Monthly Archives: March 2014

Wining and Dining in the High Country, Victoria

P1140845Location: High Country Victoria      Attractions: Wineries, Fine Dining, Dairy & Mustard

If you’re ever in need of taking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, head to the High Country in Victoria. Bound by the Victorian Alps and the Murray river, it really doesn’t matter where you are in the region you will have a beautiful and inspiring backdrop. You could easily spend a weekend in the region exploring pretty little towns like Beechworth where it almost feels as if time had stopped since the glorious era of the Gold Rush. But don’t let the slow pace of life deceive you into thinking that not much goes around here. From historical towns and fine dining to top winemakers and dairies, the region has it all. What’s more, it has very discretely claimed the title of one of Australia’s best food and wine region without many people noticing, until recently that is. If fine dining and wine doesn’t tickle your fancy, you could always immerse yourself in the hundreds of kilometers of cycling routes or head down to Mt Bulla for skiing during season.

P1140869A meal at the highly acclaimed Michael Ryan’s Provenance Restaurant is a non-negotiable for any foodie visiting the region. Occupying the old Bank of Australasia built in 1856, the wealth of the era in which it was constructed is reflected in the high ceilings, brass fittings and arched windows. Even the original bank vault has been kept as a home to Chef Ryan’s wine cellar which is managed by his wife Jeanette Henderson. And the food? You can read all about Chef Ryan’s Japanese-inspired cuisine in the Restaurant Review section.

P1140861A weekend trip of course requires accommodation and luckily you don’t need to go far to look for a luxurious and comfortable place to stay. Provenance has four beautifully designed suites behind the restaurant for those who want to just stumble back to their bed after a delicious dinner. The bonus of course is that you get to indulge in more of Chef Ryan’s delicious food the following morning during breakfast. Surprisingly, the price is reasonable and in my view worth every cent. But be warned that you will need to book in advance, particularly for weekends.

P1140835A visit to the High Country of course cannot be complete without a visit to Milawa! For a small town with a population of only around 600, this town houses quite a few well known establishments including the Brown Brothers vineyard which has been around since 1889 and also Milawa Mustards. I was amazed to find so many flavours of mustards including, but not limited to, French, Mild Honey and Tarragon to more unusual ones like Bourbon, Dill & Lemon and Flaming Hot Chilli that comes with its own warning.

P1140795The most famous institution that put the town on the culinary map of the region was of course the Milawa Cheese Company. Cheese tastings are offered all day until 4.30pm with sales extending until 5pm.

P1140820If you also plan in advance and are fortunate enough to get a space, a cheese making course offered by Anna-Kate Pizzini is a must and will surely be one of your highlights. Our course took place on the premise of the Milawa Cheese Company but Anna-Kate now offers these courses at Pizzini Winery (More details available at Coming in at only $140 per person for the course including all equipment and supplies and which lasted for a good part of the day, this is an absolute steal and one of the best value cooking classes I have ever been fortunate enough to do! What’s more, you can replicate everything you’ve learnt at home without buying a dairy farm or expensive / complex tools.

P1140802We attended a class focussed on blue cheese and goats cherve, although classes on hard and soft cheese are also available. We started with the light fresh goats cherve and ended up with enough to last us for a week. It was delicious! Anna-Kate then did a cooking demonstration using the goats cheese to make chevre chaud. This is essentially tasty goats cheese, prosciutto and herb patties which are crumbed and fried, and accompanied by a rocket salad with vinagrette. In conjunction with a very generous cheese tasting platter, this was a very welcome morning tea. Divine.

P1140815We then proceeded on to make our blue cheese. This took a little more patience and required some homework. While the curds were settling we tucked into lunch involving some delicious pizzas from the cheese factory (we upgraded to include some local wine as well). In the afternoon we finished our blues and placed them in molds to rest before using the whey to make some ricotta, which again we got to take home to enjoy later. All in all a fabulous way to spend a day and I really felt at the end of the course that this was something I could easily do in my own kitchen. As I mentioned making blue cheese did require some homework. Once we were back at the hotel, over the next six hours,there was a strict time frame in which the blue cheese needed to be salted and turned in its mold before undergoing a three month approximate period of maturation. It is a testament to my wifes obsession with cheese that later in the evening she popped back to our room in between courses at Provenance on at least two occasions to tend to her charges. It was worth it. At the end of it all we came away with quite a few rounds of blue cheese which we then ate with our family at Christmas. They were fantastic!

