Monday, January 30, 2012

Hotel Lincoln

The Hotel Lincoln sits in Carlton, away from the main thoroughfare of Lygon Street, in a quieter corner of the suburb.

Which is almost a shame, as the building is teeming with history, dating back to the 1850's, with the original name of "Lincoln's Inn" registered in 1854. It used to be a watering hole back in the day (well still is in a way I guess), and it was a cool place. Everyone was there. The labourers, the office workers, the politicians, the academics…you don't get many places like that these days do you? It would have been so interesting to find out what sort of conversations were happening those days.

These days though, the heritage listed Hotel Lincoln, after some work done to return it to it's art deco glory, is also filled with good food and absolutely stellar service.

So whilst there is no real relation between Hotel Lincoln and Mr. Abraham Lincoln, other than name, I do love that the current fit out is sort of themed around him. It's very elegant, well poised and quite respectful indeed.

The motifs could look tacky, but being black against the charcoal coloured walls, it was subtle and refined. As much as I love colour and flamboyancy, I also very much appreciate and adore minimalism.

We were at Hotel Lincoln for a family dinner, to celebrate my Aunt's birthday. She always complains that no restaurants are ever open for her birthday (7th of January), so I went out to prove her wrong. My mum has been to Hotel Lincoln before with friends with raving reviews. And to add the cherry on top, a few people who work there now, used to be my managers and work with me when I was still in my waitressing days and having not seen them for ages…well it was a delight to be in their presence…and I also know they are amazing waiters/waitresses. We were certainly not disappointed in the service department, and not just because we were friends, but because they were entirely knowledgeable and superbly professional.

With 2012, came a new menu and a head chef (Ross Beeley), exploring new flavours for the seasonal modern Australian menu.

We started with a lovely wine recommendation. The Pierre Sparr 2007 gewurztraminer. I remember having Pierre Sparr's pinot gris, so was curious to see what the gewurztraminer was like.

It was surprisingly sweet! In a good way though, if you had given it to me blindly, I would have thought it more to be a dessert wine, although it doesn't look like it. Syrupy, and sweet like honey on the top note, but as it makes it's way down it develops an earthy, more complex flavour. Absolutely delicious. Want all bottles. ALL BOTTLES. No you can't have any! Or well maybe. But you have to share with me. I'll bring you cupcakes.

The bread smelt amazing. As if the restaurant suddenly opened a giant oven door right next our table. It was soft and fluffy. Mmmm.

We shared a couple of entrees, as Asian's do best. It's always kind of funny when we're picking things to share, as you have my dad and I who tend to like the rich, 'naughty-for-the-waistline' things, mum who likes more elegant, lighter entrees, my brother who's just a wildcard and Brad who really is not too fussed. So you end up with a random mish mash of things.

The charcuterie plate was a delight. I loved it when a charcuterie plate is actually served on a lovely wooden board. Feels quite rustic.

We had chorizo, chicken liver parfait, wagyu bresaola (which, as a silly note, I have typed in my iPhone as 'Wafts bresaola'), duck rilette and jamon, with matching pickles or fruit.

The chicken liver parfait was by far the favourite, it was rich, it was creamy, it was liver, it was rich. If you like liver, this is so your thing. If not….try it anyway. Maybe you'll be converted. The duck rilette was not as popular, my dad deciding that it didn't have enough fat in it, therefore, did not have as much flavour. Which I do agree on, but overall, really enjoyed this plate and do recommend it.

I jumped on the baked figs with blue cheese and Jamon Serrano like….well like a fat kid on cake. Seriously, what combination is better? Whilst my mum balked at the blue cheese and attempted to nibble off the tops of the figs, I was dreaming of bathing in the melted blue cheese. So rich. Again. But who can resist the salty, sweet….stinky-blue-ness of it all?

The razor clams with chorizo, garlic and spanish sherry were slightly overcooked, as they were a bit firm, but the sauce was so yummy. Mopping up that stuff with bread! The chilli it did have in it wasn't too spicy, but more the deep heat a curry gives you which warms everything in your body, but doesn't bite and burn the mouth.

