Monday, November 12, 2012

Ricky's, Noosa Heads, Queensland: truly exceeds expectations!

I had the opportunity to stay at Clive Palmer's Palmer Coolum Resort (in the news earlier this year owing to its difficult transition and name changes from the Hyatt Coolum Resort to its present-day moniker; as well as the high profile political and other activities of its eponymous billionaire owner, who is building the Titanic II because he can) over the weekend for a conference, and decided to head up to Noosa for a night outside the resort with various friends and colleagues, including Suze, Kimmie, Phil, Sandra (well done ACLA Government Lawyer of the Year!), Gillian, Adrian and others.  Suze and I had an ulterior objective: to get fellow foodie Kimmie (who steadfastly does the job of two people without complaint and travels virtually every month) out and about and enjoying herself, instead of staying in her resort room doing more work, so we had to create a compelling lure by finding a good restaurant.

Some internet research suggested that Ricky's by the Noosa riverfront is the place to go - thank you to, one of the most reliable open-sourcing review websites I have found, based on my culinary travels around the world - so I booked a table there for me and my companions.  This choice was further vindicated by Kate, a Sydney-sider I met at the resort, who told me that her boss, the managing director of a healthcare group with a hospital in this neck of the woods, rates Ricky's as his go-to restaurant whenever he makes a local visit.

The best vindication, of course, is in the dining experience itself.

The place was completely full when we turned up, with the tables turning over at least once, if not twice, during the course of the evening.  The decor was smart, modern and glitzy, all stone, wood and chrome - it's a Queensland seaside town, after all!  There was also a smart and spacious bar area where diners waiting for their table would sit and have a few drinks while they waited.  Good thing we booked well in advance.

The service was attentive, friendly and very efficient.  While the serving staff did not hover around annoyingly (which happens in some restaurants), and even though the place was seriously busy, we never had any trouble getting the attention of someone to meet our needs (usually for a fresh bottle of wine).  When we left the restaurant, there were staff (including Daniel, who was serving our table) waiting by the exit to thank us and say good bye, which is a very nice touch indeed.

The menu provided ample variety, with entrees and mains focusing on comfort styles.  The food was tasty and well executed, with steaks coming out medium rare when you asked for medium rare, with some care and effort going into the presentation of the dishes (tending to larger portions and full plates).  The octopus that came with the octopus and pork belly entree was amazingly soft and light; soufflé-like in texture!  The desserts impressed me - while there was a lag between ordering the desserts and receiving them, this was because they were prepared from scratch, including a perfect soufflé.

The wine list was truly a standout for a restaurant in a holiday town.  I was enthralled by the selection of wines - far larger than expected (most restaurants in this part of the world tend to give you only 5 or 6 wines to choose from, usually decided by their wine rep).  But Ricky's wine list was impressive, even by Melbourne or Perth standards; going so far as to include a selection of Domaine de la Romanee Conti at $1,950 a bottle!  I chose the Chris Ringland Shiraz.  Not the outrageously rare and pricey super-wine Three Rivers, but the $48 a bottle 2009 CR Shiraz, from the Barossa Valley.

Speaking of pricing, this dinner only cost us around $75 a head excluding the wines, for 3 courses and liberal orders of side salads and greens.

The Chris Ringland CR Shiraz was truly exquisite - rich and juicy spiced cherry, well balanced by fine tannins, it was so delicious that we ordered bottle after bottle, not realising how much we were drinking until it was too late to worry about it ... good thing we weren't driving!

The Chris Ringland Shiraz wasn't the only exquisite thing to be found in the restaurant that night.  We happened to be sitting next to a table of girls from Brisbane on a hen's party, which is where I chatted to Laura Anne, with her exquisitely exotic looks - perfect coiffure and make-up, piercing blue eyes and tasteful ink on her left arm (and no I don't often say "tasteful" and "ink" in the same phrase).  Laura Anne is a Rockabilly pin-up model who told me that she would be on the cover of Hot Rod Annual 2012.  Pleased to meet you, Miss Laura Anne.  Hot rods ain't my thing, but I will certainly buy a copy ...

So if you're ever on the Queensland's Sunshine Coast, make sure you book a table at Ricky's.  Who knows, you might even bump into Laura Anne and her friends!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Great Shiraz Tasting 2012 (2006 vintage)

The demands of business conspired to keep me out of Perth during last year's Great Shiraz Tasting at Peel Estate, and I spent an entire year regretting it.  So this year, I decided business be damned and I wasn't going anywhere on the first Saturday of September (which happened to be 1 September 2012), except to Peel Estate for the 21st Anniversary of this event.

