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A week in Sydney: two restaurants per day plus cake


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I'm spending the week in Sydney. I'm visiting 14 restaurants all up. Seven days' worth of lunch and dinner.

Sake

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Sake is obviously a Japanese restaurant. The menu runs from the standards--the boiled soy beans, the tempura, the selection of sushi and sashimi you'd expect to find at a traditional sushi bar--to some oddities, such as pieces of fish poached in yuzu or tuna 'tacos' that include chunks of jalapeno. Sake lives up to its name with its drinks menu. There is a very large selection of sake (avaliable in sets of three 30mL tasting portions, 60mL glasses, half bottles and full bottles made from a range of grains in a range of styles at a range of price points). There is also a decent selection of regular wines, plum wines, beers (mostly Japanese but with a couple of poor quality local offerings for some reason), cocktails (many based on sake) and other Japanese alcohols.

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Seaweed salad. Five different seaweeds. Nice if you like seaweed, I guess, but I was kind of glad this was a shared plate--I wouldn't want *that* much.

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There were two sake 'flights'. One showcased a sake made from three different strains of rice. The other, seen here, showcased three different styles of sake--a 'dry' one, a 'fruity' one and a 'floral' one. This was a reasonably priced way for me to sample sake seriously for the first time. Overall, I wasn't offended by any of them. I thought they were all very drinkable although I can't imagine myself putting in the effort to track down bottles of these sakes for consumption at home.

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This was the deep-fried tofu. It doesn't look like it in the picture--and it didn't look like it in the restaurant either--but the batter was very crisp. It was spiced somewhat with chilli.

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The boiled soy beans and the sushi platter. I've had tuna tartare and other raw fish dishes in a lot of fine dining restaurants, but this was the first time I'd paid for high quality sushi. And wow. I understand where the money goes. Beautiful quality fish. The perfect quantities of vinegar, wasabi and soy. Pickled ginger that has actually come from a root vegetable. I don't like the taste of straight eggs that much but even they were pretty good. Some discarded soy beans can be seen in the background--we didn't get a photo of the platter they arrived on. The soy beans were simply boiled then seasoned with sea salt which had been laced with chilli and garlic. Everyone seemed to love them.

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We only got a dodgy photo of my favourite dish: hand rolls filled with deep-fried soft shell crab. Incidentally, it was the first time I'd had soft shell crab. Until I had these I was at a stage where I could take or leave crab but now, finally, I get it.

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A couple of dishes. The 'popcorn chicken'-looking bites are in fact deep-fried chunks of bay bugs. Bay bugs are essentially smaller, uglier lobsters sans the large claws. I'd go so far as to argue that bay bugs are superior to lobster.

You can also see 'tonkatsu cups'--essentially a lettuce leave containined a deep-fried cube of crumbed, soft pork belly with cabbage. I thought they were okay.

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I didn't order these. Scallops in what I think was a yuzu sauce with shiitake mushrooms and some different vegetables including, obviously, baby sweetcorn. I didn't taste the scallops but the sauce was, er, interesting. Some people liked it but I found it a bit overpowering. More akin to something I'd fill a tart shell with and serve for dessert.

I had to run away at this point to go pick up a trumpet, so I'll leave you with photos of two dishes I didn't get to see or sample. I think there's grilled eel and chicken.

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Overall, I was very happy with the food. The service was a bit patchy--it was really quiet when we visited but things took a while to happen in the front-of-house. Either they get a lot of waiters in on busy Saturday nights or things would just fall apart.

Guillaume at Bennelong

Guillaume at Bennelong is located in the Sydney Opera House. Yes, there are world famous landmarks that contain nice restaurants. Guillaume at Bennelong is a modern French restaurant. You get the odd Asian ingredient here or there--some soy sauce, maybe--but you get lots of classic French techniques. Classic in the sense they're described in Escoffier's guide to cuisine and Larousse Gastronomique. It was very difficult to get decent photos at this restaurant because of the lighting.

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A Pacific oyster with a cucumber jelly. The mouthfeel of the jelly made the oyster even saltier than usual--purely because, I guess, jelly sits on the tongue whereas the oyster juices normally roll right off.

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Seared tuna steak infused (that's how they described the technique) with basil. The flavour of the basil came on really strong. There was a soy and mustard seed vinaigrette. All I could taste in the vinaigrette was the soy, though.

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A crappy photo but a nice dish: royale of global artichokes with mud crab. At the bottom of the plate there was a fish mousse topped with the jellied artichoke soup and the mud crab flesh.

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Scallops with Sterling caviar, a lemon emulsion (I found it bit a strong but by no means overpowering) and a watercress veloute (unseen: it's underneath the lemon froth). Until this dish I could take or leave scallops. I'd only ever had undercooked scallops or scallops of dubious quality. These were lovely.

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Another crappy photo. A seared piece of John Dory with a carrot and ginger puree (tasted so strongly of ginger we decided that the carrot must be there to provide colour and texture and a hint of vegetable sweetness). The potatoes had been roasted (presumably to dehydrate them), sliced on a mandolin and then cut into those tiny, see-through straws by hand. I imagine that job is the chef's way of giving his workers a bollocking when they get on his rotten side.

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One of my favourites. Truffled roast chicken, sweetcorn puree, a Brussels sprout, a yabby (native freshwater crayfish), morels and a 'yellow wine' reduction. A simple dish you could replicate at home, if you really wanted to, but few things can match a perfectly roasted chicken.

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I normally don't care for the beef courses on degustations. In Australia, at least, everyone seems to throw in a beef course (usually wagyu but sometimes a nice piece of grass-fed beef) just because, according to some unwritten rule, you need to. This one was actually nice. A piece of poached beef tenderloin with picked vegetables, a beef consomme and an English mustard emulsion (the foam).

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A soup of 'seasonal' fruit with lime marshmellows and pineapple sorbet. It was pleasant enough, although I'm glad the portion was small. It was a childish, playful dessert. Possibly by design. I could imagine children consuming this in great quantity at a birthday party.

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A large passionfruit souffle (with my savoury leanings I found it too rich and sweet to comfortably finish), passionfruit sorbet and a banana and vanilla creme chantilly. The chantilly and sorbet were nice.

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Petit fours. From the left: macarons filled with a milky caramel, passionfruit jellies, raspberry and creme chantilly tarts, tiny madelines.

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A friend of mine ordered two extra desserts. Someone else ordered a cheese platter.

I enjoyed Guillaume at Bennelong. I liked finally seeing some of the old school French techniques I'd read about in Escoffier (sans the flour and obligatory garnishes of caviar, cockscombs and kidneys). There were one or two elements, here or there, that weren't so hot--they were a bit generous with that strongly flavoured carrot and ginger puree, I think--but I wouldn't say there was a single dud dish. The service got off to a rough start when we had a bit of an issue with the sommelier not asking everyone what they wanted to drink (one person was neglected until a complaint was made--we saw the sommelier get taken aside and given a bollocking over this) and the first couple of dishes only being explained at one end of the table. Our comments about this must have been overheard as very soon a waiter capable of projecting his voice emerged. After explaining each dish he'd ensure everyone at the table had heard his speech. After the shaky start the service was excellent. A wonderful meal spaced out well over the course of four hours. Afterwards I sat outside, looking at the bridge and Tuesday's destination--Quay--across the harbour, and tried to get a consistent note out of the trumpet. It might've been easier to cut a kilogram's worth of potato straws.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Today we had lunch at Ormeggio at the Spit. Ormeggio is a Northern Italian restaurant with wonderful views of, er, The Spit (think water, very expensive houses and boats worthy of the Lonely Island and T-Pain).

