I DON’T start reviews with my experience in paying the bill, but this time can’t resist.
I was asked if I enjoyed my meal at the relatively new Loading Zone, parked behind the Melbourne Building in Odgers Lane. I was asked if I wanted anything from the line-up of sweets. I was asked by a cool-looking barista if I was having a good day. And I enjoyed big smiles and a wave from the kitchen staff even though they were under the gun dealing with a gazillion orders.
Well, gazillion might be a slight exaggeration but it’s not an exaggeration to say the Loading Zone has been super busy since opening.
It was a cool, grey day, but umbrellas and heaters kept us warm. Although dining in a back laneway we didn’t feel we’d been relegated to some scuzzy area. There are mature trees and the Loading Zone has added its own greenery in planters.
You never waste time fussing over what to eat here. The menu is limited by design. We could choose from a pasta, polenta, lasagne or soup – all freshly made in rustic, home-style fashion. Mains are $15 if you eat-in and $10 for takeaway. Wine is just $5.
There was no way I was going past the braised beef penne in red wine sugo with paprika and rosemary. No way. And my friend quickly chose the polenta with herbed mushroom and tomato compote. Two surprises when served. First, the dishes are generous for the price. Second, we received lovely salads, each loaded (there goes that word again) with tasty ingredients.
The braised beef was tender and the hearty dish packed with strong flavours. The polenta was cooked “just so” and there was no skimping on the chunky, herbed mushrooms. I bet the pumpkin ricotta and spinach lasagne would have been a treat. Twice I saw big bowls of piping-hot Jerusalem artichoke soup pass by.
We enjoyed our dishes with a glass of shiraz. The only other wine was a sauvignon blanc.
If you don’t have time to plunk yourself down on a square or communal table outside (seating for around 45) you can take your food away. The pre-made sandwiches, panini, croissants and individual frittatas all looked delicious.
I’m not going to waste time waxing eloquently about how laneway dining is hip because it’s done in Melbourne or Sydney. Who cares? The good news is that the laneway experience is now here, and parked for good.
Loading Zone, open Monday-Thursday, 7am-4pm and Fridays from 7am-9pm.