And I am glad indeed that I made the effort: not only was the field of 20 shirazes outstandingly amazing (I refused to spit any of them out), the 2006 vintage has also renewed my faith in the Penfolds Grange Hermitage.

I am also ever grateful to Ian Harris who forgave me for skipping last year's event because I decided to prioritise business ahead of this vinophilic pilgrimage, and made sure that I had a ticket to this year's event (and thank you too Bill for organising everything and getting the bus to wait for me).

Anyway, I've waxed on and off in my previous articles about the shiraz tasting (Mr Miyagi would be proud), so I'll save you the grief of having to read through all that tripe this time around.  Suffice to say that all of the usual suspects were present: Neville Phillips, Mike Tamburri, John Jens, et al.  And so too was my old friend Lynton Barber (also an unwitting wine mentor to me over the years) of Sterling Wine Auctions who always has a few cryptic words to toss my way.

Other than the Grange, which was my favourite of the 2006 vintage, my other favourites were the Jim Barry Armagh (big, earthy and dense), the Torbreck Run Rig (big and bold Barossa style), the Yalumba Octavius (quite a sophisticated and tidy wine really), the Henschke Hill of Grace (which was plummy and almost savoury).  The Old World entrants also held their own, but stood out with their distinctly non-Australian flavours: Guigal Chateau D'Ampuis (smokey, acidic, cedary and savoury) and the Domaine Rene Rostaing La Landonne (dominant minty-leafiness and plummy savoury flavours).

Did I mention that my faith in the Grange Hermitage was renewed?  Well, that's because this is the first year I correctly picked it out of the blind tasting.  Yes, I'm rather chuffed with myself, but in my great modesty, I attribute it not to my prowess in wines (which is approximately non-existent), but to the standout quality of the 2006 vintage.

As soon as I put the glass to my nose, I knew this was a special wine: a rich, refined berry aroma, but not jammy by any stretch.  And then I poured some in my mouth and the fireworks began.  A massive attack of monster tannins inexorably overpowering everything, yet sporting the most ultrafine, tightly knitted texture I have ever experienced.  And that was only the texture.  The flavour evoked images of a monstrous sleeping dragon: dense, tightly wound cool steely blackcurrants and cherries.  And a big but fine tannic finish, tight, dry and forever lingering.

Wow.  As the years pass, I can imagine that the flavour is just going to keep unfolding.  Got to get myself a bottle or 6 to lay down - let's see what Lynton's latest auction has on offer ...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gerwurzhaus Spice & Herb Merchants, 342 Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria

Melbourne is truly a foodie's paradise.  I was walking down Lygon Street the other day in search of La Parisienne Pate for a new stash of foie gras, and had to duck into a shop to escape one of Melbourne's ubiquitous bouts of flash rain.  This shop happened to be Gerwurzhaus Spice & Herb Merchants, a wonderful little shop selling all manner of spices, herbs, teas and even salts!

I've walked past this unassuming place several times, not realising what's inside, and was very pleased to discover it.

There is a mind-boggling cornucopia of familiar, exotic, weird and wonderful spices, herbs and reagents available: from Chinese Five Spice, Ras al Hanout and Dukka Zataar, to Laksa Lemak, Satay spice, Iranian saffron (in A Grade and B Grade, and available as stamens or powder) and even a South American mate tea blend.

There are also more than 10 varieties of salt, including Himalayan pink salt, Black lava sea salt, Persian blue salt, Italian black truffle salt, and even salt that has been smoked in Chardonnay barrels.

And on top of that, they have Himalayan pink salt blocks: solid slabs of rock salt which can be used to cook, cure and age food, depending on what culinary adventure you choose to embark upon.

Everything is sold loose - you can see and sniff to your content before you decide on what to buy.  When you want to buy something, they provide these nifty little pre-labelled paper bags which you scoop your chosen spice/tea/herbs/salt into, and then you take them to be weighed and charged.  Or if you prefer to save yourself the trouble, you can choose one of the pre-filled and sealed jars that are available.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ristretto Coffee Roasters in Northbridge

My favourite Perth coffee place just keeps on growing!

I finally found the time to head up to Ristretto's new roasting shop in Northbridge (at the corner of William Street and Aberdeen Street, east of the traffic lights), and found it ensconced in a Melbournesque hole-in-the-wall-facing-a-laneway setup.