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The waitress wasn't particularly well-spoken. We figured that the amuse bouche was made up of two kinds of cheese but that's as far as we got. Neither were particularly strong. The 'mousse'-looking one had been aerated.

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We opted for the 'flavours of Northern Italy' degustation. There was another degustation as well as a la carte on offer. We asked if we could sub the veal for the venison but were refused. Still, baby cow is a fine second prize.

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The steak tartare was really nice: perfectly seasoned, well-marlbed beef of noble birth. Chopped by hand, obviously. The crunchy topping provided a nice textural contrast and the mostarda (fig) was nice. Nicer than the (expensive) jarred ones I've bought before.

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The cabbage puree and salted cabbage components were surprisingly mild--they provided more of a textural element and sauciness than actual flavour. The dominant flavour was the pork.

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The veal was described as milk-poached. This is somewhat misleading, as it was brined (their words) in milk for 24 hours and then cooked sous vide for some time. It was enough time for the meat to be beautiful and soft but not all of the connective tissue had broken down. A small piece of my veal was inedible. Still, when the rest of the dish was that good and generous chunks of awesome crispy fatty skin were left there, rather than trimmed off and discarded, I was very happy with this course and the meal as a whole.

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The dominant flavour of the ganache component was coffee. The dessert wasn't really sweet at all and to me, with my savoury leanings, that was a very good thing. The tokay reduction didn't add much aside from colour.

Overall a very nice meal. Service started out just fine but then, when the restaurant got busy at about 1-1:30 things slowed down dramatically. There was a very long wait between the pasta course and veal silverside. The restaurant acknowledged this (not that we complained) and provided me--but no one else, oddly--with a free glass of wine. Given the quality and price of the food (very reasonable for four courses of anything, let alone nice food in Sydney) I accepted it. My only real complaint was the noise. After a couple of hours in that little dining room I had quite the headache.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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I've never been to any of those restaurants, Sake is somewhere I really want to head next time I go out in Sydney though.

Guillame's stuff has never appealed to me particularly, not sure why. Can't wait to read the rest of them though, hope your week is enjoyable.

James.

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Four in Hand

Tonight's dinner was Four in Hand, a flash pub in Sydney's inner suburbs. Four in Hand has the whole nose-to-tail thing going on. The restaurant has great service and a nice atmosphere--casual but classy.

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The amuse bouche kicked off chef Colin Fassnidge's tasting menu. A simple fish soup jacked with a little bit of paprika. The focus was the fish, though. When I say it reminded me of eating canned soup as a child I don't mean that it was bad. It was great. It, as with a lot of the Hand's food, kindled a certain nostalgia.

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Seared bonito with apple jelly and cucumber snow. The combination of the apple and tuna was interesting--when you first put a straw of apple and piece of tuna in your mouth you'd think the apple was dominating the tuna, but then the tuna started the shine through. This happened with a few of the Hand's pairings.

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A confit pig tail with corn and mud crab salad and a lobster chowder. Somehow two rich components--a chowder and the pig tail--combined to make something that wasn't, er, rich. I never thought it would be possible for pig tails cooked in fat to be 'subtle' but there you go.

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Roast kingfish with eel and saffron gnocchi. There were some roast vegetables in there too--we picked up on little cubes of potato and pumpkin but couldn't identify the third vegetable. The sauce had a strong smoked flavour. Made me think of barbecued food.

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The 'lamb: head to toe': a piece of roasted lamb breast, a bit of pickled tongue, wild garlic, artichoke and goats cheese curd with lime zest. The curd and tongue were another one of those combinations that worked surprisingly well--at first you thought the curd had taken over, was poorly matched with the lamb, but then the lamb slowly, slowly, slowly crept through and pushed the curd aside. Well played. The ribs were beautiful. Like those salty and crispy bits of a roasted leg of lamb.

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Masterstock-braised beef brisket with a few interesting components: carrots braised in orange juice and a sherry and carrot puree, for example. There was also, as seen in the photo, a large marrow bone to share and a pot of colcannon (a really rich mashed potato laced with spring onions and parsley).

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Cheese platter. All-round pleasant selection.

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I disliked this. Everyone else liked it. A ginger rice pudding with slivers of roasted coconut and maraschino sorbet. The sorbet tasted like cough medicine but wasn't too bad when mixed with the custard ... in small quantities. As in a couple of tablespoons. I couldn't finish it. Too rich, too sweet for my savoury-skewed palate.

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The restaurant's version of the Snickers bar: a peanut butter icecream, cubes of fudge and a bitter chocolate mousse. Not too sweet. I liked it.

This was the best meal I had so far--not that Sake, Guillaume or Ormeggio were bad. A fun, hearty, comforting meal in a nice setting. Go here.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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I was typing up some notes - I'm on this food pilgrimage with Chris - but it felt very long-winded.

Being a dessert fiend, the things I've enjoyed and disliked have been almost polar opposites to Chris's preferences. Ormeggio's dessert tasted, to me, like the coffee totally overpowered the coffee and Tokay reduction. It seemed to be nice chocolate and it seemed to be treated well, so being almost entirely unable to taste it confused me.

I found the wine-matching at Guillaume was nice overall - and hey, it's my first wine matching - but I found the whites too acidic, and I didn't feel like my food was made to taste better by the pairings. The raspberry mille feuille that I ordered from the alc menu was paired with a botrytis riesling, I think, and the largest sources of sweetness in the dish were the meringue droplets and the Persian fairy floss - the raspberries were lovely and tart, and possbly not quite ripe enough (tho' that then causes issues with bruising and handling), but I guess I expect a dessert wine to be more sweet than acidic. The chocolate mousse was paired with a red that we couldn't identify, that was also not sweet - I guess personal preference that I want a big, dark, heavy, fortified wine tasting of raisins and toffee and other dried fruits like fig and maybe prune. The chocolate mousse alc dessert felt a little too warm - the mousse had almost no texture at all (although the tastes were all lovely and chocolate-y). Conversely, I quite liked the degustation desserts; the fruit soup did what it needed to as a palate cleanser that was light and seasonal. The passionfruit soufle was nice enough, but the banana and passionfruit sorbet it was plated with made me remember how awesomely banana and pasionfruit go together.

Four-in-hand, tonight, was definitely the highlight of the week so far. The smaller group meant there were no service mishaps, unlike Saturday night. The food was lovely, but the overall feel was of a mugh more casual nature (which IMO also added to the enjoyment factor).

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Etch

Etch is a modern European restaurant near Circular Quay. It's tied in to Justin North's Becasse, which we'll be visiting later in the week.

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The amuse bouche was a soup of artichokes and mushrooms. A bit more refined than last night's fish soup but still very nice.

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We started with a salad of spanner crab, beetroot, apple and a Champagne vinaigrette. What struck me right away about Etch's food was that it was sublte. Not bland, no, but intentionally restrained. I dislike the flavour of Champagne so expected to dislike the flavour of the vinaigrette but it was very nice.

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Three tastes of kingfish--a tartare jacked with lime, a peppery cured loin and a croquette. This was maybe the weakest dish of the lot. I didn't dislike it but I felt the lime, pepper and breadcrumbs all dominated the flavour of the kingfish.

