Where was I? Yes, so I did have a reservation earlier in the year and it was going to be for my birthday lunch but it clashed with our tickets for the Aus Open so I postponed and so we ended up here on Saturday.
It's a bit strange as it's located next to the Crown Spa so as I enter I see people padding around in towels and bath robes but as we walk down the darkened corridor towards a light display, the white terry towelling we've just witnessed melts away. There's a moment of confusion as the automatic door slides open as there's the reality of the door but also its reflection. We find the right entrance as opposed to walking into the mirror and enter a light, bright, dining room that is elegant yet approachable. There appears to be a lot of wait staff but they're all ever so obliging. We're early but our table is ready and we're shown to seats with a window view of the city landscape.
The charcoal and teal uniforms with other variations are classy; there's a quiet calm about the place and it's all very understated but at the same time impressive.
- Meat Fruit (c.1500) | Mandarin, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread
- Savoury Porridge (c.1660) | Garlic & parsley butter, grilled abalone, picked beetroot & fennel
We start off in the same way as nearly all the other tables with that ubiquitous Meat Fruit. Endless wooden board after wooden board with perfect mandarins parade out of the kitchen with single slices of toast all with perfect char marks. The taster I had as it was Steve's Meat Fruit, which he made very clear, was creamy and dreamy, rich and without a glitch. The need for extra toast was anticipated before he was done with the first slice and more appeared. I don't think many decline extra bread as the mandarin is pretty hefty. I thought it might be too much, too rich but Steve declared he could do another so I guess not!
My Savoury Porridge was like a garden on a plate - so pretty, so fresh and green. I loved the fragrant garlic and herb notes and I don't like fennel but the curls of fresh fennel added crunch and sweetness contrasting the pickled tang of the beetroot. The abalone didn't add so much in flavour, more an additional chewy texture. I liked the lightness and brightness of this pretty plate.
Our main courses were:
- Lamb & Cucumber (c.1830) | Roast best end of lamb with cucumber heart, sweetbreads, broad beans, barilla & mint
- Black Angus Ribeye (c.1830) | Mushroom ketchup & fries
The steak was so flavoursome but also tender not far off from a filet so best of both in terms of flavour and texture. The mushroom ketchup was HP sauce like in appearance with morsels of mushroom and I expected it to be spicy and tangy but it was actually just like ketchup. And when I was running low, I was offered more. The waitstaff are so observant and responsive!
Triple cooked chips are actually a little wrinkly looking and not as appealing as they could be. They look a bit stale but they are super crunchy and moreish. Just not as pretty as everything else. The smaller ones are pure crunch with little filling but the bigger ones manage crispiness and potatoeyness much better.
Two little jugs of jus accompanied our plates of meat and boy that jus was good. Savoury and reminiscent of what gravy should be like; all we needed was Yorkshire pudding! We had side dishes of mash and cabbage with onion. The mash was perfect ripples of snowy silkiness hefty with cream and butter. Pure decadence, pure joy.
At this stage, once we'd enjoyed our main courses Steve and I had a quick reflection on our meal so far. Definitely a lot more restrained, understated and classical than we expected. Traditional and homely flavours but refined and made elegant. It's comfort without being rustic. Fine dining that is made familiar and oh so approachable.
At this stage we contemplate what happens after mains but upon the advice of our waitress we decide to indulge in the Tipsy Cake before plotting another path. And along said path we discover our bottle of wine is empty so we go for a half bottle. A weekend boozy lunch is such a good thing.
- Tipsy Cake (c.1810) | Spit roast pineapple
- The Cheese Board | British and Australian cheeses, pear chutney, oat cakes & seeded crackers
- Nitro Ice Cream Served Tableside
The Tipsy Cake arrives in all its fragrant glory - vanilla, butter, sugar and a touch of citrus with a hint of grown up booze. It's golden, it's beautiful. As the spoon squishes the soft brioche, golden rivers of speckled custard ooze out. It's sweet without being cloying, buttery without being heavy. And the piece of golden, roasted caramelised pineapple adds a tropical tang. I hadn't notice the roasting pineapples when we entered but Steve pointed out the medieval looking contraption and I could see the chain going round with the hand crank on the outside. Very cool!
On a sugar high we decide we can take on the cheese so we opt for a small serve and choose 4 out of about 8 different British and Aussie cheeses. The cheese is good and served with some tasty crackers.
And in a nod to the origins of molecular gastronomy of course we have to indulge in some nitrogen effects. A trolley with what looks like a cross between a Kitchen Aid and a Singer sewing machine arrives and our waiter cranks the churn to create two ice cream cones for us. The cones are made of fragile brik pasty (think one sheet of filo) rolled in fine sugar crystals and there's some strawberry compote spooned in to make the final mouthful a sweet treat. The ice cream is speckled with vanilla and so smooth and the perfect balance of sweetness and creaminess. We don't need it to be overly rich after the meal we've had so this light ice cream is the cloud like solution we need. And we get to choose two out of three intriguing toppings. I go with freeze dried raspberries and some apple popping candy.
We've had a wonderful afternoon - window seats, deliciously well executed food and service that is exemplary. It's a true treat. It's expensive but I don't begrudge the bill - it's worth it. We're worth it!