I had been eyeing off Circa's menu since…well…forever? And after a stream of positive reviews after it's facelift, I certainly only wanted to visit more. The menu always looked so creative and interesting to me and I was keen to give it a go.
Fortunately the perfect opportunity arose when my dad missed both my brother and my birthday's (in May), and because of that, we had postponed our birthday lunch and/or family dinner until he came home.
And so on a fairly cold and wet night in the middle of June, we bundled up into our 8 seater and made the drive from Kew to St Kilda through rush hour traffic. I would love you so much more St Kilda if you could just locate yourself closer to me….
I didn't realise how many other reputable names were just around the corner, Il Fornaio, Chinta Ria Soul….I know where I am returning for more grub soon now!
Stalking through the dimly lit Prince lobby, we eventually came across Circa itself and were promptly lead to a gorgeous oval table for the 7 of us (Parents, brother, Brad, Grandma and Aunt. And me of course).
It was all quite slick and neat, overall it was quite dark, but for small pools of light above each of the tables, which fortunately made pretty decent photography lighting! Quite romantic really though, it really isolated you off from the other diners and let you have your own little bubble of space. I would love to see this place at lunchtime some day as when I looked up, I could just make out the rain on the glass ceiling above, could you imagine how pretty it would be with natural light cascading in? But even though it was night, it was still somehow soothing, I love being able to see rain outside when I'm nice and cosy somewhere indoors.
We were made to feel comfortable very quickly. Our coats were whisked away, menus placed before us and wine order taken. Their wine menu is absolutely, insanely massive. Seriously.
Our first bottle for the night was the Oakridge 864 Pinot Noir (I forget which year). I'm quite fond of wines from Oakridge, having visited the winery sometime ago. The 864 Pinot Noir was surprisingly fruity and full bodied for Pinot Noir. When I sipped on it I was taken aback at how much it tasted like a Shiraz. Albeit a light shiraz maybe. Had no problems drinking this down and getting increasingly tipsy through the night...
I can't remember what our second bottle was, it was another Pinot Noir which was a lot milder in comparison to the 864, a little more earthy and mellow.
Hi mum and dad!
The bread. Oh my goodness. Warm, fluffy, soft with butter that was at the absolute perfect temperature for immediate spreading. And immensely creamy. Absolutely everything you need in butter. I couldn't resist nibbling on a little bit myself.
My brother decided to go rich for his entree. The black winter truffle risotto could be smelt before it could be seen. I was quite amazed at the generous portion, and couldn't help but admire the amazingly finely sliced truffle, textured like lace, decorating the top. The risotto was creamy and cooked perfectly. With 5 or 6 spoons going into taste, this did not last very long!
Mum went with the spanner crab cannelloni with smoked tomato and sorrel veloute. I loved the bright and fresh flavours in this. The sweetness of the crab really came through and I loved the veloute poured over the top.
There was a tiny glitch with my aunt's and my entrees (we ordered the same thing), which came out about 15 minutes after the first two entrees have been served. It's not really that big a deal, but for a two hatter you would expect slightly better timing. But I'm not the fussy one and didn't mind too much, although mum kept bringing it up. She's definitely more critical than I ever am!
The warm miso glazed eel with pickled kohlrabi, avocado and apple came out, with the bonito flakes 'dancing' on top of the eel, which just tickled me silly. I'm all about novelty. They kept flicking about like little butterfly wings until I sunk my fork and knife into them.
I felt the dish was really well balanced, the eel indeed, had a very strong miso flavour and would have been quite rich, but the cool avocado neutralized it a little bit, gave it a little tang and added a lovely creaminess to the whole thing.
I initially thought the prawn crackers looked a wee bit cheap, but upon having them, they were really a nice texture contrast and were just the perfectly lightly crisp that anyone would want to have in a prawn cracker. Not at all like those really hard ones you get at the foodcourt now and again...
Tim was going all out with the truffle tonight, his main being (after changing his mind a dozen times), the roasted eye fillet, truffled slaw and hand cut chips. I just loved the presentation of his dish, it just looked so vibrant. We had ordered the meat to be medium, which I think it just made, judging by the colour. It could have been cooked slightly more in my opinion. It was a little bit peppery, which I quite liked. God I am so smitten with it's colour though. And that perfect looking dollop of butter on top of it....mmm...