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A piece of blue eye with a pumpkin seed crust (worked well), coconut and (very restrained) horseradish.

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The 'caramelised pig's head'--they stuff pig skin with the cheek meat, cook it slowly, slice it and crisp it up in the pan. The stick-looking item is a bit of ear. Very soft. Not even the mild crunchiness I've experienced in the past. The purees were rhubarb and kohlrabi.

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The obligatory wagyu dish was okay. Slow-cooked shin and some roasted flank. I think most restaurants would've had a tough time toppling Four in Hand's amazing masterstock-braised brisket. The vegetables were celeriac and cavolo nero. The sauce was a surprisingly restrained Pedro Ximenez reduction. Nice but not as nice as the pork course.

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A pre-dessert of grapefruit salad (i.e. a piece of mandarin, a piece of ruby grapefruit), grapefruit sorbet and a passionfruit 'cloud'. More in line with what you'd expect from a pre-dessert than last night's rice pudding.

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The final course was a caramelised date tart with burnt butter icecream. I dislike really sweet things so I wasn't looking forward to this dish, expecting that it'd be all gooey and rich and sugary, but it was restrained. The slice of tart was beautifully presented and was very nice. Wouldn't want a larger portion, though.

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We also ordered a side of fried chat potatoes with smoked garlic mayonnaise and prosciutto. Jacked with Provencal herbs. One of the best potato dishes I've ever had in a restaurant.

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My friend ordered an extra dessert: a trifle of quince and gingerbread with a red wine jelly. It seemed nice enough but I'm glad the degustation featured the date tart instead.

Adriano Zumbo

Zumbo is a pastry chef with a big following care of the Australian version of MasterChef. He's helped popularise macarons (or macaroooooooooooooooons, even, as much as he hates that) and encouraged regular punters to make croqembouche. He has shops in a couple of places around Sydney (we went to the Balmain outlet) and he's opening one in Melbourne.

We arrived in the afternoon, maybe two hours before closing, and found a massive line at the door. First day of school holidays, of course. When we got in, after maybe 30-35 minutes of standing around, we found that almost everything had sold out. Ther were a handful of unlabelled chocolate truffles, a couple of cakes (one was in low supply--the leftovers looked pretty crappy--and the other was in a worringly plentiful supply), a few trays of macarons and a selection of breads (think sour dough loaves laced with curry powder, rosemary and the like, or bread made from cider).

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I wasn't really interested in paying $9 for a sad-looking cake made from discouraging ingredient combinations so I decided to go with what Zumbo is famous for: macarons. One of each. You can see a satay macaron, a mint and chestnut macaron and a kaffir lime and ginger macaron. The mint and chestnut tasted strongly of mint. The kaffir lime and ginger was just a bit odd. The satay was pretty bad: imagine eating crunchy peanut butter out of the jar, only someone has come along and spiked the jar with sugar and hot spices. It was interesting in the negative sense of the word--and I normally like savoury desserts. The texture of the macarons was pretty dodgy. They were soggy and soft. There was none of the crunch you expect and want the shell to have. A miss.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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The potato side at Etch was, I guess, a take on a typical pub side of potato wedges - the potato was certainly spiced with a dry rub of somesort before being fried. There felt like a lot of food for a side, but I guess that's in the context of an eight (for me) course lunch. Really really liked the food and the service and the interior, especially with most of the dishes being understated but still strong. I felt genuine remorse that I had to pass on the Brillat Savarin cheesecake because I'd eaten the potato side instead.

I went to Zumbo's Balmain shopfront with pretty low expectations. The shop looked nice, the staff were friendly and helpful, but someone had never thought to make lots of extra product for the initial school holiday rush. I find it hard to believe this doesn't happen every few months when there is a fresh batch of school holidays. There was a bit of variance in the sesame cake that apparently no-one much had bought, as far as the finish and decorative pieces, but I'd expected that kind of thing. (Burch and Purchese, in Melbourne, may have had an overall blandness from using lots of white chcolate paint as a textural item, or lots of dairy fat, or caramelised white chocolate - and I freely admit this blandnes comes from buying 10 cakes and eating them in one sitting, rather than other a few weeks - but they were all impeccably finished, with no variance at all.) I don't know if I feel disapointed for coming away from a Zumbo shop with sho little to show for a 45 minute wait from joining the queue to leaving with product in hand, but I certainly felt cheated. To boot, it looks like the cakes I bought - and, I guess, potentially most of his 'range' - travel extremely poorly. I have two cakes that have been mushed into one.

PS I'm glad I skipped on the macarons. I still don't understand how I can find them too sweet, and yet Chris can't stand much nicer plated desserts for the same criticism.

PPS The trifle at Etch was really good. Refined and understated, like I guess most or all of their stuff. I'd have liked more gingerbread than just the curly strips, but it smelled delicious. I initially thought the poached fruit on top was pear in a red and white wine, respectively, but looking at some pictures now and I can see it was most likely the quinces. There was a very thin jelly over the custard layer, presumably made from either the quinces or their poaching liquid. The date tart was, as for Chris, a surprise in it's lack of sweetness. I guess we both had images of overly saccherine sticky date puddings and butterscotch sauce. Despite that, or perhaps because of, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish, I guess, that the burnt-butter was plated with a bigger quenelle, it disappeared so quickly.

Edited by Nich (log)
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I'm enjoying the write ups too and looking forward to more.

Didn't want to say anything before you went there but we were very disappointed in a meal at Guillaume a few months ago. Not just the service but also the food, which was average or poorly executed: the highlight of our meal was not even very original - a version of Thomas Keller's salmon tartare cornets.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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The further we get into our degustation of degustations, the worse Guillaume seems in comparison to everything else. 'Worse' is a term that has the potential to be misleading. I think it was a great meal. The place isn't built--and this seems really odd, given its location--to cater for large groups. I suspect that counted for a lot of our problems.

Marque

First of the three three-hatted restaurants on our tour. Marque, baby of Mark Best, is located in Surry Hills. It, along with a couple of other places we've visited/are visiting in Melbourne/Sydney, has represented Australia in the San Pellegrino Top 100 list for the past couple of years.

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The sandwich of bonito, foie gras, potato and sesame was an excellent start to the best meal we've had so far--here or anywhere else. You could taste each element. No ingredient dominated the others. Beautiful.

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Almond jelly with blue swimmer crab, almond gazpacho, sweet corn (the powder) and caviar. A light and clean dish. All of the food at Marque is very 'clean', very refined ... without appearing as if an army of lackeys is out the back, using tweezers and magnifying glasses to carefully place micro herbs. This dish had an incredible texture.

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The dish of oyster, abalone and citrus salad (kumquat and the surprisingly mildly-flavoured Buddha's hand), laced with cocoa powder, was my least favourite dish. It was still nice--and very, very, very beautiful--but it didn't reach the same lofty heights as everything else.

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A mostly white dish of wafer-thin slices of calamari and lardo with radishes. A beautiful dish.

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The duck egg sitting in a nest of artichoke, mint and radiccho (with additional radiccho present in the form of powder) would make for a perfect breakfast. A perfectly cooked egg (a yolk the texture of custard) with a refreshing salad. The bitterness of the radiccho was present but thankfully restrained.

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The best pigeon I've ever had by far. The breast and leg, which I think were cooked sous vide, were accompanied by some sauteed lettuce, mullet roe and trace amounts of cucumber.

