Friday, June 19, 2015

Estelle Bistro

I’m fortunate that I get to eat lots of delicious things and have many enjoyable meals. But it is not often that I have a really incredible and memorable meal. 


Fortunately, that most recently happened the night before my birthday, so the memories are still on the tip of my tongue and vividly colourful in my mind. Which means I’m watering at the mouth constantly, cause damn, Estelle Bistro has lifted it’s game. 


After the renovation, gone are the retro white and grey tiles and generally bright and airy feeling, Estelle has toned back, stripping back to the bare brick walls, and introducing darker and moodier tones, making the space feel upmarket, but still very cosy. I adored it.


Along with a renovated space, the menu’s had a little facelift as well, gone are the degustation menus of 5 or more courses, now ala carte was permitted, with the similar 3 and 5 course options from St Crispin also made available. This is both a joy, and a difficulty, as everything on the menu reads amazingly and I want to order everything…

But fortunately with four at the table, plenty can always be shared. 



We start with a healthy variety of snacks, the jamon and manchego croquettes are perfection, golden nuggets with rich and velvety béchamel inside that just melt in your mouth, and the scotch olives, with spiced lamb and fetta are moreishly salty, benefitting the lamb immensely, leaving you licking your lips for more.


We are almost tempted to order two serves of the foie gras parfait with sauterne jelly, as Glenn and I hoe into it. It’s an amazingly generous serve, for so much goodness. 


Chicken livers with Jerez and Moscatels tick all my boxes for things I like, a little bit boozy, rich in flavour, and with that beautiful tender texture that livers have. Sure, maybe not one for the offal lovers, but everything to me. 


We also play a little Russian roulette with padron peppers, looking completely innocuous, but with a couple in the mix causing a coughing and drinking lots of water fits as they sear the mouth. Sure it’s a game that’s a bit uncomfortable at times, but hilarious when it’s not you!

We’re not sure whether we should just order some mains and dessert, having had so many snacks to share…but we figure it’s a birthday dinner. Go hard or go home, so we go for the 3 course choice menu, where for a set amount, you get to choose one item each from the starters, mains and desserts. 

Oh goodness. How on earth are you supposed to choose? 


Brad lets me order, and we play swapsies through the night, starting with a kingfish, finger lime and pomegranate starter, that is cool, refreshing and insanely well balanced. A touch of acidity, a pop of sweetness and a smooth creamy texture. I loved the addition of the sweet and slightly crunchy seaweed (or other vegetable?) on top as well. 


Macaroni, mushrooms and parmesan are magic together. I’ve had Estelle’s hand rolled macaroni before, and this did not let me down in the slightest, just so perfectly cooked so that it’s a touch softer than al dente, which is perfect for the creaminess and richness on top. This is hearty, homely, earthy and punching through with the umami. This is comfort autumn food and this portion was far too small for so much flavour. Can I have some more please sir? 


I believe Glenn and Rob ordered a macaroni as well (can you blame them?) as well as this beautiful wagyu, pear and celeriac veloute starter. How beautiful is the marbling on the wagyu? Gorgeous. 


The mains came out, and I could not be more excited. Diamond valley pork jowl and loin, partnered with little blobs of cider jelly and boudin noir, although I prefer the description they gave me on the night of ‘black pudding crumble’. I need that in a jar to put on everything savoury please.


Oh. My. God. I have not had a dish make me this excited in so long. Although I usually tend to go for fish or vegetarian dishes when I go out because meat dishes don’t excite me, Scott Pickett’s meat dishes have always been beautiful, and this was far from an exception. The pork jowl was just perfection. The fat rendered beautifully to be smooth, moreish and so rich in flavour. The whole thing melting on the tongue and fizzling into a myriad of happy noises. Add a touch of sweetness from the cider jellies, and a rich iron kick from the black pudding, and send me to heaven. 

I have not stopped talking about this dish to anyone I meet…can you blame me?!



Brad and I also shared the ocean trout with mussels, orzo and parsley, which came out looking like sea dream, crowned in fennel and swimming in a bowl of light green foam. You may think after the wonder of my pork jowl dish, this would surely be a let down…but fortunately not. This was a dish I was equally happy to be having, with such a different array of flavours, equally rich in their own way. Ocean trout is a fish I adore, that I think is sorely under appreciated, with it’s unique salty sweetness, which is beautifully highlighted when cooked perfectly so it’s still silky and soft in the centre. The freshness of the other components kept this quite light, but still fascinating in flavour. 



Rob and Glenn got the barramundi with lentils and ham hock, and the venison with beetroot and pickled walnut. I loved how pretty the venison looked, with the pops of yellow against deep and rich tones. I didn’t get a taste, but they were cleaned up pretty quickly….


Although I’m not usually one for pomme puree (I’m more of a fried potato girl), it’s standard procedure for Rob and Glenn and certainly not to be missed at Estelle. We don’t talk about how much cream and butter must be in it during birthday dinners…



To finish, one simply, simply must have the banana and toffee souffle. Must. Tall as a top hat it arrives at your table, with a scoop of ice-cream next to it, which is promptly dropped into the middle of the souffle to melt into pure perfection. Let’s not forget that you have to scoop all the way to the bottom to make sure you get some of that delectable toffee hiding away as well. Classic dish, with comforting flavours, executed brilliantly. 


Don’t get me wrong, the pot de creme with doughnuts and apricot is also very good; adorable little sugared balls that are so airy and lovely, but really…souffle guys. That’s where it’s at. 

Although we were considering a couple of other restaurants before ending up at Estelle, I am so, so glad this is what we ended up choosing. It was a lovely space to have a special occasion meal, that is delicious, and done so beautifully, but isn’t pretentious at all. We even got a mini tour from Scott Pickett of his upcoming space, Estelle by Scott Pickett. I was banned from taking photos (understandably) but I can’t wait for it to open. 


In the mean time, I’m recommending every soul I know to Estelle in the meantime. Not that they need the spokesman I’m sure though…! 

243 High Street
Northcote 3070

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