9.95/10 on Wednesday 20 June 2018.
The Walrus: Back again trekking to the inner north of Melbourne. It seems the epicenter of innovative dining is still North Fitzroy and its surrounds. A very stylish warehouse conversion (originally stables) giving off a very welcoming feel. Bar stools and seats at the tables are actually both sturdy and comfortable, which is a rare thing at the moment and very welcome. 10/10
The Carpenter: A long trek North on the tram to the inner burbs but outer reaches of our 2MM voyage. An elegant shop front leading into one of the old wool sheds, or factories, or warehouses. Something terribly North Fitzroy. Big open space, exposed wooden beams and architecturally extremely thoughtful. With some very elegant and extremely comfortable mid century modern furniture. The bar stools were a definite highlight. Built for big people. 10/10
W: As per usual, we kick off with a request for a gin martini. Its always a little mini discovery around how each establishment approaches responding to this request. The (very helpful) bar tender recommended we use Patient Wolf gin from a local distillery in Brunswick. Hand crafted in a custom designed Muller copper still built in Germany, the result is a beautiful tasting gin. I can see why it was recommended with a twist (picking up the citrus notes) but we are sticklers and went with a slightly dirty version with olives. The glasses were paper thin as well which added to the experience. 10/10
C: A magnificent martini made with Patient Wolf - a local boutique gin recommended with a twist but taken slightly dirty anyway. And it was lovely. Served in one of the finest martini glasses I've had. Rydel. Must be a new line. 10/10
W: A little appetizer of smoked leek veloute with truffle oil was a beautiful opener. Creamy with the crunchy texture of the leeks all ramped up with the the distinctive truffle oil. Perfect to get the appetite sparking. We then departed from our normal ordering style to include the horseradish panna cotta with beetroot three ways and roasted almond crumb. The creamy panna cotta with the distinctive taste of horse radish against beetroot jelly and pickled beetroot was amazing. The whole baby beets were nice, but I didn't need them.
We then both went for the crispy skin berkshire pork belly with black pudding parfait, saffron, diakon and mustard jus. The pork had been through a 3 day preparation that compressed, dehydrated and crisped it to a point that the taste was amazing (best pork belly I have ever had)! The inclusion of black pudding as a parfait was inspired (I have not seen this before). You apply the parfait to the crispy pork skin like spreading butter and the result is perfection. A real triumph.
Our waiter, Theo, surprised us with a bonus entree on the house of pan fried scallops with roasted chestnuts with fino americaine. The scallops were beautiful (nicely caramelized) and the crunch and taste of the chestnuts against them was awesome. The sauce brought it all together - a winner.
Theo matched a beautiful chardonnay by the glass with entrees. It was a 2016 Louis Moreau Bourgogne Chardonnay from Chablis. Nice and creamy with what tasted like a good amount of lactic acid giving a nicer mouth feel. Perfect. 10/10
C: The opening salvo was a smoked leek veloutte with a bit if truffle oil. Warm and extremely tasty. That led into our shared entree - horseradish panna cotta with beetroot three ways. It was fantastic. A silky smooth disc of panna cotta beautifully flavoured and set with a beetroot jelly. There was also some pickled beets and a bit of crispy beetroot. All tied together perfectly. 10/10
Then I had the pork belly - the best pork belly dish I've ever had. The crackling was perfect. The pork had been prepped for three days. It melted in your mouth. Coupled with some mustard greens. And a black pudding parfait - an amazing addition that boosted the flavour through the roof. It was an amazing dish.
The pork was matched for me by Theo with some sort of outstanding french chardonnay by the glass that the Walrus will remember.
As a bonus, and because we both ordered the pork, Theo delivered a complimentary serve of the scallops to share. With a rich sauce and some roasted chestnuts the scallops on their own would be a cracking entree, but we were both glad we ordered the pork. 10/10
W: Slow roasted duck breast with confit leg, braised cabbage, pomme anna and a black olive jus. The breast meat was perfectly cooked, nice and pink, great rendering of the fat with a nice layer of fat left on the meat for flavour and texture. However, whilst the breast meat was amazing, the confit leg took it to another level. Beutifully cooked leg meat, crisped and falling off the bone with potato soaked in butter. Perfect. The carpenter thought he may have selected better with the beef cheek....but one tiny taste of the duck leg had him having second thoughts.. 10/10
C: I opted for the Wagyu dish - a steak and a beef cheek. With some smeared parsnip (I couldn't resist it). The wagyu steak was good - very tasty but not outstanding. I've never bought into the Wagyu hype but was swayed tonight by the parsnip puree and the cheek. The cheek was amazing. Very rich flavour without being overdone. Delicate mouthfeel without revisitng the stringy stews of our youth. Melt in the mouth. Lovely. But I did have a little duck envy over the table. 9/10
Theo delivered a complimentary pumpkin side because in typical form we didn't order any - it was wasted. Delicious but didn't fit with the flavours on my plate so I gave it the courtesy of a taste but not prime space rapidly disappearing in the belly.
W: A Sauternes poached quince clafouti was up next and it was delicious. A side of ginger bread ice cream went well with it. It was a generous dessert and I didnt mind that one bit. I was full from previous courses, but once I switched over to my dessert stomach...all was good in the world. Great way to finish off . 10/10
C: . A Sauternes poached quince clafouti with ginger bread ice cream. It sounds amazing. It tasted great. It was big chunk of dessert. A bit clummsy and definitely an oppportunity for some refinement to match the rest of the meal. Like the Walrus I switched over to my dessert stomach, but it was slightly impeded by some extra pumpkin and scallops - I hadn't budgeted effectively enough and that may have hindered my ability to truly enjoy the clafouti. 8.5/10
W: To match the poaching on the dessert, Theo kindly brought us a glass of 2014 Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes dessert wine. Really lovely taste with the botrytis coming through in a really reserved way. Excellent. 10/10
C: The Walrus has a great mind for such things. I remember it being very special. 10/10
W: Great service. Theo and the team were exceptional with additional dishes added on the house and great wine recommendations. Good conversations during the meal answering our questions regarding the preparation of some of the dishes. Well done. 10/10
C: Exceptional service - great pairings with the meal that all worked exceptionally well. Theo went above and beyond. Not sure if he thought we were pro reviewers but we got the gold star treatment. No complaints at all. 10/10
W: Fantastic. Every part of service delivered with perfection. Innovative dishes well beyond how they read on the menu. Great dining experience and at a more than reasonable price for what you get. 10/10
C: A real winner in the northern stakes - another sign that fine dining is moving north. As the Walrus said, a sophistication and depth to the design, preparation and presentation of the dishes. The experience can also include preordering a range of dishes that are prepped days in advance - the pigs trotters apparently are a stand out. Clearly a tremendous amount of thought and car has gone into presenting the space and the menu. A real highlight on our list of outings. My only very slight criticism, if it could classified as such, was that the dessert wasn't as refined as the rest of the meal - although that judgement may have been cast under the weight a little bit of extra servings along the way. Overall a fantastic experience. 9.9/10
Postscript: i read somewhere that the head chef, Donovan Cooke, has a past that includes Michelin Stars and other notable performance and that he's returned to restauranting after a meaningful hiatus. It all makes sense after learning that....
W: No need for a cap this evening.
C: No cap tonight.
W: Cab home, uneventful.
C: A tram North almost as far as Bang Bang but pleasant enough. Parted ways at the restaurant. Uber hasn't let me down yet!