Emmanuel was in the process of roasting some fresh beans, and the air was thick with the most delightful aroma of toasty caramel.

You can get a coffee to drink at the little bar ledge straddling the window, and you can also buy yourself a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans - I noticed that there were also big 1kg bags, presumably for trade sale (or perhaps if you shared a house with several other serious coffee drinkers, although the queues at the coffee machine would be worse than the queues for the bathroom!)

I got myself a bag of the RCB (Ristretto Custom Blend), a marriage of the Ethiopian Yirga Cheffe and the El Salvadorian Santa Ana, roasted 10 days ago.  When I put it through Miss Silvia, it was all rich, thick, oily goodness in a slow drip; all crema and sweet, nutty flavours.

Check it out - if you need a fresh bag of your favourite Ristretto roast, it's certainly easier to drive into Northbridge during the day than it is to try to find a parking spot in the city to get your supplies from Ristretto's Howard Street outpost with no name, or the original coffee bar in the Paragon Arcade.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bo Innovation, Wan Chai, Hong Kong – utterly sublime!

Earlier this year, I experienced the most truly and utterly sublime meal of my life while in Hong Kong for some business recently.  For many years, this place of honour on the mantle of my culinary experience was comfortable held by Cheong Liew's legendary Four Dances of the Sea, which has over the years inspired many menu offerings in top end restaurants throughout Australia, with some barely disguised emulations (although none of them come anywhere close to the original).

The fact that I enjoyed this meal during lunchtime in between meetings (okay, so I was very late to the next meeting …) while dining on my own should speak volumes about the culinary tour de force delivered by the Demon Chef.

I must warn you that this article is really long, but it was necessary to do justice to the meal and the experience!

I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of Bo Innovation before my trip, but my old-school mate Wu Xi (who works for one of those too big to fail investment banks in their Hong Kong office which is again enjoying record profits, so he should know), knowing that I enjoyed my food, suggested that I check it out.

I was later to discover that Bo Innovation boasted 2 Michelin Stars, was ranked 52 in San Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurants 2012 list (up from 65th position the year before), and has been featured by Anthony Bourdain as well.  No wonder it’s so damn good!

It’s a good thing I decided to come here for lunch, instead of dinner, because it’s apparently booked out for weeks for dinner, but they were able to fit me in for an early lunch, which suited me just fine.

The restaurant itself is occupies the 2nd floor of what appears to be a high end apartment block in a non-descript laneway (60 Johnston Road) in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island, with some floors having been converted into offices or restaurants.  As I stepped out of the lift, the Maître D was there to greet me, but more intriguingly, I immediately savoured the rich aroma of a good Cuban cigar permeating the large terrace outside the restaurant.  Yes, I was going to like this place!

The source of the cigar was this lone, hard to miss, fellow with almost shoulder-length hair wearing a stylised black chef’s outfit, furiously scribbling away on a notepad.  I was later to discover that this was none other than Alvin Leung, the Demon Chef and owner of the restaurant, and he was working on some concepts for his upcoming cooking TV series.

The restaurant itself is ultra-modern in design, with an open kitchen separated from the dining area by a high bar table where patrons could sit.  I was pleased, however, to be given a normal table near the kitchen from which I could see the entire restaurant.  The fact that I was the only one in the restaurant because of my early booking time suited me just fine.

On sitting down, the first thing I noticed is the unique table setting, accompanied by different glasses to accommodate the different varieties of wine that were on offer.

Naturally, I ordered the 8 course Chef’s Menu (at HK780, it’s a bargain compared to Perth prices, where you can pay considerably more for a mediocre meal), together with a glass of Bollinger to kick things off.

First course was the exquisitely delicate Dead Garden, featuring morel, caterpillar fungus, green onion and lime.  It arrived in a little glass bowl on perched on 3 legs, with the air dried morel “soil” sitting on a green foam base of spring onion and lime juice, with a generous serving of the caterpillar fungus and enoki mushrooms delicately emerging from the soil.  The “soil” sported delightfully crunchy fine grains, and the enoki was infused with a savoury onion flavour that had an amazing length of flavour long after I had swallowed it.