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The obligatory wagyu course came in the form of a piece of sirloin partnered with black tea-braised onions and a cute salad. Nice cow but, really, I'm not sold on the way beef almost always plays such a major role in degustation menus. At this point we mentioned to the waitress we'd have loved to have had the rabbit from the a la carte menu instead of the beef. She said she'd put in a word with the kitchen ...

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The optional cheese course: nice roquefort with crispy wafers of beetroot, raspberries and rose petals. This was intended to be shared between the three of us.

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The rabbit, in various carefully preparped and beautifully cooked cuts, emerged with cashew nuts and seaweed. The dish was jacked with nutmeg. Marque has a way with 'farmed game': the rabbit was the best rabbit dish I'd ever had.

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Sauternes custard. A striking presentation and nice enough, but I was glad for the small portion.

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The roasted slice of pineapple with black truffle and Sichuan pepper made for an interesting dessert. Interesting in a good way. It wasn't too heavy and it wasn't one dimensional--it wasn't just sugar, sugar, sugar or chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, but something I actually cared to eat.

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The finish off we were given some petit fours. Each of the four varieties represented a taste (sadly, there were no umami chocolates--I asked). From the left you have lollies that represent bitterness (Campari), saltiness (my favourite--basically a chocolate filled with gooey caramel that had been salted to the point of actually being salty), sour (lemon-based) and sweet (concentrated sugar, it seemed to my palate).

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Can't overstate how impressed I was with Marque; it set a new bar (which, I guess, is to be expected, being the first three-hatter I've visited).

The liquid caramel sitting on top of the sauterne custard was a little too rich for me, but the sauterne added a nice level of acidity to the custard to help balance it. The pineapple/truffle/pepper course was nice, but probably a little flat for my tastes. I know I wasn't as lucky as Chris to find a whole Szechuan pepper hiding under the pineapple, to give it a bit of a kick.

The rabbit was the best I've ever had. The cashew/nutmeg pairing was really amazing, and the rabbit itself was incredibly tender and juicy.

I could quite happily eat the duck egg dish for breakfast, and the rabbit for lunch or dinner, on a very regular schedule if they always tasted that good.

A friend with us opted for the wine pairings. Some of them felt a little hit-and-miss, but the Spanish oloroso added a very nice nutty depth to the calamari and it's peppery black raddish (as well as being a very nice olorosso on its own).

Also, they're the first place (so far, at least) that has stocked cider from Orange. Small Acres Ice Cider is amazing stuff, and for the only cider on the menu, a rather distinctive member of the dessert section.

Oh yes, and ignore Chris, the 'sweet' member of the petit fours was delicious. Coated in castor sugar, it virtually melted in the mouth, and was full of caramel and sugar flavours and perhaps some citrus zing.

Edited by Nich (log)
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We got the recipe for Etch's potatoes. Here it is, exactly as it was given to us. You want to make this at home.

Fried Provencal potatoes with aged prosciutto and smoked garlic mayonnaise - from Etch in Sydney

The potatoes that we use are baby Chats. We poach them in seasoned water until then we break them in half so that they are rustic chunks. Then we fry them in hot oil (180*C) until golden brown. While they are hot we season them with Provecal salt (thyme, rosemary, garlic, bay, pink salt). The garlic we slow roast in the oven until golden in colour and sweet, then we smoke in the smoker (with woodchips) for around 5 minutes. We then make the mayonnaise with smoked garlic in it from the beginning to maximise the flavour. It is really rich and goes very well with the potatoes. The potatoes are then topped off with thin strips of prosciutto.

More on Zumbo

Nich just opened his breakfast of the cakes he ordered--the only cakes left by the time we got inside the shop.

The intact one: Black sesame dacquoise, licorice bavaroise, black sesame caramelised almonds and Kalamansi curd.

The mushed up one: Flourless orange cake, milk chocolate cinnamon crunch, vanilla cremeaux, orange jelly and orange star anise parfait.

They didn't look too good in the shop, especially the orange cake, but a journey by bus and train back to our accomodation took care of the presentation (which was nowhere up to the standards of, say, Burch and Purchese in Melbourne) once and for all. It's a bit of a shame that even as a local I could go in and buy a box of cakes, spending $9 per item, and take them home (there's nowhere to eat inside the shop) and end up with a pile of mush. Some acetate strips or cardboard dividing walls wouldn't go astray.

Nich is eating the cakes for breakfast at the moment. Just as I was about to post this--I'll leave detailing the flavours up to him--he bit into a piece of plastic. The 'Adriano Zumbo' label, nestled atop each cake, isn't edible, even though it looks like it could be made of chocolate or icing. The sesame cake tastes okay. Certainly not okay-enough to justify the price or wait, though.

http://adrianozumbo.com/patisserie-menu/#cakes has photos of what everything is meant to look like.

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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The flourless orange had some stronger flavours in it, and was reasonably nice by flourless orange standards (it helps that I'm a big fan of cinnamon and orange pairings. Who am I kidding, I'm a sucker for anything cinnamon). The sesame one is nicer than it sounds, and after finishing it I'm finally getting the liquorice taste coming through.

They taste better than they sound or look. I'm not sure if that really says much, tho'. To be fair, there was a little bit of detail and intricacy in their construction. And it wasn't in the "we're going to put a little bit of flavour in the bottom left quadrant so that you will only taste it if you eat a spoonful from that area" level of frustration that Burch and Purchese cakes instilled while we tried to find every single flavour listed as being in them.

If it came down to it, at this time of year on school holidays, I'd much rather walk into Etch and order the potato side to go and eat that for breakfast the next day, let alone on that same day. And, really, potato and prosciutto and mayonaise may get bumped and jumbled around on the way home, but that won't make you think any less of them.

Edited by Nich (log)
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The further we get into our degustation of degustations, the worse Guillaume seems in comparison to everything else. 'Worse' is a term that has the potential to be misleading. I think it was a great meal. The place isn't built--and this seems really odd, given its location--to cater for large groups. I suspect that counted for a lot of our problems.

That seems a little unfair. Marque is, in my mind, the best restaurant in the country. I rate it above Quay.

I'm a little disappointed that they no longer serve the Arpege egg, although the replacement bonito sandwich looks and sounds amazing.

Interesting you note that the food doesn't appear as though it's attended to by hundreds of lackeys bearing tweezers. As far as I know, there are only 5 chefs in the kitchen, and I know that there's barely enough room to swing a cat, should you be so inclined.

James.

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Aria

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This morning we left the house with the intent of a three course meal at Aria and maybe some cake from a couple of the pastry shops in The Rocks. That was the intent. We ended up spending four hours going through the degustation menu. It happens.

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Aria is one of the few nice restaurants we've been to that cares about beer. We asked for a couple of beer matches. Both were nice enough. The list was extensive to a point--it covered a pale ales, wheat beers, lagers and a few other styles--but surprisingly lacked many dark beers. It had, what, maybe two on a page-long list?

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The amuse bouche hit the table straight away. The cream, topped with black sesame seeds, was laced with ginger. Strong but not too strong. The soup was pumpkin primarily but rounded out nicely with a bit of Parmesan.

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The restaurant was empty when we entered. Slowly it started to fill up. And then, my God, it took an hour for the salmon to arrive. The cured salmon was dusted, with much restraint, with kombu and Earl Grey. Very nice. One of the nicer pieces of fish I've had this week--the other flavours are in a supporting role, the salmon is rightly the star of the show.