P1140951A five minute drive from Beechworth will also take you to a couple of amazing wineries such as Castagna and Giaconda. After our first encounter with Giaconda’s chardonnay at Attica as part of the matching option, we knew we had to come here some day to get a feel of the place. With no cellar door available, die hard fans can try calling Rick Kinzbrunner for a visit though he is often occupied between managing the winery and spending several months at a time in the Languedoc region of France.

P1140968Kinzbrunner’s wine cellar is a site to behold. With the aid of a few exposive technicians (doesn’t everyone have such people on call?), Kinzbrunner blasted his way through solid granite from the side of a hill to create the perfect wine cellar to overcome the Australian summer heat, without incurring a hefty energy bill. All it took was some patience to find the right group of experts to take on the job, a hundred days of work and two and a half tonnes of explosives.

P1140966Whilst the prized Estate Chardonnay was sold out, we got the opportunity to try Kinzbrunner’s Estate Shiraz straight from the barrel using a beautifully custom made wine thief from France, and his other range of chardonnay; the Nantua Les Deux – essentially a blend of premium Giaconda Estate grown chardonnay and fruit sourced from neighbouring vineyards. The wine was made using similar methods to the Estate Vineyard Chardonnay but with less time in barrel (roughly one year). The result was much more fruity. What a way to end our trip!

P1140973With an abudance of restaurants, wineries, outdoor activities and natural beauty, the High Country makes great grounds for exploring. What I particularly enjoyed from my various encounters with the local people during the trip was that everyone we met was genuine and passionate about their work. The balanced quality of life here appeared to have spurred on the passion and imagination of the local artisans. And when it comes to creativity, I’m sure you will agree that this mailbox amongst many unique ones we saw that weekend makes my point.








Dan & Ben’s Excellent Adventure – When Attica met Coi

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-019Event: Dan & Ben’s Excellent Adventure   Date: 11 Nov 2013  Location: Attica, Melbourne

(Note: Big thanks to Harvard Wang for the great photos

They may speak with different accents and live on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean but there’s more similarity than the eye meets between Australia’s greatest chef, Ben Shewry from Attica, and his good friend Daniel Patterson from the highly acclaimed 2 Michelin starred restaurant, Coi. Just like Shewry, Patterson made a successful career away from home in California and has featured on San Pellegrino’s Top 100. Absent of pretense in their food, you seldom come across two people with such sincere humility and deep respect for each other. Their equally matched obsession and endless curiosity around produce, foraging and a sense of place suggests they may be brothers separated at birth. It therefore wasn’t a surprise to find out that the two chefs would be cooking together in November 2013 when Patterson was touring Australia to promote his latest book, Coi: Stories and Recipes.

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-001With the exclusive one night event at Attica selling out almost immediately after the announcement, getting a table was no easy feat. Other than the food related celebrities like Matt Preston and a handful of prominent writers, it felt as if we were dining amongst extended relatives to the Attica team that evening. Amongst the jovial banters and laughter that echoed across the dining room all night, you couldn’t help but feel as if you were attending a family reunion, and an extravagant one if I may add.  Melbourne-Attica-Coi-004The menu that evening was carefully designed to incorporate a balanced number of dishes from both chefs. Shewry kicked off the evening with the Black Broadbean Leaf with Rotten Corn (Attica), which was essentially black broadbean leaves from his garden served with fermented corn juice emulsified with egg yolk, and sprinkled with forest anise and alpine pepper.

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-005The second dish of the Australia Bowl (Coi) was Pattersons take on Down Under and adapted from his signature dish of the California Bowl. It had the perfect crisp and delicately balanced toppings. It consisted of brown rice that had been puffed and dehydrated, topped with charred avocado purée, sprouts that Attica had been sprouting over the last few weeks for Patterson, red dust of beetroot powder, vinegar powder, native pepper and Californian spice (aka espelette pepper, originally from France).

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-008Ben’s classics hit of the Snow Crab and Sorrel (Attica) of course made it on the menu and as always left the dining room speechless, followed by a few mutters of “mmmm’s” and “ahhh’s”. The snow crab had been steamed and picked delicately to ensure all the shell had been removed. The sorrel leave compressed in verjus and grapeseed oil blanketed over a purée made from whole mandarins, buckwheat, mustard flowers and spiced vinegar. Some dusting of the native bush tucker pepperberry to finish.

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-010Asparagus cooked in its juice (Coi) and seared, served with a meyer lemon sabayon, citrus oil, juice of asparagus, and dusted with seaweed powder. The asparagus was of good quality and cooked well. The seaweed powder packed with umami took the flavour to another level. Simple yet delicious with a clean aftertaste.

