MELBOURNE, Australia – Last week I woke in a cold sweat, the icy bullet of a singular, terrible realisation penetrating my consciousness: every single date spot I’ve reviewed has been on a Friday night.
That’s not right. That’s not how people date.
Friday date night is for your retired parents and basically-married 9-5ers, a glimmering ruby of anticipation to celebrate the end of another dismal work week. An IV drip of romance to cling to when you’ve been with your partner for (possibly) too long.
It can be a fun night to go out on the town, but that comes at a price. The coveted Friday night date sits at the highest tier, and there the stakes are inherently high.
I knew this all along, but here I’ve been, living a lie.
It was time to mix up the schedule.
Enter: the hump day date.
Gerald’s Bar was fervently recommended to me by several hot people. Nestled in Rathdowne Village, a sleepy subsect of North Carlton, I anticipated the vibes would be very romantic, hopefully laid-back, and probably wholesome. And by God was I right.
The restaurant/bar somehow perfectly radiates old-school European authenticity. The interior is gorgeous, the decor interesting and unique, and the warm lighting was enhanced by candlelight on each white-clothed table. On this Wednesday evening, the front section was jolly and the bar was packed full with a cool older crowd. A beautiful spring evening, we’d downed a glass of wine at The Wine Corner on the way, so I can’t comment on whether it was an intimidating entrance or not – I was sauced beyond caring at that point.
But we were seated in the room at the very back, which was the definitive date nook. The four tables we shared the room with were also on dates, which was funny, but if this had been a first date I would have died of embarrassment. The music was at a calm level, so you know we could hear everything. About ten minutes into our dinner the couple next to us seemed to just stop trying to make conversation and tune in to ours instead.
Gerald’s is renowned for its wine list – both OG and new wave wine represented – so we opted for a bottle of natty pinot gris. A bottle felt like the right choice, as we had come there to dine.
The often-changing, seasonal menu was handwritten on a piece of card – adorable – with snacks including cured meats and fish, cheese options, then just a list of dishes we had to try and interpret. We ordered Wapengo rock oysters to start which were gorgeous and really set the tone for the culinary sexiness of what was to come. We couldn’t decide between the red anchovies or the white, but our server recommended the latter because they were cured in-house. And holy shit. Cured in what? Crack? These were the best anchovies of my life.
We also had the bresaola – cured beef – which was perfect: salty, delicate and garnished with a pickled pfefferoni, a tiny detail that had my heart in a chokehold. The snacks were served with bread on the side and once we had used it all up on the crack-anchovy liquid our server made sure the little basket was refilled. So special. We had the pumpkin situation which resembled a birthday cake, with layers of pumpkin stacked with ricotta, topped with hazelnut and burnt honey. Crazy delicious. Finally we had the venison pappardelle, which was in every sense of the word: luxurious.
I don’t know if it was our perfect menu selection, the copious amounts of wine, or the romantic vibes, but this was a fucking incredible dining experience. I would want to return here again and again, just to try each new dish offering, and just to be in the same room as those anchovies.
But this isn’t a restaurant review. It’s a date spot review. To be honest, I think the white-tablecloth-sit-down-date-nook-dining experience would be way too much for a casual date. But, I think if you sat in the front bar, or even on the sidewalk tables outside, Gerald’s would be perfect. A couple drinks, a couple nice snacks, a plate of oysters – very sexy. Because there’s nothing sexier than a genuine neighbourhood bar with attentive service and an exciting menu.
After dining, we honestly could have stayed for a cocktail and a vape out the front but we had to honour high-low and hit the pub. And you can too. 10000/10 I recommend.
Is it the best? Maybe. But I want to continue the quest anyway.