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The ballotine was comprised of smoked ham, foie gras, mushrooms and chicken. Very, very, very nice. You want this in a sandwich for lunch every day. You do. There was also a date puree, which worked well with the sausage. The salad was comprised of mustard greens. The 'sauce' was comprised of pickled cucumber, boiled egg, caper and tarragon--I don't have the time to look up gribiche at the moment, but that's basically it, right?

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The weakest course was the steamed cobia: the mildly spiced coconut sauce, various textures of cauliflower (puree, roasted, 'couscous') and bok choy were nice but the cobia fillet was a pointless addition. It would've made for a good vegetarian dish, I think.

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The peking duck consomme was nice but hardly mind-blowing. It did pretty much everything you wanted it to: it tasted like the liquid that pools at the bottom of a tub of takeaway roast duck. It contained duck dumplings, shaved abalone and enoki and shittake mushrooms.

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The Kurobuta pork was nice. The meat very soft, the skin crisped up nicely. Very rich. You were glad to have the cured and compressed watermelon to cut through the grease. The crispy ear and pork skin were nice additions. A very rich dish. Possibly too rich, given this wasn't the main savoury course.

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The beautifully roasted lamb fillet came with ricotta gnocchi, pumpkin and mustard fruit puree. The sauce was based on balsamic vinegar but wasn't strong or harsh as you'd expect--it was cut with something. Probably just stock.

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Here's what everyone else had. I didn't have this. It's a pre-dessert of strawberry and pannacotta.

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I didn't have this either. It was a 'caramel poached apple with a ginger bread and cherry macaron and ginger beer sorbet.' Sure.

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When I ordered the degustation I asked if maybe I could have the duck pie off the a la carte menu in place of the dessert. The restaurant was happy to make the change. The duck pie was very rich. The plethora of peas is a nod to a ghastly Australian 'dish'--the pie floater.

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Nich, being a sugar fiend, ordered a second dessert: poached pears with shiraz granita, hazelnut brioche and praline icecream.

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The petit fours: a mint chocolate truffle, a lemon meringue tart and financiers.

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Quay

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Tonight we had dinner at Quay. Quay is rated #26 on the San Pellegrino Top 100 list. It's located in the Overseas Passenger Terminal, not too far from the Bridge. The view of the Bridge, Opera House and city in general is nice.

There were two dining options avaliable--a four course a la carte or an eight course degustation. Naturally, we opted for the degustation.

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The amuse bouche was beautifully presented, as was most of the food at Quay. There was a mild horseradish cream at the bottom. The flower petals were made of thin slices of what we suspect was radish. The stamen was made of cauliflower. Aside from the horseradish this dish was kind of bland.

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The first course on the degustation was made up of a couple of thick slices of tuna with pink turnips. It was garnished with a wasabi flower and seasoned with juniper and cubes of jamon. Crunch was provided by little chunks of ciabatta. The jamon and tuna were the strongest flavours.

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The salad was one of my favourite dishes: it looked great, although the photo doesn't really show that, and the texture was interesting. There was pickled rhubarb, endive, beetroot, purple carrot, rosa radish, kohlrabi, sheep's milk curd, violet and, oddly, pomegranate molasses. The molasses worked well with the vegetables. As in the Quay book, the vegetarian food was amazing.

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Then we had the poached southern rock lobster with tapioca, calamari noodles, pea flowers and 'lobster velvet'. I'm unclear if lobster velvet is meant to be a specific part of the lobster or just the texture of the lobster. The lobster was perfectly cooked and I could accept that the dish was technically flawless, but lobster--seriously--isn't something I really enjoy. My girlfriend loves lobster and rated it highly.

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The butter-poached quail breast was amazingly, amazingly, amazingly rich and sticky. It was accompanied by pumpernickel, walnuts, quinoa, truffle, chestnuts and small pieces of milk skin. I was surprised that the first meat course was so substantial. This was the most interesting quail dish I've ever had. I wouldn't say it was the best, no, but the most interesting without a doubt.

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The pork course was maybe my favourite and, amazingly, didn't seem at all rich in comparison to the quail. The Berkshire jowl was cooked sous-vide. The crackle was actually made with maltose. The pork was accompanied by prunes and cauliflower cream. The dish was 'perfumed' with prune kernel oil.

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Quay's cutlery and serviceware is amazing. Every course came on a different plate (the 'puck'-looking thing used to serve the lobster was the most interesting).

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The obligatory wagyu course was meant to be a poached fillet encrusted in 'ezekiel'--a 'Biblical recipe' that calls for a mixture of grains such as farro and buckwheat. The smear at the bottom of the dish is actually a very mildly flavoured black pudding. I liked the idea of the grainy crust. The broth is an oxtail broth. Again, I like the idea.

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And then we cut into the meat and started eating it. It was raw. You couldn't taste the wagyu: all you got was the crust and the texture of uncooked meat. Inedible. All of us sent it back. The restaurant handled the complaint well. They offered us an extra course--another savoury course, another perfectly cooked portion of beef, an extra dessert to share, a cheese platter--but we'd had so much food we weren't up for it. We didn't complain to get free stuff or a discount. In fact, the only reason we said anything was because we were asked if everything was okay when a waiter saw no one had finished their beef. He--and the rest of the staff--were surprised when we made it clear this wasn't about getting free stuff and that we were 100% happy with the rest of the meal.

We parted ways with the desserts.

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On the set menu were 'jewels' and 'warm vanilla and palm blossom brioche, caramelised white chocolate, amaretto cream, walnuts and prune sorbet'. The 'jewels' dessert was made of fromage blanc and spherical jellied fruit and seemed to me to be more of an elaborate pre-dessert.

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I opted for the snow egg. The snow egg is a poached meringue, filled with apple icecream (a yolk, right?) The shell comes from a maltose tuile being melted over the egg. The egg rests upon apple and guava granitas. A nice dessert. Even for me.

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The eight-textured chocolate cake is what happens when a good restaurant decides to get creative but stay within the confines of chocolate cake. It's very, very, very rich and was supposedly taken off the degustation for good because customers almost never finished it. It's mostly bitter meaning I enjoyed it, although eventually the richness got to me and I too fell before completing it. The final texture comes in the form of a chocolate sauce. The sauce is poured onto the top of the cake and melts all the way through. How well this works depends on climatic conditions.

We had an interesting discussion at the end of the night with a member of staff about the beef course. I admire the restaurant and chef Peter Gilmore for being so prepared to play with fire--the menu is an ever-changing document and nothing is set in stone. Ingredients that are normally treated in maybe two or three different ways elsewhere, that a lot of people aren't prepared to mess around with too much (like quail breast or wagyu fillet), are something the restaurant is just as likely to mess around with as humble root vegetables. Sometimes this pays off. Sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't work the staff listen and modify the dishes accordingly. The staff are open about Gilmore's attitude to things. There was a genuine interest in making Quay's food as good as possible. It was clear that this beef dish, which the kitchen realised was undercooked, was still a work in progress. As was a lot of the menu. I like that idea, even if it means that sometimes I'd hit a dud dish if I was regularly visiting the restaurant.