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-015Another familiar, yet consistently delicious dish of Marron and Ground Greens (Attica). Shame the matching glass of wine wasn’t the usual Giaconda Chardonnay, although the substitute of the Clos Ste Magdeleine Cassis Blanc complemented the dish enough with its minerality and spice.

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-017The main course was contributed by Patterson with the Beef encrusted in Lichen (Coi). A beautiful cut of sirloin of a pure breed Black Angus beef from Cape Grim, coated in a lichen powder and served with creamy potato purée. Patterson had collected the lichen himself from a forest near San Francisco and brought it with him to Australia. My immediate thought was, how did he get it through customs!? The bordelaise sauce was acidified and had angelica root and Californian cypress as flavourings. The dish was topped with beach herbs including sea succulent, dune spinach and sea lettuce. I was initially disappointed to not see the Wallaby course from Attica but this dish was equally stunning. Melbourne-Attica-Coi-021A serious contender to one of my all time favourite dessert course ever, Shewry’s Plight of the Bees, was the Raw Strawberry Jam (Attica). The strawberries sourced from Wandin, Yarra Valley were served in multiple ways. Some were fresh, some dehydrated slightly, giving them a chewy texture, and some also used to make a jam using the roto-evaporator, allowing Shewry to ‘cook’ the jam at about 35 degrees celsius and thereby preserving the natural strawberry flavours. The meringue was flavoured with vinegar and the ice granita was made with vanilla and forest berry. To complete the dish, a dollop of slightly soured cream. Four words. Heaven on a stick.

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-022Patteron’s finale of Whipped Coconut (Coi) was full of surprises. The coconut milk whipped through marshmallow was partially frozen to create a very unique texture bordering chewy and creamy. It was decorated with frantoio olive oil, fresh passionfruit and liquorice herb. A perfect balance of the trifecta: sweetness, acidity and savouriness. Sensational.

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-024 Some Pukeko’s Egg (Attica) to finish the meal with an espresso. I think it was a fair observation to say that my companion for the evening, Harvard Wang, who also took all the photos for the evening was equally blown away from the meal.

Melbourne-Attica-Coi-002Based on just four courses served that night, I could see why Shewry described Patterson as a “beautiful cook”. Similar to Shewry, Patterson made delicious food look easy to produce with his simplistic presentations but you could appreciate that was far from the truth after tasting his dishes. Yet, despite the highly technical skills that went into each dish, Patterson’s aim was always to draw out and highlight the flavour of the main ingredient on that plate. He did it with such elegance without complicating things. Everything on the plate was there for a reason. Whilst the intention to purchase his signed book was there all night, I felt it was something I could only own after visiting Coi properly in California to better appreciate his food in an environment he knows like the palm of hand. Having never visited California to date, his restaurant would be the perfect introduction and I can’t wait.



Tippling Club, Singapore

P1150149Chef: Ryan Clift   Website:   Cuisine: Modern European

Vive la revolution (a culinary one that is), for the fine dining scene in Singapore is in the midst of an explosion. In a city where fine dining has traditionally involved lavish interior fittings and expensive ingredients limited only to the period of the Chinese New Year, the odds have been stacked against success for modern chefs. However, for those who persevere with unfaltering motivation like chef Ryan Clift, the reward is plentiful. Tippling Club’s belated but deserved landing on San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant 2014 guide at a respectable 23rd position is certainly one of them. But Clift is not one to sit on his laurels. At the age of 35, he has already been the head chef at Vue de Monde and he doesn’t seem to be running out of steam.

P1150160I was fortunate enough to dine at their original site a week prior to their move to Tanjong Pagar. A part of me felt saddened that they were moving to the city, as the current location was sublime. The original premise, a bungalow cocooned in the forest atop Dempsey road, could not have been more far removed from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, but I could sympathise with Clift. Unfortunately, the locals found the 20 mins cab ride and its remoteness as a serious obstacle; first world problems. Inside their original restaurant, Clift had done away with the traditional tablecloths and indeed, most of the tables. The majority of guests sat at the kitchen counter and was able to observe the brigade of chefs and mixologists do their magic. Clift was quick to point out this concept was going to be kept in their new location. P1150154At Tippling Club, the conventional matching wine option is replaced with cocktails. As this was what attracted me first to the restaurant I naturally felt obliged to try one of their cocktails before tucking into the meal. Suffice to say, they lived up to the expectation. However, it didn’t take long before my delicious gin-based concoction disappeared and their wine selections caught my eyes. Whether for the right reason or not, the conservative side in me pushed for the wine instead. Personally, I was quite happy with the decision but I would most certainly look to try their cocktail matching option on my next visit. P1150163The meal kicked off with a delectable series of amuse bouche starting with the Gin cured ocean trout from New Zealand laid over a bed of pine needles soaked in vodka. A lovely flavour of the sea with the nori cracker and the yuzu jelly cut through the fatty fish and the avocado mousse, making this a very well balanced dish.