I was later to discover that caterpillar fungus is just that: a caterpillar which is infected by a parasitic fungus that eventually mummifies the host and eventually pops out of the ground, and is found deep in Nepal’s Dolpa district at an elevation of 4,300m.  CNN earlier this year reported that this delicacy can fetch up to USD26,000 in Shanghai for 500 grams – probably due in a large part to the fact that it’s also called the Himalayan Viagra and the Chinese believe it to contain Viagral properties.  Hmmm maybe I should have saved a few strands for the Fashion TV party at Dragon-I later that week …

Next up was the Molecular Xiao Long Bao, arriving as a glistening, perfectly round globe garnished with a slice of pickled ginger sitting in a Chinese spoon.  As I am a fan of the traditional Xiao Long Bao (a ubiquitous dim sum staple, although seldom done well), this was something to look forward to!  The crunchy yet yielding texture of algae jelly shell gave way to the warm, unctuous and savoury pork flavoured soup (which was thicker than expected) in a juxtaposition of textures.

Then came the Har Mi, consisting of the namesake dried shrimp paste made into powdered flakes and oil served in separate containers, accompanied by a two-parter: handmade pasta sautéed in har mi oil and garnished with deep fried sage, tossed through with crab roe and chilli; and a carabinero (a large red prawn from Spain), half of which was sashimi style, and the other half stuffed with cream made from prawn roe and covered with crab roe.  I love the fact that this dish required a little but of diner involvement – you could season it with the har mi flakes and oil to taste.

The sashimi was soft but firm as you bit in, yet without any overpowering prawny or fishy flavour, and the pasta was firm and chewy but not undercooked – al dente, certamente! – with the counterpoint of the roe delicately popping in my mouth as I chewed.  Adding the oil and flakes to the pasta imparted it with savoury prawny flavours, with the deep fried sage adding a salty, herbaceous, yet subtle counterpoint.

The other end of the prawn yielded a big pop in my mouth of a savoury flavour bomb accompanied by the contrasting textures of the crunchy spring roll wrapping, the popping of the crab roe, and the creaminess of the prawn roe cream filling.  Wow.  I had to close my eyes to enjoy this moment …

And it even got better – I popped the remaining middle of the prawn into my mouth, where the two parts joined together, and it provided a further textural contrast from the sensuous slipperiness of the sashimi side.

I could not help but linger a long time over this course, trying every single permutation of shrimp oil, shrimp flakes and each component of the dish. That’s why you know I’m not talking through my shrimp-hole when I recommend that you eat the prawn with the oil, as it further enhances the already mind-boggling yet pleasurable flavours of this dish.

At this stage, the restaurant started to fill up – an eclectic mixture of business people entertaining clients, couples having a romantic lunch and even tourists on a food pilgrimage.

This was also the point at which the next course arrived, a chunk of moist, juicy cod piece (somehow that doesn’t quite sound right …) delicately balanced on two cubes of sauternes jelly and light crunchy seaweed, swimming in a thick saffron miso sauce (but really, it was so thick that gravy might be a more appropriate descriptor).

This dish exuded a comfortingly sweet and savoury aroma and the saffron miso delivered on the expectation created by its aroma, complementing the moist and soft cod and the sauternes jelly that just melted in your mouth.  And there were tiny purple flowers which added just a little hint of spice – hey if it’s on my plate, I’m eating it!

It’s all about the contrasts – the yin and yang – not just in the flavours, but also in the aromas, textures and the presentation.  But the true skill of the master chef shines through in the fact that there is not a discordant note; all of these contrasts complement each other and blend into a superb amalgam.

My glass of Tra La La Chardonnay arrived at the same time as the cod, and its fresh herbaceous and vanilla flavours nicely complemented the sweet and savoury flavours of the dish.

But of course, one glass of wine is not enough, so I also ordered a glass of 2004 Chateau Tour de Mirambeau, a deliciously rich Bordeaux, all dark cherries, spice and oak.  The tannins were still strong but no longer dominant, which is good, because I was here to eat.

Next up came the Iberico 36 – an intriguing dish of dark-brown morel infused vermicelli wrapped with air dried iberico jamon with a blob of gazpacho foam at one end.  Nice aroma and flavour, and surprisingly, it paired perfectly with the chardonnay rather than the Bordeaux.  Some food for thought!

Then followed a dish containing one of my favourite (albeit guilty) pleasures: a generously massive slab of fried foie gras sporting a nicely browned, slightly crispy surface.  It was accompanied by a crispy wafer thin mui choy perched on a scoop of mui choy flavoured ice cream (which was strangely pleasant yet savoury), accompanied by a small chunk of ginger crumble.  This dished introduced a new dimension of yin and yang: hot and cold.