And those chips! Aren't they the most handsomest chips you've ever come across? Thickly cut, absolutely golden and square, they were almost meaty in themselves from being so thick!
Brad ordered the New Zealand king salmon, panfried pumpkin gnocchi, prawns, zucchini and ginger. I really enjoyed how colourful the vegetables were, I think though I found the salmon a tiny bit overcooked for my liking, but overall it was still quite nice.
Mum and I ended up ordering the same dish, which I knew I was going to have even as we were leaving the house. As I had been blabbering on non stop about it on twitter and to whoever would listen to me.
John Dory on top of a mussel and clam risotto with a sea urchin butter. Let me say it again. Sea urchin butter. Doesn't it just sound like the most divine thing ever? It was drizzled over the top of the John Dory, which was again ever so slightly overcooked, but incredibly sweet still. The sea urchin butter came across a little more subtly than I thought it would, but I still very much enjoyed it. Maybe I should have just asked for a spoonful or something...
The risotto for this dish was very interesting. It didn't even look like it was cooked with rice as the grains looked more like pearls and had a spongier and elastic texture to them. Was absolutely delicious, and the mussels, although small were also very, very sweet. Was definitely not sharing those!
I think though, the dish that my dad and aunt shared was one of the best of the night. It was one of the dishes designed for two, the spiced honey roasted duck stuffed with green raisins and walnuts, with pumpkin and fennel.
Seriously? This could have fed 3. Or more.
It came in an absolutely massive black pot, with 8 or so thick medallions of duck meat, a few absolutely massive slices of pumpkin, big chunks of fennel and one whole garlic with the top chopped off. Everyone got to try at least half a medallion, there was that much meat! It was cooked, ever so perfectly, the duck was so succulent, it was really caramelized beautifully, making it so sweet and delicious. My dad savoured in taking the whole garlic clove out, scraping out the insides of it and eating it with the duck. Would ever so highly recommend it if going out for dinner for two, or if you're just a massive greedy glut (like me).
Just so you have an idea of how big the pumpkin wedge is...
We also ordered a few sides (not that we didn't have enough to eat...). The globe artichokes with fresh goats curd was an instant win for me. I love artichokes and should probably learn how to cook them...
Chat potatoes roasted in duck fat, rosemary and garlic. Duck fat. Perfection. It's a combination that just can't lose. Again, one of those dishes that you could smell was coming to you. Intoxicatingly delicious.
And a healthy injection of green salad leaves.
So even after all that, were we going to have room for dessert?
Our first dessert, was again, one to be shared, the Queen of Puddings filled with vanilla custard. Being a little bit drunk by this point, since we had moved on to our second bottle of highly alcoholic Australian wine, I kept pointing to it and giggling that they looked like titties.
Yes I know, I'm so mature.
Digging underneath the meringue topping, revealed a warm and sweet custard which was quite moreish. I regrettably don't have much experience with puddings so I can't tell you if this was the queen of them all or not, but it was very nice. And I guess it could very well be in the pudding monarchy somewhere.
The second dessert, more of my choosing, was the beautifully constructed salted caramel parfait, chocolate cake and honeycomb. It's like a little garden of chocolate...
One mouthful of the cool caramel parfait, caused an eruption of "mmmmmmm's" around the table. It was caramel, it was salted, it was smooth and it was perfect. I kind of regretted not just getting one to myself...
We all very much enjoyed our evening at Circa, for a 2 hatter, it felt surprisingly casual, but service was still impeccable (other than two of the appetizers coming out a little late). They've really created a lovely atmosphere, and we felt very welcome and comfortable the whole night. I also have to say, the food really was creative, a little outside the box and surprisingly generous. Our protein portions were quite big, especially the duck dish!
So we left, all smiles and giggles, got our coats and stumbled our way back to the car (it's okay, my completely sober brother drove us all home). I could very easily recommend people here if they wanted to treat themselves. For the creativity, the portions, the delicious food, it's good value and an excellent time.
Need to come back again!!
Circa, The Prince
2 Acland St
St Kilda, 3182
St Kilda, 3182