P1150164 Clift’s take on a Singaporean curry (aka Hainanese curry though the name is misleading as it only exists in Singapore), which contained puffed rice, deep fried curry leaf and dessicated coconut over a curry espuma. Having lived in Singapore previously for five years, I thought he truly captured the flavours of this popular local dish and I particularly enjoyed the texture of the puffed rice.

P1150167A beautiful glass of Markus Huber’s 2011 Berg, Grüner Veltliner especially bottled and exclusively made for Tippling Club only. A lovely peppery nose and aromatic spiciness, perfect for fish and spicy Asian food.

P1150171Their signature amuse bouche of the Charred and smoked green pepper tempura with a soy-wasabi dipping sauce. Beautifully crispy batter and a deliciously salty sauce with a slight instantaneous kick. Humble ingredients and umami rich flavours. I could see why this dish was so popular! P1150173I did it again! The fourth amuse bouche of the white truffle styrofoam had such an inviting aroma that I wolfed it down before realising I had forgotten to take a photo. My friend chuckled as the next treat of the Smoked quail egg on a nest of kombu was being served. Again, great use of the umami-rich kombu to enhance the flavours oozing out from the egg that bursted in my mouth with only an ever-so-slight amount of pressure.

P1150175My least favourite treat was the Black pepper beef tendon crisp as I found it a tad bit too oily and perhaps one dimensional in flavour compared to the other dishes.P1150178The finale to wash it all down was a Freeze filtered tomato water and basil acid in a straw served in a test tube. A very refreshing shot concluding the first segment of the meal. My tastebuds were now stimulated and impatiently waiting for the main courses.P1150179The first course of the evening, Spot Prawn, oba, soy, sudachi was visually beautiful, light and most importantly delicious. The sweet and creamy Japanese spot prawn (or amaebi) was delicately balanced against the minty oba (shiso leaf) velouté and shavings of the Japanese citrus, sudachi. The prawn cracker provided that necessary textural contrast. Perfect use of the produce and ingredients.P1150181The next course of the Cauliflower, Mrs Potter’s cauliflower cheese, truffle was inspired by Clift’s mum. The dish comprised of truffle infused milk, micro cauliflower, cep and cauliflower chips, shimeji mushrooms, and sprouting tendrils. A heart warming dish with an irresistable aroma. I’m sure his mother would approve of this dish. I certainly did.

P1150185Third course of the Foie gras, cherry, spices, cocoa,  served with home made bircher muesli and apple blossom incorporated a new technique previously alien to me. The mixture of the cocoa nibs, butter and spices had 20,000 sound waves per second passed through it to create a perfect blend and interesting texture with the foie gras. The classic combination of the cherry and foie gras worked well with the slightly bitter cocoa and spices, making the flavours here more interesting to a tried and tested dish. P1150186The wine of the evening was without a shadow of a doubt the 2009 Toolangi Denton, Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria. Grown across at Yarra Glen and vintaged across at Oakridge, this was a very elegant style of chardonnay, with gentle mineral complexity and fragrant peach flavour. Sommelier Marcus Boyle was generous enough to offer this beautiful wine by the glass to go with the next course.

P1150188The fish course of the evening, sourced from Brittany which despite its complexity appeared deceivingly simple, was the Monkfish, apple, fennel, amaranth, walnut milk. The fish cooked sous-vide was plump and moist. I enjoyed the intense sweet flavour from the fennel pollen dusted over the fish and the acidity of the compressed granny smith apple juice. The slight pepperiness and nuttiness from the amaranth and walnut milk completed this dish.

P1150193Next up was Scampi fry, chefs interpretation of his favourite pub dish. The langoustine sourced from Western Australia was juicy and substantial, and the caper / cornichon mayonnaise worked well. It was perhaps not the most exciting dish that evening in terms of flavour.P1150194A true authentic Sicilian wine, 2010 Azienda Agricola Cos Pithos, Italy to go with the next course. Lovely floral notes and cranberry flavours, with a minerally acid finish.

