macarons I have come across in Melbourne. With only three macaron varieties available – salted caramel, rose and Earl Grey – I had no choice but to try them all. EARL’s macarons possessed the ideal level of sweetness and were devoid of the crunch commonly associated with unskillfully made macarons. The chewiness of the macarons was variable - the salted caramel was perfect but the rose and Earl Grey each needed more bite - but the flavours were charmingly natural and refined, albeit falling marginally short in terms of intensity. These macarons don’t attain benchmark status but are nevertheless among the best I have tasted in Melbourne.

If the pork belly, slow cooked lamb and macarons do not interest you, perhaps the lime poached chicken, Wagyu meatball or seasonal friands will. With unique menu items and fresh produce, EARL is a welcome deviation from the sandwich norm. 

Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)


EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Bread roll is uber uber hard... they need better bread yo~

Jackie Middleton said...

Thanks for the write up, glad you enjoyed your lunch :)

Just so you're aware there has been no 'amateurish mistake' in the lamb dish, the meat is never cut with a knife. The shoulder and neck meat is braised over-night and then merely shredded off the bone. We love the long shreds of meat, sorry you didn't.

Hope to see you again at EARL

Jackie - EARL Canteen

BC said...

Thanks for your comment Jackie - it's good to know that our readership includes the proprietors of the places we visit!

The reference to the "amateurish mistake" was my contribution to PiCi's review. I appreciate that the use of strands of lamb was a conscious decision on your part and that by doing so the sandwich would have a greater variety of textures - in my view, a good thing. However, I did find your lamb sandwich, while enjoyable, a little impractical to eat. From my perspective, if I cannot bite into a sandwich and semi-easily cut through the roll and all of its contents, the sandwich probably suffers from some "design flaws". In the case of your lamb sandwich, I found that I would rarely be able to cleanly bite through the threads of lamb and would need to resort to hand-tearing the meat before consuming it.

That being said, I did thoroughly enjoy the taste of the lamb sandwich and consider it a pleasant alternative to the pork belly sandwich - of which I am an ardent fan.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first poster, the pork was delicious, but the bread was too hard!

Anonymous said...

I'd third that. I have tried most of their baguettes and they are fantastic, and chances are, I will keep going back, but I would be very grateful if Earl started acquiring their bread from a supplier whose products doesn't require the bite strength of a great white shark and would refrain from the annoying habit of cutting my gums to shreds every time...

PiCi said...

It's good to know we're not the only ones to find the bread overly hard. Hopefully we'll see EARL take these comments on board in the near future!

Jackie Middleton said...

Our baguette does polarise some people. Many love the more textural nature of the Dench Bakers baguette, others prefer something softer - and that we can do! We have some great La Madre ciabatta (we use this for duck confit & mushrooms) and are happy to substitute.
We make our sandwiches to order, so next time let us know your preference.
EARL Canteen

BC said...

Thanks for the info Jackie. It's always refreshing to find a place that values customer feedback, as opposed to some other places that we have reviewed... We look forward to trying your sandwiches with the La Madre ciabatta!

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