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Aria: The pre-dessert strawberry-and-pannacotta was nice. It looked like some diced strawberry swimming in a strawberry soup with a slice or two of mint on top. The pannacotta was nice and fairly soft. I don't know if it was an isue with gelatine or whatever thickening/setting agent they used, or the acidity from the strawberries, but it had an odd grainy/lumpy texture. Or it ay have just curdled : \

The caramel poached apple with macaron was nice; the macaron itself had the gingerflavour, with layers of cherry inside it, from memory. The ginger beer sorbet was nice and light, but could have perhaps had a slightly more ginger beer-y flavour. I really liked the plating and presentation of this one.

The second dessert was less striking looking, but tasted lovely. I enjoyed the presentation of things leaning in a bunch of directions on a line. Between the wine-poached pears, shiraz granita, praline ice-cream and hazelnut brioche, it was rich without being particularly heavy.

The petit fours were nice enough, tho' I probably would have preferred more than 2-3mm of lemon curd beneath the little mountain of meringue.

Quay: The quail breast is one of those foods that I want to have if I ever end up on death row and need a last meal (along with Marque's rabbit, and possibly their duck egg). It's not rich because it's served with a bunch of nuts, but because it's served atop a nut custard - walnuts, perhaps. Probably one of the heaviest dishes we've had, anyway. As Chris said, the fact that quail made pork jowl taste light was a feat unto itself, tho' the pig tasting comparatively light also increased my enjoyment of the pig itself.

The pre-dessert 'pearls' were nice enough, and I could appreciate it all, but the jelly spheres were a little bland. The fromage blanc sitting among the granita was a nice touch. The little meringue droplets were... odd. I don't know if they weren't cooked properly or if the sugar wasn't incorporated properly or if they used cornflour, but they had a rather grainy texture as they melted in your mouth that I assumed was starch but wasn't quite sure of.

I was tempted to swap out the real set dessert for the chocolate cake - I felt like we'd eaten enough that day to not want to risk adding an extra dessert - and am glad I didn't. The warm vanilla brioche was good in every way you want brioche to be good ,tho' I don't recall really tasting the palm blossom (or knowing what it was meant to taste like). I really liked what they were doing with the white chocolate and amaretto cream and walknuts and prune sorbet; it felt a little like a nod towards middle-eastern desserts without being that stereotypical plate of some baklava and some Persian fairy floss and similar sweet pap that we've foun at a number of places over the last year or two.

As far as the snow egg, I'm glad I got a look at it - I'd been wondering all afternoon what they were going to do to make the relatively boring snow egg feel classy. I'm also glad I didn't have to eat it all. The chocoalte cake didn't have the intended effect, it being a little too cold near the windows, but I liked that it was predominantly made from chocolate, rather than milk chocolate.

The wagyu beef thing was awkward, but I always felt satisfied (and then some) with the staff and how they handled it and us and everything. A slight regret at asking to see the kitchen so late, when they were mid-way through cleaning and it wasn't really safe for us to talk in.

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Bentley was one of the best places I've eaten at, full stop. I was surprised by how small it was - it looked like it'd struggle to turn over more than about 30-35 covers at a time - and that it was a bar and restaurant, so to speak. From the moment we sat down and looked at the menu, I anticipated very good things to come. We pretty quickly decided that the full degustation was the way to go. The presentation and choice of ingredients for most things was playful, but also respectful of what was being showcased. A number of dishes included lots of similar elements, or differnt parts of the same animal, in a similar but better fashion to some of the 'nose-to-tail' dishes at other places this week that gave you some crispy pig ear and some crackling with your pig jowl or belly or whatever. As much as Etch felt restrained, and Marque felt like it was being clever while also elegant, Bentley felt like it was confident in what it was doing, with most dishes artfully spread across the plate, with a nice selection of colours and everything without ever feeling arrogant or extravagent. In part because they offered an actual dessert degustation ($40 from memory, with four desserts which in full portions would normally be $18 each), and in part because the desserts were all very good in every single way (from plating to construction to the things actually on the plate complementing each other), I felt like this was perhaps the first place this week to really take their desserts both seriously and passionately. I guess it's not particularly fair to make that comparison, because I didn't even see the a la carte dessert menu at Marque and wasn't able to eat more than a couple of desserts at most places. But Bentley's were consitantly good. Really good. And they didn't pander to sugar addicts; a lot of them were mildly sweet, but made good use of everything on the plate to be both coherent as well as interesting. Highlights included a beer sorbet, and the 'ricotta dumplings' being little doughnut balls with a ricotta centre and coasted in cinnamon sugar.

In part because lunch sprawled across five hours, I guess, I felt very sated and never hurried when we finished. In retrospect, I probably would have come back next week or on the weekend to do the dessert degustation, because that + being in the city from 12pm until 1am was incredibly tiring, and took some gloss off dinner at Becasse.

The kitchen was positively tiny by most standards. I liked that you could peek into one window when heading to and from the 'facilities' and see a large dewar of LN2 sitting under what counted as their pastry bench. It was nice to talk to the chefs and the waiter slash somellier about both the food at Bentley, and different places we had been to and they had liked.

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"The thousand-yard stare. A Marine gets it

after he's been in the shit for too long. It's

like you've really seen...beyond. I got it. All

field Marines got it. You'll have it, too."

Bentley

Bentley is located in Surry Hills. I went to the restaurant because of the book. Chef Brent Savage uses a few modernist techniques that sound interesting enough to make the special trip to see.

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Bentley is also a bar. They have a nice selection of beer, wine and spirits.

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The first course was a sandwich of crab. The crab meat was served with corn in some kind of pastry. We weren't sure what kind of pastry it was. Nich had flashbacks to bad tuna mornay. I liked the crab dish.

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Ocean trout with roe and crispy skin. The 'marshmellows' were dusted with fennel pollen and filled with an ocean trout mousse. Very nice.

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Tuna poached in a jamon stock. Sorry for the lack of detail: we neglected to get a printed copy of the day's menu from the restaurant and only just realised that what's listed on the website is quite differently to what we actually got.

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I'm not a fan of lobster but I thought this lobster was okay. It was served with sticky and sweet sweetbreads, parsnip and tapioca. The sweetbreads were good.

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Two pieces of perfectly cooked pork belly--salty crisp skin, tender flesh. One was served nude the other was served with a milk skin that gave the pork a totally different quality.

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The menu listed a beef dish. We opted instead for two bovine-free meat courses: a duck breast and lamb. The lamb is cooked sous vide. The duck breast is wrapped in plastic and cooked in a Combi oven, then crisped up in a pan.

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Cheese and vegemite is a classic Australian childhood pairing. Bentley pairs shards of dehydrated Vegemite with creamed cheddar. There are also a few chunks of regular cheddar floating around. The cheese course was an optional extra we knew we wanted the moment we saw the word 'Vegemite.'

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Caramelised pineapple and a Trumer Pils sorbet. Very good. I liked that this wasn't really sweet at all.

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Frozen goat's cheese mousse with violent, buckwheat praline and passionfruit icecream. What really impressed me about Bentley's icecreams, sorbets and mousses was that they really tasted like the core ingredient. The passionfruit icecream was spooning passionfruit pulp into your mouth. The Trumer Pils sorbet was like taking a swig of that very beer.

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At this point it was maybe four in the afternoon. We'd had another four hour lunch. So, naturally, Nich ordered the four-course dessert degustation. We'd already had a couple of the desserts so the restaurant offered to give us different things: the other a la carte dessert and a platter of their 'small things'.

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Date sponge (of some kind) and various takes on musk.