P1150198The next dish took me back to my home in Spain. Almost everything from the Iberico pork belly, cod cheeks, beans, wild herbs was sourced from Spain; the Iberico ham from Cinco Jotas, arguably one of the finest Jamonero in Jabugo, the Iberico pork belly and even the cod cheeks from Barcelona! The culmination of the salty cod, fatty pork belly, black beans and the acidity of the tomato water was just spot on.

P1150201For our last savoury course we had Venison, onion nettle, salsify. The venison sourced from New Zealand as expected was cooked pink, the way it should be, and what amazed me most was the way in which the venison was caught. Apparently a helicopter is used in order to gain the advantage of surprise (perhaps Deer are a little on the deaf side) to ensure the animal did not tense up, thereby spoiling the quality of the meat (Not sure whether it really made a difference but it certainly tasted good). The onion ring covered in nettle was crispy and unique, although perhaps slightly overwhelming in flavour.

P1150205The cheese of the day, a daily creation from the pastry kitchen was the Monte Nebro, a tangy and floral Spanish goats cheese, served with preserved artichoke and covered with some more delicious.P1150207Similar to the round of amuse bouche, we had some more tasty surprises prior to the two dessert courses. First up was Pineapple meteorite which was simply superb. Perfect balance of sweet and tartness from the chocolate and pineapple, and a refreshing act to follow the cheese course.

P1150211Some Cheesecake prescription for the addicts, which were actually dehydrated cheesecakes made to look like pills. I always enjoy a bit of humour!

P1150213A touch of Clift’s roots with the Strawberries and cream Brighton rock. If you grew up in England you would have come across these ‘Rock’ candies at most seaside resorts, but rather than the traditional peppermint or spearmint flavour, it was replaced by another classic English flavour combination of strawberries and cream.

P1150219Clift’s take on the local ice cream sandwich, Dehydrated milk and guava sandwich.

P1150223 A wholly edible Fizz Bomb that literally fizzed and cleansed your palate, preparing you for the next course. Very creative and brought a smile to both myself and my friend. We felt like kids but it was fun!

P1150226The last stretch of our meal began with Pumpkin and Mandarin. The butternut was cooked in a mandarin juice and served with a mandarin and pumpking sorbet on a bed of pumpkin seeds, which bizzarely went well together.P1150228The finale of the White chocolate and beer. The pillar of airy goodness was made using dark beer from Treviso, Italy, and served on a bed of caramelised white chocolate. Light, airy and very unique. I’ve (surprisingly!) tried white chocolate and beer combination before but unlike the last experience, this one was delicious and a perfect way to end the evening.P1150230We sipped on a delicious glass of Ron Zacapa as we chatted with Chef Clift whilst we were waiting for our cab back to “civilisation”. As I glanced at my friend who was in the midst of showering Clift with praises, I think it was fair to say that the meal was a success. On a personal level I could relate to all the dishes because of my background, having lived in the UK, Spain and S.E. Asia, including Singapore, for a significant part of my life. Clift’s food was a juxtaposition of whimsical presentation and serious cooking; something many chefs have difficulty in balancing, yet he has got it spot on. What’s more, he made it look easy! However, given his experience and technical finesse, I have no doubt that countless hours of sweat and hard work has got him where he is today. I found it scandalous that they had been omitted from the inaugural San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best guide in 2013; thank god this injustice has since been rectified in the 2014 ceremony. I truly hope that his move and expansion at the new premise will not compromise the quality of cooking.












Marque, Sydney

Chef: Mark Best   Website:   Cuisine: Modern Australian

Having managed to eat through most of the restaurants in Sydney that had been recommended by my trusted sources, I thought it was finally time in November 2013 to pay a visit to one of those elite restaurants which had continuously received praises from critics, a restaurant that, at least until recently, belonged to the exclusive club of three hats. Unlike many restaurants that had shot to fame very quickly, Mark Best’s highly acclaimed Marque had progressively gone up the ladder and retained their three hats for ten years until September 2013 when they were demoted to two. Despite the news, I expected Marque to be good or at least unique, particularly when Best portrayed himself as a man with “eternal dissatisfaction” and had been labelled as the leader in contemporary cuisine in Australia. Armed with many other accolades including a listing in S. Pellegrino’s Top 100 List, I convinced myself that nothing could go wrong.