The other star of this dish was the mui choy: dried and salted mustard greens; a traditional Chinese ingredient.  A bowl of dried, uncooked mui choy was placed on the table for comparison – not to be eaten, but to serve as a visual counterpoint.

The sensations in my mouth of melting cold ice cream, leading into the soft buttery foie gras with its slightly crunchy fried surface, and ending with the crispy dried mui choy and crunchy ginger crumble (which had a very subtle ginger flavour – not overpowering at all) all provided a perfectly seamless spectrum of textures and sensations.

I lingered over the foie gras to make it last as long as I could, but alas, all good things must come to an end.  But luckily for me, the best dish was yet to come!

The Saga-Gyu Beef is mind-blowing.  A thick slice of A4 Grade (marbling factor of 9) full-blooded wagyu lying on top of 3 short flour rolls of cheong fun, which is traditional Chinese fare most commonly eaten at a dim sum (also known as yum cha in Australia) restaurant, and certainly unexpected in a fine dining restaurant!

But wait, there’s more: each cheong fun roll was decadently filled with shavings of black truffle and fried in soy to impart flavour, colour and a slightly crisp texture.

The dish was accompanied by a flourish of thick sauce looking like a musical note, made from white truffle oil, black truffles (you could see chunks of them poking out) and a soy reduction, as is expected as an accompaniment to cheong fun.  It was salty and slightly sweet, but the flavour was not so strong as to dominate.

This dish was just unbelievable.  It conjured emotions and feelings within me, yet I didn’t know what was happening and couldn’t put my finger on it, like the first time I ever had a crush on a girl …

The flavour and aroma of truffles is palpable and the cheong fun is perfect – a familiar friend (yes I love yum cha and always order cheong fun) in a different guise, offering up cruchy little truffle surprises as you chew.

I expected a difference in texture between the cheong fun and the wagyu, but the revelation was instead in the similarity of textures!

The wagyu was perfectly cooked with with a lovely dark pink middle layer sandwiched between crisp seared surfaces.  The soft, buttery meat yielded delightfully flavoursome oil as I chewed into it, and reduced to a faint texture of fibres – no dentures needed to eat this meat!

My mouth still salivates months later as I write this article and recall the flavours, sensations and even emotions.  Wow.

After this dish, nothing else could come close, so I thought the dessert was very thoughtfully created – rather than try to hit the heady heights of culinary bliss delivered by the Saga-Gyu Beef, it gave you that pleasant afterglow which you get at the end of an amazing holiday when it’s time to get on the plane to go home.  But make no mistake – it was still inventive and delicious in its own right.

Sze Chuan style strawberry ice cream it was, sitting on a sprinkling of toffee powder and topped with powdered white chocolate, with a few little green leaf things for a colour contrast.

Being a massive chilli eater (have you read about my love of Akabanga?), my desensitised palate didn’t experience any spiciness, but it did leave a bit of an afterglow in the mouth – more minty than spicy, really.  The accompanying Chinese almond panacotta (inspired by another ubiquitous and much-loved dim sum dish) was topped with blood orange jelly.  This dish was not just dessert for the mouth – its visually pleasing presentation also provided eye-candy.

Now you think that this story abruptly ends here, and yes it has possibly been the longest article I have ever written, but we’re not quite done yet!

Check out the follow-up post for more details of my cigar and whisky with the Demon Chef and a couple more special dishes ...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The best coffee in Namibia!

Every time I go back to Fresh N Wild, that little oasis of calm and relaxed sophistication in Windhoek, Namibia, I discover a new delight.

This time around, it's the quality of the coffee.

I popped in for a quick breakfast and ordered an espresso with my breakfast, and had a very pleasant surprise when it was delivered to my table.

Yes, it was overly topped up to the rim (there seems to be a thinking in Africa that more is better, but in the case of espresso, less is really more ... next time try pouring only half an espresso cup for a more intense flavour), but it did sport a thick and rich crema, with an aromatic cocoa-like fragrance.

And when I sipped at it cautiously, worrying that this coffee might well be the proverbial mutton dressed up as lamb (I've had way too many over-diluted, weak coffees), I was again pleasantly surprised with the thickness of brew.

The clincher was the flavour - a pleasantly complex flavour of coffee-cocoa ending in a hint of lemony citrus notes.  Wow!

