>St. Kilda Beach

Dinner with workmates from across the country after a two-day planning session led us to St. Kilda beach on a beautiful late summer evening. We’d spent the previous couple of days staring out to sea ourselves from the local surf lifesaving club, and as the sun started dipping in the sky we found our way back to St. Kilda beach. The place was still buzzing, with every restaurant busy and the beach volleyball in full swing. The sailing boats flew by and a few brave ones went for their evening swim. A live DJ added to the buzz.

We had one coeliac with us but it wasn’t a problem. There was a little “g” against almost half the items on the menu meaning those dishes were gluten-free. We shared a really good charcuterie board and some dips as a starter. Even in a pretty casual place like Republica it was good to hear they made everything including the bread and dips themselves from fresh ingredients. Even the prosciutto and thinly-sliced beef were aged and cured in-house. Impressive. The board was completed by an excellent ham-hock terrine, a handful of white anchovies, some good chorizo, a beautiful washed-rind soft cheese, the tiniest, sweetest Ligurian olives and a pig’s ear salad.

Gluten-free Sally had butterflied whole king prawns, chargrilled with smoked pimiento butter, and shared a summer salad of tomatoes, shallots and Thai basil with Catherine, who opted for a baby arrowhead squid stuffed with mussels, spinach and piperade on squid-ink risotto. Both seafood options looked and tasted divine, although the risotto was incredibly rich and beat us all in the end.

Pieter and I both went for the 300g sirloin with confit kipfler potatoes and lardons. One was served rare and one medium-rare. Both were sensational: one of the best steaks I have had in a long time and I’ve been craving one for a few days now. They were perfectly cooked inside and chargrilled to perfection on the outside. I ate slowly and savoured every mouthful. Our lardons were stolen with impunity by our dining companions – who can resist deep-fried pork belly?

The seafood was all washed down with a lovely young chilled Marlborough sauvignon blanc from Angel Cove, whilst Pieter and I (partners in red wine as always) went local and enjoyed a Heathcote shiraz malbec from Wild Duck Creek Estate: a little older and just perfect with the steak.

Overall a grand total of $275, so $70 a head. With the quality of food we enjoyed and the spectacular sunset, well worth it.

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