How is it possible? Part of the outer industrial estate of Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport has been transformed into an oasis, of sorts… Essentials’ Jamie Durrant crashes the party to see what all the fuss is about.
On this midsummer lazy Sunday afternoon, there’s a positive energy not unlike a day at the beach. As the surf rolls in, delivering that familiar ocean beach roar, a stream of guests line up to be seated at the Three Blue Ducks. This is a relatively new Melbourne outpost of the successful NSW northern beaches; now iconic Australian restaurant brand. Post lockdown, it seems half of Melbourne’s northern suburbs are itching to either taste a plate or catch a wave, and why not. The sound of the waves is intense — it’s loud! And with these mechanically crafted sets rolling in, there’s a sea breeze, or so it feels.
We’re seated outdoors, shaded under the corrugated iron veranda with direct water, surf action views. Table service is friendly, professional and speedy – it’s surprising just how quickly our watermelon ice tea cocktails arrive, soon followed by some summery, colourful dishes that we decide to share.
The first plate to arrive is a tentacle of barbecued octopus with pearl barley tabbouleh. It’s a light and fabulous starter, well suited to the warmer Melbourne weather. In fact, on this day, with the sun shining upon an ultra-clear blue sky, this cooked to perfection, incredibly tender octopus might have just crawled out of the surf lagoon and into the hands of the chef. Served with a rich, silk-textured smoked potato aioli and chilli and red pepper reduction, it was not only the additional pleasing amount of heat but a rounded depth of flavour that won me over. For this dish alone, it’s worth turning up for lunch; whether one surfs or not.
Our accompanying dish is a milky-fresh Burrata with brightly coloured quarters of red heirloom tomatoes, finely sliced fresh garlic pieces throughout and basil oil circling the plate. The pangrattato, a topping made from bread crumbs pan-fried in virgin olive oil, is ‘herbilicous’ and an appreciated final addition. Certainly not ‘the poor man’s parmesan’ that some unfairly label it. The Buratta falls apart with the touch of a knife – it’s lavishly smooth and creamy and palate cleansing. The texture and taste convince me it might be a transformation of today’s fresh farm milk, but there’s not a cow or a paddock to be seen.
A glass of 2019 Quealy (Mornington Peninsula) Pinot Grigio works with these summer tastes perfectly. It’s a light, clean aromatic wine with a delightful lemon and grapefruit citrus-acidic balance. Uncomplicated, yet perfectly crafted.
It is also worth noting, that while the wine list is small, it is cleverly curated, as it features aromatic and lightly textural, mostly small producer, Australian made wines. In terms of Victorian wines, there’s a fantastic selection. These include 2018 Simao & Co. Sauvignon Blanc, King Valley; 2019 Pennyweight Gamay, Beechworth, and Non-Vintage Mac Forbes ‘La Farfalla’ Cabernet Franc/Nebbiolo, Yarra Valley, to name a few.
Premium meats from Provenir feature on the menu at Three Blue Ducks. A relatively new Australian meat processing brand, Provenir focuses primarily on animal welfare, which in turn results in a better quality product. By working collaboratively with farmers, it brings portable abattoir setups to their properties. This reduces animal stress, as they are not required to endure lengthy, uncomfortable transport conditions. This way they remain relaxed, which ultimately improves the meat texture.
Case in point is the 450g bone-in porterhouse steak served with bagna càuda, horseradish, jus and crispy rosemary Sebago potatoes. The meat is tender and flavoursome while maintaining a grass-fed texture that adds a pleasing ‘bite’. There’s an outstanding smoky flavour produced by the indoor charcoal fire pit that imparts these great aromas – similar to an outdoor Argentinian asado grill. With the addition of bagna càuda – a sauce that dates back to the middle ages – sweet and round depths of additional elements (garlic, anchovies, lemon juice and peppery, robust olive oil) present an overall meat-lover’s experience that tastes and smells instinctively primal. The potatoes are crispy little gems, ultra crunchy on the outside and buttery creamy-soft on the inside.
My dining partner chooses the fish of the day, today a fillet of barramundi served on a bed of green beans and onion and leek soubise, topped with an XO sauce and a wedge of lime. The pan-fried, crispy skin fish presents invitingly and a fresh squeeze of lime offers a clean and brighter contrast to the earthy depth of the soubise.
Practically everything on the menu at Three Blue Ducks at URBNSURF reads simply, but over-delivers on taste and quality. A salad of assorted greens with ruby red grapefruit and ‘birdseed mix’ seems to take the Micky out of itself with its playful name; however, is a standout winner. Radicchio and green spinach leaves are topped with ruby and yellow grapefruit, plus ultra-fine slices of chilled red onion. Its vinaigrette is clean, light and uplifting. The seed mix provides a pleasing crunch in palate texture and a richness of flavour; its black and white sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseed, sunflower seeds and sliced almonds add an astounding depth to the dish. Such little ‘tweaks’ show careful thought in menu design and a dedicated focus in going the extra mile to procure fantastic ingredients. It’s this added element that makes this modern eatery shine.
The venue is a great place for friends and family to gather on weekends, casually allowing the hours to disappear as the food and surf rolls in, the cocktails flow and the kids kept well entertained in the sandpit, with smiles! There are lawns for sun-baking, native landscaped gardens and designated areas for girls, blokes and grommets to park their boards and check out the action. Strangely, the complex presents the opportunity of walking off an urban industrial street into a bona fide summer holiday –– but it’s all a hoax! Certainly a neat trick that delivers a great show pony stage for these celebrated ‘Ducks’.
About ‘The Ducks’
Led by co-owners and chefs, Darren Robertson, Andy Allen and Mark LaBrooy, the Three Blue Ducks have built a reputation on cooking locally sourced produce from a friendly open-styled kitchen, which usually includes a pizza oven, rotisserie and charcoal pit.
Season 1 of Three Blue Ducks on Network 10
Season 1 of Three Blue Ducks allows viewers to travel with ‘The Ducks’ as they forage for native plants species, catch seafood and meet providores across Australia; it’s now airing on Network 10.
Burrata, heirloom tomatoes, chilli, fresh garlic, basil oil, pangrattato $23
BBQ octopus, pearl barley tabbouleh, smoked potato, aioli $23
Market fish of the day (barramundi), XO sauce, beans, greens, onion & leek soubise $36
450g Provenir bone-in porterhouse, bagna càuda, horseradish, jus, crispy Sebago chat potatoes, rosemary $55
Mixed greens, ruby red grapefruit, bird seed mix $10
Watermelon Iced Tea (cocktail) $15
2019 Quealy Pinot Grigio, $9 per glass
Sparkling water: unlimited at $3 per person
All Day Menu:
Sunday–Thursday served until 8:30pm
Friday & Saturday served until 9pm
Three Blue Ducks at URBNSURF Melbourne
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all year round; closed Christmas Day & New Year’s Day.
309 Melrose Dr, Tullamarine, Victoria
Bookings online at: