7.5/10 on Wednesday 22 August 2018.
The Walrus: And south we went! Outside the CBD again in search of a great experience. Scott Pickett has snuck another eatery into Melbourne, this time down on Domain Road in South Yarra (next door to the Botanical) called Matilda. Its a take on dishes relying on smoked meats. Nice space, all wood and wood with some more wood, but nicely done. The bar is 2 floors down a staircase and is impressively stocked. Fortunately for me there is a lift from the bar back up to the main dining area as I don’t need to do stair runs when out dining…that crap can stay in the gym.
The Carpenter: A “slightly southern” hint for the location – and a rare treat seeing the Walrus pull out the Uber app and get us a car from the CBD. A short while later we arrived at the Bot, and the new Scott Pickett restaurant based around fire and good produce. The dining room was spacious, with ample luxurious wood paneling, wood fire in the open kitchen, wood furniture and some concrete shell. The bar was downstairs and removed from the theatre and exciting atmosphere of the restaurant. And despite the fantastic look of the fixtures, they fell short practically – the bar stools were too short for the beautiful wood bar. The dining tables (all hewn from the same black acacia) were beautifully crafted, but so light that a clumsy move (my specialty) sent everything tottering, the bench seat luxuriously adorned with supple leather cushions was too short and the cushion kept pushing me to the edge, the magnificent charcoal handled knives enticed you to pick them up the wrong way and risk slicing the pointer to the bone on a finely honed edge. Just all a bit off – too much designer and not enough ergonomics. pity.
W: Downstairs at the bar, a good assortment of gins are on display. We went for our standard salt profiled Martini and tried the Botanist gin. Great gin and a well made Martini. 9/10
C: The most interesting array of gins in their own cabinet of the downstairs bar – we looked at plenty, and landed on the Botanist. Slightly dirty. A couple of olives. An exceptional cocktail. 10/10
W: Salmon roe on custard with a bit of crunchy texture….really quite nice to open.
We then went for the snow crab served in its own shell with prawn butter with some freshly made flatbread. Beautifully sweet and smoky crab on the heavily buttered hot flatbread produces a wonderful combination that is quite tasty. 10/10
C: Salmon roe on a creamy dollop served in a crunchy biscuity crust. Yum
Then a standout snow crab dish served in the shell with shrimp butter (not really shrimp butter, more butter a bit flavoured by shrimp I think) and some piping hot flat breads. A sensational combo. 9.5/10
W: Continuing on with our thematic of two manly men ordering dishes for two….we went for the Duck dish (for two). The oven roasted duck breast was exceptional. The smoking/cooking process rendered the fat perfectly and the meat left an almost pate aftertaste which was something new to me and very welcome. They also served a duck heart and confit leg on the side. I’m not sure why this was done. The heart was basically heart….toughish and not very flavoursome but not offensive. I alway look to confit duck leg as the highlight of any meal when served…however for some reason this one fell a little short on flavour and didn’t have the crisp texture I am always hoping for. Not sure why it didn’t work out but the dish seemed a combo of three seperate dishes that had never met each other before…… odd. 7.5/10
C: Duck for two – such a romantic dish. The two pieces of duck breast had something very special done to them in the prep stage – the fat layer melted in the mouth to leave an almost fois gras taste and feel. Really quite delicious. The gravy was amazing. The broccolini and cheese was a nice simple accompaniment. And the separate plate with confit leg and confit bits served on a round bit of green stuff fell a bit short. 7/10
W: Pink lady apple tarte tatin with an ice cream. Whenever I see a tarte tatin on a menu, I have to get it. When its done well, the caramel, crispy pastry, loverly reduced fruit all mixed with the accompanying ice cream or equivalent is out of this world. However, the serve of ice cream was way too small, the fruit was in very large chunks and hadn’t softened as it should have (and oddly was also very dry??) and the pastry had been taken just a little too far as was starting to produce an acrid note from the charing. This particular dish was supposed to have taken 600 attempts to get it just how they wanted it…..they should have shot for 700. This is not what I was expecting from a Scott Pickett restaurant. Disappointing. 3/10
Just to hedge our bets (and continue on the ordering dishes for two theme) we had ordered a back up dessert, spit roasted pineapple with olive oil ice-cream with pineapple cake. Also, there was some chili through the pineapple. Very nice flavoursome dish and went a long way in making up for the previous dessert. Just what we needed. 8/10
C: On an adamant portrayal from the Walrus of a dish tried 600 times before landing on the current form, I got the pink lady apple tart tatin. Mine was burnt. Not artfully caramelised – part of the pastry was burnt. The vanilla bean ice-cream was a quenelle done on a tea spoon and very quickly got lost in the fray. It needed to be much bigger. The apple was big segments, not slices, and had interesting but not delighting texture and flavor. Overall I could do without it. 4/10.
On the other hand, I went for a backup dessert recommended by good old Mads – shaved pineapple wrapped around olive oil ice-cream, some pineapple cake bits and something else crunchy. Much much better – something clever, different to anything I’ve seen before, and delicious. Sadly I had to share it with the Walrus. 9/10
W: A nice drop of Noble One. Never can go wrong with it. 9/10
C: It was late. And had to be asked for twice. Tasty but slightly annoying. 6/10
W:. The staff were attentive enough, but as the night got busy, they started swapping around and cover each others tables half way through service. This only lead to the odd confusion and having to order things multiple times from multiple people. We laughed it off as odd but it was more amusing than annoying. 6/10
C: Entertaining service – Madelaine did a great job but as the night went on her fellow staffers did their best to confuse things by doubling up on questions and offers. It was unclear why that happened, and it lead to our Sticky getting lost for a timed delivery with Dessert. A sad outcome given how much good work Madelaine put in and the difference an engaged and attentive waiter makes to the whole experience. The sommelier did make a few great recommendations. The maitre d’ made a clumsy start to the evening by not picking up quickly enough that we were focused on a martini and we wanted someone who knew what they were doing to sort it out for us. Eventually we got the mixologist – who turned out to be pretty good. It definitely felt like this team are still sorting out how it all works… 7.5/10
W: The idea is solid. A nice space for a smokehouse style menu. However, it seems that more thought has gone into the look of the interior than its actual utility for diners. The furniture is nice to look at, great backstory (all made from the same tree blah blah blah) but not nice to sit at and not solid at all. The staff seem to have a confused flow to service and the bar being in the basement makes things disjointed when key staff are upstairs/downstairs. The menu is nice enough but seems to be not in its final form. I hope they find their way as its got exceptional bits to it…..they just need to bring it all together. 7/10
C: A super attractive veneer on everything but one step below the surface there’s some polishing to do. 8/10
W: Trekked back downstairs for a boulevardier. Was worth the decent, very nicely done. 9/10
C: Back into the downstairs bar for a boulevardier – no hiccups here...9.5/10