My belated birthday dinner celebration with Steve was at Woodland House. We had been when it was Jacques Reymond so were keen to see the new generation at work although it's taken us a while to get there! Usual North vs. South of the river excuses!
Service was professional and slick from the moment we stepped in until our exit 3 hours later.
We surmised over a lighter 6 course or the full 10 course over a Kir Royale and a beer and it was inevitable really that we'd be there for the long haul...why take the short cut when there's a scenic route?
- Parmesan and buckwheat, squid ink
- Pepper spiced kangaroo fillet
- Fried duck tongue with bamboo salt
- School prawn
- Gravlax of rainbow trout and its consomme
- Parker pretzel with sour cream and chive tofu
- Slimy mackerel, olive and tarragon
The table was filled with these appetite inducing morsels of delight. The buckwheat cracker with the salty parmesan melted in the mouth with a lingering seafood flavour from the squid ink; umami galore.
I enjoyed the fatty indulgence if the fried duck tongues - a bowlful with a beer on a hot day would be an amazing experience but they'd be heavy on the tummy but then again so is pork crackling and no one would complain about beers and pork crackling!
The Parker pretzel is like a pull apart brioche; the coming apart of the segments reminded me of the heady delights of the Tipsy Cake at Dinner by Heston. This is like the savoury version and not as indulgent. The tofu dip is interesting with an airy foamy lightness in the texture.
Pepper spiced kangaroo fillet served rolled up on a skewer was delicious. Perfectly seasoned so the natural game flavours of the kangaroo come out and cooked rare, it was so good. Perfect protein.
My least favourite was the gravlax, I thought the trout was a touch underseasoned and the cold fish consomme was just not that appetising. I think I'd prefer it warm but it's usually my personal preference for broth and soup to be hot.
- Murray cod, cuttlefish, ham stock, radish
The Murray cod was sashimi style which I wasn't expecting. The sticky almost gluey ham stock was poured over the rosette of fish. As sashimi goes, I wasn't 100% convinced Murray cod is the best. It was certainly fresh but the texture was a little bit too chewy and it isn't the most flavoursome. The savoury ham stock helped with the clean flavours though adding some depth. I would have really loved a spoon to scoop up the ham stock that I couldn't devour with a fork. Steve said he would have loved some bread to do the trick!
Staying on the seafood theme:
Where the Murray cod was clean and delicate, this lobster dish was rich and decadent with complex structures of acid, sweetness, foam and the lingering deliciousness of chicken liver parfait. Definitely a hit!
Fishy on my dishy continued:
The green potato foam topped with vibrant yellow cure egg yolk was smooth and rich and seasoned by the saltiness of the seafood and then refreshed and cleansed with the cleanliness of simple broccolini. Following from the richness of the lobster this was a great way to make things light once more.
And from venison we moved to pork:
A brick of pulled or was it pressed or maybe a bit of both suckling pig with a wafer thin piece of tuile like crispy crackling seasoned with a smear of XO sauce, a sprinkling of dried miso and then two dollops of what looked like milk and white chocolate but was actually the boudin noir and garlic puree.
Sweet meat, savoury smear of sauce and fragrant garlic brought this deliciousness altogether.
And saving the best till last in my opinion although so far we were riding high:
Beautiful cut, beautifully cooked this was a real treat. The meat was enhanced by the earth shiitake and eggplant puree and then spiked by the herbaceous shiso leaf to keep it a little lighter. Amazing.
Two dessert came to take us to the sweet place:
A neighbouring table had said the charred mango was weird so we were expecting something a little jarring. Our conclusion was that they must have been weird. This was a fresh mango almost mousse and there was white chocolate that was like semi freddo, some mandarin gel to keep things tart and some creme fraiche to lighten it. I didn't taste the pine in the little pool of oil nestled in the mango or the char. The oil perhaps could be called weird if you really wanted to but we found it all worked.
Woodland House is classy, elegant and a wonderful place for an indulgent celebration. It's worth of its two hat accolade. The food is refined and the service faultless. We found it approachable but with a sense of decorum and occasion befitting of its white tablecloths and and smart bow tie wearing owner working the floor!
We chose to wine match as it was just too much like hard work to make the decision ourselves and we really enjoyed the selections. The 2015 Simao & Co 'Old Vine' Shiraz from Rutherglen was a silky smooth treat to have with the Sher Wagyu and we also particularly enjoyed the 2015 Dappled 'La Petanque' Chardonnay from the Mornington Peninsula with the lobster.
The manor house in Prahran has not lost any of its former glory since when we visited last in its predecessor state, nor is it a carbon replica of days gone by. It has its own personality; discreet, strong but also understated and worthy of respect.