And finally, grilled field mushrooms, on brioche, topped with a poached duck egg. Is it just me or are duck eggs getting really trendy at the moment? This was an incredibly comforting dish, a bleedy yolk, a buttery brioche…I just turned to Brad and bemoaned that all this was missing was a fine shaving of truffle over the top…

After our bottle of Pierre Sparr, it was onto a 1997 Grange…and the mains.

The selection of mains is fairly small, but of great variety. You of course have your steak option, with different cuts, but the other mains range from kingfish to goat to rabbit.

I, somewhat surprisingly, along with my Aunt, settled on the rabbit, bacon and prune pithivier with a carrot puree. Rabbit is certainly not my first or usual choice when I go out, but it just looked really good on the menu! On an a lovely hot plate, the pithivier (or for easier reference, pie), was an absolute delight on a fairly cool and wet summer evening. Oh my god though. This thing was huge. My aunt and I could have easily shared just one portion, although since it is a new menu, the chef's still playing a little with portion sizes.

The pie was absolutely delicious. The pastry was so gorgeously light and flaky, with that very satisfying crisp and crunch sound as you're cutting through it. The rabbit was full of flavour and quite rich. Oozing with a delicious stewy sauce. I don't eat rabbit a lot (if ever really), but my dad who has had it a little was really impressed and said it was maybe the best rabbit he's had. What I also loved was that even halfway through eating the pie, you could still see the steam rising out of it. So nice and hot!

I really enjoyed the carrot puree on the side as well, it was…well, quite a lot and quite refreshing in comparison to the richness of the rabbit pie.

Mum and grandma shared a portion of the market fish, which they kindly plated for us, snapper this time, with grilled zucchini, pinenuts, currants, fetter and mint. Mum said her fish was perfectly cooked.

For my brother, the kingfish fillet, with pumpkin, chorizo and confit garlic. I really liked how this was presented, so pretty!

Brad and dad both got the slow cooked goat with green olives, preserved lemon, cows cows and harrisa. I had a nibble on the goat and it was really tasty, a touch tangy from the lemon. Very mediterranean inspired.

We naturally, also got a couple of sides.

A tomato, basil and olive oil salad to make ourselves all feel that little bit more healthy and fit in more vegetables into our meal. Although who are we kidding really?

Any healthiness we got from the tomatoes we completely lost when my aunt's love of mashed potato came out and she insisted we order the creamed potato. Oh my god. Creamed potato. Totally ridiculous. So creamy and rich and buttery and sinful and oh-my-god-my-hips-are-going-to-hate-me but it was totally awesome and worth every bite.

The hand cut chips were nice and chunky, but just needed one more go in the deep fryer to get them really crisp and lovely. We saw another serve go by to another table that were the deep, tanned, crisp brown we wanted. Maybe next time….

So we should've been full. We really should have. But it was my aunt's birthday. We had to have dessert. Right?

Although it was very tempting to order all 5 desserts available, we opted for 3. We started with the chocolate and cherry pavlova…which definitely didn't last for very long on the table, a flurry of forks and spoons (whatever we had in hand really), quickly attacking it. I only managed to steal one lonely bite, but that bite had me in a little happy land. The pavlova was really chocolatey, not too sweet and the cherries were the perfect addition to it.

The passionfruit semi-freddo, with a summer fruit salad, was nice and refreshing after a fairly heavy meal. Real fruity and a little bit tangy as well. Maybe a touch on the sweet side, especially for being such a big serve, it would be hard to finish on your own!

I'm always intrigued to try flavoured creme brulee, so naturally had to get Hotel Lincoln's offering of the coffee creme brulee with shortbread. Fantastic flavour, for you coffee lovers, this is exactly for you. The caramelised sugar top broke and cracked beautifully, but I think it could have been a little more set inside. It was a little too wet for me, texture-wise.

I was surprised to learn one of my aunt's favourite things was affogato, as I've never seen her have one before. But that's what she got to finish her meal. I would be so worried I wouldn't sleep!

All in all, the whole family was totally impressed by dinner. We had an absolutely lovely night, with great food and fantastic service. I've been really keen to get this post up and share this place, as I would easily and very comfortably recommend it to anyone looking for a dinner suggestion. Come with friends, come with your lover, come with family, share a couple of dishes and have a good time!

Hotel Lincoln

91 Cardigan St
Carlton, VIC 3053

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