Brekkie from 7:30am - 10:30am Lunch 11am - 5pm Monday to Friday
EARL Canteen serves up fabulous gourmet baguettes and sandwiches from its shop in the Lt Bourke St Courtyard of 500 Bourke St. As you can tell by the address and hours of operation, its target patrons are mainly business lunchers, so I did not look like one of the usual crowd when I lined up to buy lunch. Nevertheless I thought we'd give it a go as we were heading out for a picnic, and gourmet baguettes and sambos sound pretty great to us! I'm sure there aren't that many reviews around from picnicking mums with kids as their taste-testers!
(On a side note, I've always been secretly jealous that my chosen career has never allowed me to work from an office in the CBD with a choice of lunchtime getaways!)
The shop was brightly lit, with some seating mainly occupied by the business lunchers. I chose 3 baguettes - their famous Pork Belly, the 12 Hour Lamb, and the Duck Confit. These were made to order and were ready for me in ~10 minutes, all in a "strong" environmentally friendly bag. There were lots of other options for roll fillings, and also a selection of salads, little cakes, drinks and coffee which will have to wait for another tasting opportunity.
The "Pork Belly" was "Crisp skin Ottway pork belly, apple, cabbage & fennel coleslaw, wilted silver beet, baguette". The meat was lovely and tender with a very well crisped skin, and went well with the slaw, albeit I thought there was a bit too much slaw. Nonetheless it was delicious and one of the best pork rolls I've ever tasted.
The "12 Hour Lamb" was "slow-cooked lamb, honeyed carrots, gremolata, baguette". This was actually my favourite - the lamb was perfectly cooked, shredded and coupled very well with the moreish honeyed carrots.
The "Duck Confit" was "confit duck, caramelised wild figs, walnuts, onion jam, radicchio, watercress, ciabatta". It might just be that I'm not a huge fan of radicchio but I found it too bitter and overpowering for this interesting combination and liked it much better after I removed it.
Overall these were a huge hit with my kids. The rolls were too big, even as an adult, to take graceful bites from, so we ripped apart and gave them some of the bread to hold, and fed them the sandwich fillings. My little 3 and 5 year old connoisseurs helped devour the rolls in no time and moved quickly onto the next course. Poor hubby had a mouth ulcer and found the baguette difficult to chew on, and indeed I've come across quite a few reviews pointing out that the bread is too hard/chewy. I personally didn't mind it but I've always been a fan girl for substantial bread. My pet hate for rolls, sandwiches and burgers is the usage of too many wet ingredients, which make less substantial bread soggy and messy. The rolls at EARL were not bad considering the amount of filling used.
As a treat we got a selection of macarons to go. The macarons were all pretty good, crispy on the outside and lovely and chewy on the inside, with smooth ganachey centres. We had raspberry, white peach, pistachio (don't mind the cracks seen in the photo, that was us - the wind blew my paper bag away and the green one got cracked!) and salted caramel. All were yummy, although I would have preferred a cup of tea (ah, even on picnics I like my tea!) to go with the salted caramel one as it was quite sweet.
All in all we had a lovely lunch from EARL canteen. It is a bit of a splurge for a family picnic, but the rolls were great and it satisfied the bit of me that wanted to be a gourmet business luncher ;)
Eat. Play. Shop. Recommends : The 12 hour Lamb.
Give it a Miss : I wouldn't try jostling for a seat in the shop if you've got little kids and a pram.