Monday, July 23, 2012

Estelle Bar and Kitchen

In the three times I have visited The Estelle, it has been a different experience each time.

The first time I went I hated it.

But this was before it was under Scott Pickett's magic touch and my second encounter with The Estelle was for the Fringe Food Festival's truffle dinner in 2011

Mystified by the wonderful creations from that meal, I was eager to return and see how the regular fare….fared, but alas, Melbourne you are a tempting seductress of so many restaurants and cafes to visit!

So I was naturally thrilled when Thanh suggested that a bunch of us visit for lunch. Um. Hello. Yes please!

It was a bright and sunny Saturday, which was a lovely start to the weekend considering I had only just arrived back from Asia two days prior and was just adjusting to the nippier Melbourne weather. 

I love the Estelle's bright, clean, kinda art-deco-y, yet cosy interior. Smartly dressed, polite, and very friendly waiters just makes the place that much more cosy. It's very easy to be quite comfortable here. 

Since we were a big group, we were ushered upstairs, where we eagerly waited for the rest of the group to arrive so that we could begin our $70 5-course lunch! (For those curious it's also, $90 for 7 courses and $110 for 9 courses)

We started with a couple of amuse bouche's. A delightfully tasty and crispy veal tendon in a cool on the tongue onion-y sour creamy type dip. A playful mix of textures and the crispy beef tendon made me think of prawn crackers…except more…cow like. 

The chickpea chips were also tasty, but not has piping hot and crisp as I remember them being last time, however, the flavour was still all there. Just lovely.

The lightly pickled rock melon, wrapped in edible paper was just slightly sweet and quite refreshing. Made for a nice little palate freshener. If nothing else, the edible paper was novel and quite a bit of fun!

Have you guys ever eaten out with an avid food blogger? Let alone 6? It's quite an event, with everyone snapping pictures on DSLR's, point and shoots and iPhones…it was quite nice to have our own space so that we wouldn't be bothering anyone! 

Our first course was an heirloom beetroot salad with goat cheese, rolled in house made edible ash. I just loved this presentation. I found the ball of goat cheese so striking amongst the various pink shades of beetroot and vibrantly green herbs. 

And I thought it was even prettier when the goat cheese was sliced open, what a contrast of shades! 

It was a surprising dish though, in both appearance and taste! The edible ash was surprisingly not smokey at all, as most of us thought it might be, leaving the goat cheese to shine with it's beautiful dense texture and rich flavour. It was just beautiful. And although the beetroot and the basil gel (which was slightly tangy, perfect for cutting the richness of the cheese), were nice too, the goat cheese was really the star!

A blue crab mornay (which auto correct turned into 'mono yet' on my iPhone…?), with brioche crumbs, tabasco, parmesan and a light béchamel (is there such a thing?) delighted us with it's bright saffron yellow, peeking out of it's black bowl. 

I found the crab was a bit weak, and the sweet subtleties disappeared under a warm blanket of big, warm, spice induced curry-esque flavours. It was still incredibly delicious and I personally couldn't have enough of it, the cheeses complimented and didn't overpower and I just loved the thick creamy texture. And hello? Brioche crumbs? Best thing ever on anything creamy and cheesy! Perfect kind of food for this cool Melbourne winter! 

Next up was the rock flathead with cauliflower puree, pine mushrooms, artichoke chips and caramelised onions (amongst other things)! I love this pairing of sea and land, fish with rather earthy sides, which gives it a round robust flavour. Lots of textures at play here as well! The flathead was cooked just beautifully. 

I don't think our meal would have been complete without some red meat, which came in the form of generously thick slices of wagyu beef (with the exception of I-Hua who had some rather delicious looking lamb instead), with celeriac puree and a black mushroom sauce. Would you just look at that glorious marbling?! I was totally drooling editing these pictures!

A beautiful blushing pink, the meat was tasty and tender…and fatty…and yum. Yum. Although, I personally felt that Scott Pickett's rendition of a similar dish at the Stroked Foundation's Food for Thought dinner was still a bit tastier than this. But that's just me being spoilt now...

Whilst I was sort of hoping for a rich, KILL-ME-NOW, kind of dessert, to finish us off, I think we were all quite surprised when this plate was put in front of us. An olive oil infused sponge with frozen sour cream (masquerading as ice-cream), salted caramel and pumpkin seeds, left us with our heads scratching and, initially, a little apprehensive. Where have you ever come across a combination like this after all?

Oh but how easily we are swayed by our taste buds who cried for more after just one bite. Everything is right about this dessert. The fluffy and light sponge, with the frozen sour cream that just detonates a punch of freshness in your mouth. The lightness of the sour cream with the crunch and the savoury of the pumpkin seeds….and that gorgeously thick caramel sauce just lazily draped around the sponge for a good dose of sweetness. I think this is easily the dish that sticks in my head, such imagination and such fun!

And just as we thought we were finished, we were surprised with just one more little sweet. A gorgeous little serve of creme caramel, poured over with warm maple bourbon. Ah, desserts in short (tiny) macchiato glasses, why you such a tease?! Me want more!

The Estelle was an absolutely charmed meal, with great company, great food and very friendly service. Our courses were well paced…although with food this good, it always feels too fast! 

You can't go wrong with The Estelle. Wonderful, delicious and creative modern Australian food, at incredibly reasonable prices. I'm totally hanging out to come back….can't I have two birthdays in a year…? 

Estelle Bar and Kitchen
243 High Street

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