Well done Fresh N Wild: officially the best coffee in Namibia!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bistro des Artistes - special Chaîne des Rôtisseurs dinner

Veal blanquette, truffles and rice pilaf
On a cold winter’s night on 24 July 2012, nearly 70 members and guests in the Western Australian Bailliage of international culinary organisation Chaîne des Rôtisseurs celebrated (albeit belatedly) Bastille Day by enjoying a superb French dining experience at the recently opened Bistro des Artistes at 424 Hay Street, Subiaco.

This restaurant may be new to the Perth foodie scene, but its two French co-owners are certainly not: Chef Alain Fabrègues (recipient of the Mérite National, one of France’s highest awards) of the acclaimed and award-winning Loose Box fine dining restaurant in the Perth Hills, and pastry-specialist Chef Emmanuel Mollois of Choux Café, a little patisserie in Swanbourne which was recently crowned “Best in the West” by the Sunday Times.

Bistro des Artistes seeks to elevate French bistro dining to a new level – beyond merely a simple, hearty and casual meal, but moving above that into a higher stratum – with an artisanal and innovative take on well known and long-established French bistro cuisine.

Chefs Alain and Emmanuel spent many hours creating the special menu for the dinner, featuring dishes unavailable to normal customers at the restaurant; and also met several times with WA Bailli Wayne Teo and Vice-Conseiller Gastronomie Amanda Spencer-Teo to ensure that the event was well planned and executed.  Truffles featured heavily in this menu, personally handpicked from the stocks of Alain’s own Manjimup Truffle Company.
Diners were greeted with a glass of Laurent Perrier Brut NV, a crisp and citrus-fresh champagne designed to cleanse the palate in preparation for this 5 course degustatory experience of some French winter favourites; each dish being paired with a delicious and complementary glass of wine.

All of the dishes were superb, but there were three highlights.
The first was the “marble” of foie gras and truffle, where generously thick slices of truffle were layered terrine style with unprocessed foie gras and cross-sectional chunks sliced off for each diner, accompanied by slices of Jean Pierre Sancho country-style bread (did you know that Jean Pierre Sancho supplies bread to some of Perth’s top restaurants, including Rockpool?)  As if that wasn't decadent enough, the dish was topped with generously thick shavings of truffle.  The flavours and textures transcended description – you had to be there to understand.

I never say no to a good sticky, but the sauternes appeared to be an interesting choice of accompanying wine, but all became clear on tasting it – sweet kumquat and citrus-peel flavours were complemented by some mineraliness, which paired well with the foie gras and truffle.

The next highlight was the veal blanquette (although I couldn't really detect the egg in it), again generously topped with thick shavings of truffle with rice, served in a small enamel pot, sporting a subtle flavour so as to serve as a canvas for the flavour of the truffle.  One of my guests, Richard exclaimed that he had never enjoyed veal so tender with the meat falling apart in the thick gravy.

The third highlight was the dessert, specially designed by Chef Emmanuel so as to complement the flavours of the truffle dishes beforehand.  The perfect chocolate crème bavarois dome covering the caramel tart was so glossy you expected it to be a hard shell, and diners expressed surprised when it turned out to be a soft, creamy layer.  As if the dessert wasn’t French enough, Chef Emmanuel incorporated half a stick of Caramba, a French caramel lolly, into the mix!
There was also a bonus “entrée” dessert which was not listed on the menu – a mini rice pudding in a little ramekin to tide everyone over while the “main” dessert was being plated up en masse.

The front of house was also superb, efficiently and quickly bringing the dishes to each diner in good order, and despite the pressure and constant bustle, it was never difficult to get the attention of someone to replace a lost napkin or refill a glass of wine for those who wanted to revisit their favourite drop that evening.

The Menu

Laurent Perrier Brut NV (on arrival)

Marbré de foie gras et truffes de Manjimup, pain de campagne par Jean Pierre Sancho
(Marble of foie gras and Manjimup truffles, with country bread from Jean Pierre Sancho).
2008 Carmes de Rieussec (Sauterne)

Lièvre a la Royal et quelques Châtaignes dans un bol
(Hare a la Royal with some chestnuts in a bowl)
2009 Cèdre Heritage Cahors Malbec
Blanquette de Veau truffées a la ancienne riz pilaf
(Veal blanquette, truffles and rice pilaf)
2009 Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin

Fromage du jour: la Buche d’Affinois, pate de coins
(Cheese of the Day with home made quince pate)
2009 Howard Park Chardonnay (Great Southern)

Crème Bavaroise au Caramba et tarte au caramel
(you can work this out yourself!)
Moet et Chandon Nectar NV