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'Liquid mandarin'. Various tastes of mandarin (freeze-dried, etc). The chocolate log is actually filled with a mandarin syrup -- crack it open and it spills out, providing the dish with a sticky sauce. Not as much of an abomination as most jaffa dishes are.

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Roasted white chocolate with Earl Grey-poached pears.

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The petit fours--ricotta doughnuts, a frozen chocolate bar (icecream as opposed to actual chocolate) filled with honey comb (Australians would be reminded of Violent Crumble or Crunchie bars) and raspberry marshmellows.

A five hour lunch. With dinner to follow three hours later. Nich and I were playing with fire. We walked from the restaurant to Town Hall station, intending to drop in to Red Oak. It took us a long time to find Red Oak. When we found it we were greeted with a sign saying it was closed for a private function. Spending time sitting in a very loud Cuban cocktail bar did not do me any good.

Becasse

Becasse recently moved to Westfield. It's just off a food court that contains Becasse's bakery, sister restaurant (an even cheaper sister than Etch) and a variety of other, nice-looking places. If this food court, with its real food, was right near my workplace, I'd be very happy and much poorer. Suddenly $4 pork rolls wouldn't seem so nice.

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The dining room and hallway leading up to it were impressive. The dining room is surprisingly small and manages to feel very intimate. If you just saw the photos I'm sure you'd be shocked to know that the restaurant is located in a huge shopping complex. The sort of shopping complex that would normally only offer degustations progressing from McNuggets and French Fries to Big Macs and chocolate sundaes.

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Part of the cocktail list.

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A friend ordered the basil, cucumber and apple martini. I ordered a 1986 Armagnac. I'd never had anything literally as old as I am. Nich ordered a Breton cider which was, for the first time I'd seen, served in what he assures me was a proper Breton cider cup. Very cool.

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The first amuse bouche was a tiny quenelle of mascarpone on a pastry base. There were supposedly Sicilian olives in there. We could taste the 'citrus salad' but everything was dominated, really, but the thick layer of (very nice) pastry.

If Nich and I were normal people, we'd have ordered the five course degustation. If we were sane, I mean. Well-adjusted. We ordered the nine. Nich ordered all of the desserts.

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The second amuse bouche was a seared scallop veloute with carrot jelly. Crunch was provided by the corn on top of the dish. More of the jelly would've been nice, I guess, but I thought this was a nice start to the degustation.

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Bread and butter arrived. There was freshly baked brioche, 'seven seeds' sourdough and cheese and bacon bread. Finally the cheese and bacon roll gets the fine dining treatment. The bread was very nice. The butter was laced with wakame (not to the point of maze's butter--maze offered a seaweed butter that tasted quite strongly of seaweed, which I enjoyed a lot for the novelty value as much as the flavour).

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The 'bespoke winter vegetable garden' arrived. At this point I started to doubt, already, that I could finish this very expensive nine course meal. I'd been awake for a long time. I'd been in the city, either on my feet or eating, eating, eating, for a long time. Neither of my companions from lunch were looking too good either. And yet this was a beautiful vegetarian course. Exactly what I needed. There were heirloon carrots and a variety of nuts (walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts). The 'snow' is made of goat's curd. There is pea mousse underneath the soil.

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Marinated local yellowfin tuna, confit octopus, mandarin and white radish. Everything at Becasse was beautifully presented.

The ocean trout came with a carpaccio of king prawn, oyster jelly, pomegranate and 'Vietnamese' dressing. A second excellent seafood course. One of many we've had this week. I didn't get a photo of this.

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The velvet chicken mosaic (a kind of sausage, I guess) was served with spanner crab and a sweetcorn sauce. The sauce, although cut with citrus, was still very rich. I couldn't finish the sauce. I was terrified I wasn't going to finish more than one more course. I felt dead. I wasn't enjoying a beautiful meal I'd looked forward to for so long.

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Becasse is the first restaurant I've encountered that does the whole truffle upsell routine so disliked by many eGulleters. A truffle risotto was offered as an additional or substitute course. One of our party took up the offer. Even if I'd been hungrier I wouldn't have gone for it--I'm still not overly impressed by truffles and dislike the mere thought of the truffle up-sell. At the same time, if you like truffle, it would've been nice to get an entire dish covered in truffle as opposed to a few sad shavings.

The forgotten vegetables didn't help matters. Any other time, a medley of interesting root vegetables (rare varieties of sweet potatoes, potatoes and carrots) served with a crispy piece of pork jowl and a pork jus would be happiness on a plate. I'd be excited like a child on Christmas morning. This time I couldn't stomach more than a half of that tiny cube of pork. I didn't get a photo of this.

I ordered tea. I was struggling to stay awake, alert, sane. Food coma.

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You wouldn't think it, but the squad brought me back to life. Coaxed me back into the light. You wouldn't think of squad as refreshing but somehow it was less rich than a primarily vegetarian dish. It was accompanied with braised tendon, caramelised onion, tamarind and ginger jus.

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The other option for the main course was the grilled wagyu with Jerusalem artichoke, burnt butter and golden ale sauce. The beef was very nice. When I walked in I briefly considered scratching all of the dessert courses in favour of a 'dessert' of squad, beef and the 18-hour pork neck (avaliable a la carte or in the five course meal). As much as I liked the desserts, I wish I'd had the capacity to ask for this.

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Back in the land of the living, I really enjoyed the piece of Holy Goat La Luna (a very good goat's cheese). The sticky sweet pickled rhubarb, though, not so much.

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The pre-dessert had a lemongrass cheesecake and ginger foam. It was laced with fresh coriander. Nice. Even when I did bite into a bit of stem.

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For dessert I opted for the 68% chocolate 'present'--the chocolate sphere is filled a salted cumin caramel. The base contained pretty much all of these elements--a bit of cumin, a disc of chocolate, something crunchy I was in no state to identify.

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Also avaliable for dessert was a 'silken lemongrass and lime caramel, passionfruit crunch with vanilla yoghurt sorbet.'

Nich, at some point, cancelled his order for all three desserts in addition to the standard courses. The restaurant offered him a deal: to lose the cheese course in favour of a dessert offered on the a la carte menu, a 'winter still life' comprised of various textures of apple, hazelnut, Earl Grey tea and honey. It looked very cool but we just realised we didn't take a photo of it. Hopefully someone else in the group did.

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Petit fours: a macaron and a salted caramel chocolate.

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Becasse employs its own butcher.

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The kitchen.

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Brioche to take home.

We survived.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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est-sign.jpg

Indeed.

Becasse pt. 2 -- the missing levels

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Luckily, one of my friends managed to get photos of all of the dishes at Becasse. And so here you have, in order, the yellowfin tuna with prawns, the pork jowl and yabby with 'forgotten' vegetables and the winter dessert.

est.

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est. is our last three-hat restaurant for the week. est. is fine dining without the pretension--we went in and felt underdressed, but quickly relaxed thanks to the polite but casual service. Nice food. Nice room. Nice music. A fine lunch.

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My girlfriend opted for an entree of Sydney rock oysters with ponzu dressing.

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I went for the ocean trout sashimi with ocean trout roe, creme fraiche, apple, cucumber, dill, yuzu and white cinzano. This dish was so understated. It was all about the beautiful fish. This was easily the best piece of raw fish I've ever had.

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Nich ordered an entree of lime moelleux cake with lemon gel, grapefruit and yoghurt sorbet. I'm told the sorbet was nice but not as smooth as Bentley's offerings on that front.