P1150114The dining room dominated by matte and glossy black walls was surprisingly peaceful despite the high volume of traffic outside the restaurant. The lack of ambience perhaps was not helped by the fact that only a third of the tables were occupied all night but I guess it was early in the week. Having just finished from a week long stint at Margaret River, Best was visible in the background that evening though his very casual attire suggested he was not overly involved in the kitchen on that occasion. After all, he did look exhausted.P1150116As tempting as it was as I glanced over the wine menu, I decided to refrain from consuming too much alcohol that evening and focus on the food. It wasn’t long before the amuse bouche of the Sea Biscuit which consisted of local Sydney rock oysters from Camden Haven and sea urchin arrived, and we were off. I loved the intense taste of the ocean. It was as if I had been dunked in the sea itself, but I confess I did not pick up much flavour of the sea urchin. What a shame.

P1150117Our first dish of the evening was their signature dish, one that has been on the menu for at least ten years. However, the Fraser Island Spanner crab with almond gazpacho, almond jelly, sweet corn and avruga not only failed to impress me but also raised some concerns. Granted, the dish was very delicate with a meringue-like texture, but I could hardly pick up the flavour of the delicate crab and even the rich caviar was absent in light of the sweet popcorn powder. The notion of keeping a dish on a menu for ten years must surely be a juxtaposition to Bests eternal dissatisfaction? P1150120

A much better dish was the Smoked eel with parmesan gnocchi & pumpkin with some star anise and orange zest. I was surprised with how much flavour and smokiness you got from the wafer thin eel. I was however not overly keen on the forced marriage of the cheese from the gnocchi and the eel.

P1150124A surprise course of the Foie gras and Corn. This was my favourite dish of the night so I was glad it came. The kernels had been fermented in salt and subsequently roasted before leaving them in water overnight. It had an interesting texture, contrast in temperature of the cold foie gras powder to the corn, and I liked the bitter – sweet contrast in flavours.

P1150125To Best’s credit, they did churn their own butter…

P1150127… and also make their bread in the restaurant including this sourdough. It wasn’t bad but certainly not on par with Brae.

P1150128Quite bizarrely we had a meat course before the fish. Darling Downs wagyu with fermented mushrooms and ice plant. A 9+ graded wagyu from the Rangers Valley (near Tamworth) dressed in champignon sauce that had been cooked overnight. Just like the vast numbers of wagyu dishes I’ve had to date, this one wasn’t in any way shape or form memorable, although granted it was cooked well.

P1150133An odd time to present the seafood course but nevertheless we proceeded with the Moreton Bay Bug with candlelight radish & fermented blueberries. The bug was sourced locally from Coffs Harbour and handled well – moist and not rubbery at all, and the mayonnaise, made using the shell, further enhanced the flavours of this Australian arthropod. The coating itself consisted of miso and leek ash. I thought the bitter radish however did not belong on the dish with the sweet crustacean. A good but incomplete dish.P1150136NZ Bass Grouper with green tomato, verjus, potato paper, fish milk & roe. The combination of the white soy and cod stock “fish milk”, hapuka (or bass grouper) and potato paper was almost like a modern take on fish pie but I found there were too many flavours on the dish and distracted from the star ingredient of the show, the fish (though some may argue it was the fish milk).

P1150138Redgate Farm quail with asparagus, egg yolk jam & rye. Again, a very well executed dish but nothing spectacular. The best bit for me was the asparagus that still had a lovely bite, together with the egg yolk jam and crunchy rye flakes.

Thus concluded the savoury segment of the meal.P1150142The first dessert of the evening was a strange one. The Lemon aspen with cultured cream & whey caramel was a good attempt at utilising some native bushtucker into the meal. I enjoyed the combination of the incredibly tropical citrus flavour against the sweet caramel and thick whey. However, I found the additional spicy character of the lemon aspen to be odd for this dish.

P1150145The penultimate desert course of Coconut, liquorice & beetroot was not personally my cup of tea, primarily because I found the liquorice flavour dominating the palate and I could hardly taste the coconut sorbet. P1150147The finale was another signature dish of the Sauternes custard with a layer of caramel on top. The bitter layer of caramel on top worked very well against the sweet tone of sauternes from the underlying custard. It was a very clever, though some would say perhaps sacrilegious, way to use a lovely drop of wine to make this.

There’s no doubt that the rare moments of sheer brilliance like the finale reflected the glorious past of Marque. But against the backdrop of these creative dishes, it was apparent to me from my meal that evening that Best had run out of ideas, or perhaps inspiration. For a man that had been running at the forefront of contemporary cuisine in Australia, I must admit that the one thing I expected was innovation or at least novelty but sadly that was nowhere to be found.