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He also ordered a very expensive glass of dessert wine: a 1997 Chateau d'Yquem. It had a really interesting aroma. It reminded both of us of a light scotch.

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My girlfriend ordered the duck breast for her main course. The duck breast, which was beautifully cooked (the restaurant offered to overcook it to your liking if you were a barbarian), had a honey glaze. It was served with pumpkin, turnips and a black vinegar sauce.

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I was interested in the duck but figured, hey, I'm having duck tonight at Sepia. Instead I ordered the braised veal cheeks. Rich. Sweet. Sticky. Served with leeks and celeriac in both roasted and pureed form. This was one of the best dishes of the week. I asked for the recipe but was told I'd have to pay for it later in the year when chef Peter Doyle released the first est. cookbook. I'd buy the book for the veal recipe alone. I also got a side of chips. The chips and the excellent reduction of veal juices and awesomeTM worked so well together I envisioned a version of poutine made of the two. Erotically vulgar.

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Nich's mains. First was the chocolate ganache with orange jelly (a tube of the stuff was inside the ganache) and a lemon and orange syrup. The ice cream was made from Earl Grey and the little cubes of jelly were a surprisingly restrained Pedro Ximenez. The tuile added a nice bitterness.

The other main was the slow-poached quince with muscavado crumbs and Poire William icecream.

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My girlfriend and I both ordered the ganache. Nich's dessert was the passionfruit souffle with passionfruit sorbet.

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Petit fours to round off what was maybe the second best meal of the week. A well-deserved three hats. Shame about the shit coffee.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Sepia

Sepia is the work of a Tetsuya alumni which, I think, is a damn good start. It's a restaurant (and bar, as we discovered) with an obvious Japanese influence. This was a welcome change of pace. The beer list has a few nice options (I ordered a locally made wheat beer) and the spirits list is worthy document. Nich ordered a glass of distilled beer. Not my favourite thing in the world, that stuff.

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An amuse bouche of bonito consomme. Warm. Clean. Strong--but not blow-your-head-off strong--bonito flavour.

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I enjoyed the concept of this dish: a perfectly cooked scallop wrapped in nori served with a pickled ginger jelly, puffed sushi rice and avocado cream. The wine match for this course was a sake--seemingly a match of ideas rather than flavours.

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The waiter ballsed up the description of this dish--he started going on about kingfishsomethingsomething then realised half way through his speech. He then started going on about yellowfin. What the course actually was was a tartare of yellowfin tuna served with warm shiitake mushroom custard (topped with a bit of Parmesan), sprouting caviar lentils, toasted ponzu and amaranth (a herb). I liked the flavour and textural combinations but I think the flavour of the yellowfin was dominated by everything else.

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A risotto of Queensland spanner crab finished with a mustard and tarragon butter. A couple of people didn't hear the waiter mention it was actually a risotto of buckwheat rather than rice and wondered aloud if the risotto was undercooked due to the texture of the grain. I liked it. The foam was made from shellfish essence.

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I think this is what the waiter was thinking of earlier: roasted kingfish and scampi tails (spiced) with a scampi cream, baby fennel, shiso and shellfish jus. The thick, vibrant sauce was made from lemon and saffron. It had a sweetness to it that reminded a couple of us of honey. The powder as an orange 'dust'.

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This was a really interesting choice for a penultimate savoury course: roasted grass-fed Angus marinated in Hatcho miso. It was served with braised beef short rib, smoked daikon radish, yuzu jelles and an oxtail consomme. This was a very rich dish. Unlike the lifeless oxtail consumme at Quay, this was a ballsy stock. About what you'd get if you placed an entire steer in a Rotovap. A beef dish for people who love beef rather (as opposed to a beef dish for people who expect wagyu on a degustation because they've handed over good money). I'd have been happy to finish the savouries here.

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The venison course. I like beef and I like venison--and I liked both dishes--but I still question why you'd put both of them on a degustation at the same time. A steak tartare near the start and a roasted piece of vension later on? Sure. But this? I don't know. The venison was seasoned with cocoa and sasho and seared to rare, rare, rare. It was served with baby beetroots, rhubarb and chocolate. The crumb at the bottom of the dish was made from beetroot and blood sausage. The venison was lovely and, unusually for the final savoury course of a degustation, a step down in terms of richness from the previous dish. The only fault we could find was that there was too much of the beetroot and blood sausage crumb. It was nice but it was very rich. The kitchen didn't need to be that generous.

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The optional cheese course. I wasn't in the state for it although I liked the sound of it. Saint Agur and mascarpone with crystallised macadamia nuts, baby celery and a roasted chicory granita.

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The pre-dessert was a champagne granita and apple salad with a very interesting accompaniment: Japanese pumpkin. I thought I heard the waiter say (the restaurant was very loud) it was peanut but everyone else on the table reckoned it was made from pumpkin seeds. A nice pre-dessert.

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The dessert reminded me of Embrasse's chocolate mushrooms. It was a 'chocolate forest' of soft chocolate, chestnut cream, elderflower custard, blackberry sorbet, blackberry candy, green tea, licorice, chocolate twigs, crystallised lemon time. I thought it was nice enough. The textural contrast between the different elements in itself was impressive.

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For most of the evening, we'd been 'entertained' by a very large, very loud, very drunk group of people on the other side of the dining room. The restaurant in itself was quite loud but these people took it to the next level. One of us complained and we were told that the tap had already been cut off for these people. Eventually they rolled on to another bar and life became instantly better. As an apology the kitchen brought out 'Japanese stones' served on a bed of yuzu jelly, black sesame and green tea 'moss'. There were three different varieties of stones: cherry, coconut and chocolate.

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Petit fours: salted caramel truffles and Meyer lemon jellies.

Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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The Local Tap House

Originally we were going to visit Berowra Waters Inn for lunch. The Bentley/Becasse day really took it out of us and we started to reconsider. We decided to drop Berowra and asked a couple of helpful waitstaff are Becasse for recommendations for where we could get simple, hearty, traditional pub food. Enter The Local Tap House.

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The Local Tap House is a pub for people who really like beer. They have what seems to be a large, ever-changing menu of lagers, pilsners, porters, stouts, Indian pale ales, sparkling ales, dubbels, tripels, gueuzes, lambics, saisons, hefeweizens.

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Along with our meals we ordered tasting 'paddles' of beers (90mL glasses of 5 beers from the 20 varieties avaliable on-tap). Nich went for: Bridge Road Brewers' Dog's Breakfast, Morington Brown Ale (infused with star anise), Mad Brewer's Noir Stout, Weihenstephan Hefeweizen and Lindeman's Gueuze. I also got the Gueuze and Dog's Breakfast but included samples of Stone & Wood's Pacific Ale, BrewDog's 'IPA is Dead Citra' and Weston's Stowford Press (a draught cider).

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Nich stuck with entrees and share plates. Here you see the grilled baby octopus (laced with chilli), beer-battered fries and pork floss.

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I went for the steak with peppercorn sauce, beer-battered fries and a watercress salad. At this point the whole world turned sideways.

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My girlfriend ordered fish and chips. The world went right-way-up again. Thankfully.

A nice afternoon. A nice change from fine dining and nine courses of artfully presented food. A serious beer list. Nice to see there's a branch in Melbourne--shame they play rock and metal instead of the Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis I've got used of listening to this week.

The M4 is hell on asphalt.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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