Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Attica

Attica! I'm finally blogging our visit from September last year. Attica had never been on my personal wish list, however, my good friend Adri really wanted to go, so a few of us decided to take her there as a birthday gift!

Attica
74 Glen Eira Road
Ripponlea, VIC 3185
Ph: (03) 9530-0111
Website
Attica on Urbanspoon

Attica is one of Australia's most celebrated and awarded restaurants, and in 2014 was ranked 32nd on San Pellegrino's list of The World's 50 Best Restaurants. Here's the deal, Attica offers an eight-course degustation menu for $195 per person, with the option of matching wines at $115, or non-alcoholic juice matches for $65. I was driving that night - part of the gift to Adri was my services as a chauffeur - so I went for the juice matches, and ordered a citrus and bitters deluxe as my aperitif.

Citrus & Bitters Deluxe - $8

Sourdough with wattle seed, warm crusty awesome

Attica's sourdough was baked in-house, and had the addition of native wattle seeds. It was served warm, and had a nice crust. You can't go wrong with soft cultured butter and sea salt, but I was bowled over by the macadamia puree. This was a slightly grainy, nutty puree, with the addition of macadamia oil and crisp saltbush leaves.

Soft cultured butter, salt
Macadamia puree, macadamia oil, crisp saltbush leaves

Appetisers

Before we got stuck into the eight courses, we were given a selection of appetisers. To begin, a team of waitstaff brought around a tray of fresh honeycomb...

Honeycomb

...and spooned it into individual bowls over some fresh cheese.

Honeycomb with fresh cheese

Baby corn

I'm used to having canned baby corn in terrible Thai takeaway curries, so it was a real treat to have fresh baby corn. It was very fresh, very buttery and delicious.

Wallaby Pikelets with Davidsonia jam and beer cream

I knew that we'd be getting wallaby pikelets as part of the meal - my boss Andy had been to Attica earlier in the year to celebrate his wedding anniversary, and kept the recipe card for the Wallaby pikelets to give to me.

The vegetarian alternative for the wallaby pikelets was this beautifully presented walnut cream.

Walnut cream

Broadbean Flowers on Yogurt

I love broadbeans, but had never seen their flowers before. How pretty!

And then we moved onto the "proper" courses. As per usual, I went for the standard menu, (as did most of us on the table), whilst seafood-and-rare-meat-avoider Sandra did the vegetarian menu.


First Course
"Snow Crab and Sour Leaves"
Juice match: White Grapefruit

Snow crab and sour leaves

Snow crab and Sour leaves

I really liked this course, with its perfect crab threads and crunchy kernels of roast buckwheat. The vegetarian version (not pictured as it looked very similar), was cauliflower and sorrel.


Second Course
"Salted Red Kangaroo and Bunya Bunya"
Juice match: Tomato and Verjus

Tomato and Verjus juice

Salted Red Kangaroo and Bunya Bunya

Salted Red Kangaroo and Bunya Bunya

The kangaroo dish was also very impressive - it had a very distinctive taste, quite like Chinese fermented bean paste, with soft raw squares of kangaroo. The vegetarian version of this dish was called: "Carrots, Ground Berries and Bunya Bunya" with soft melty eggplant in place of the kangaroo. 


Third Course
"Minted Potato, Medium Rare"
Juice match: Pumpkin and Dark Wattleseed

Pumpkin and Wattleseed

Minted Potato, Medium Rare

The potato was intentionally cooked "medium rare", and was quite firm. I think most of us on the table would have preferred a more traditionally cooked soft potato, but the sauce - a mixture of butter, cheese, and mint - was fantastic! The sweet earthiness of the pumpkin juice matched the potato well.


Fourth Course
"142 Days on Earth"
Juice match: Beetroot and Alpine Pepper

Beetroot and Alpine Pepper

The fourth course was called "142 days on earth", which refers to the age of the cabbage. This makes me wonder if Attica have a garden somewhere with rows and rows of cabbages, each planted one day after the other, so that they can be harvested on the 142nd day in time for the dinner service...

At any rate, the dish was presented very impressively. Large red cabbages were brought around, each housing small wedges of braised cabbage, which were individually served up to each diner, and smothered in a spicy sauce.

Red cabbage, sauces

Emu

The omnivores received emu meat, in a spicy Thai-style broth (I think I detected a hint of lemongrass), whilst the vegetarian version was made with butter beans.

Butter beans

Fifth Course
King George Whiting in Paperbark
Juice match: Cold-Smoked Granny Smith Apple

Cold-Smoked Granny Smith Apple

The fifth course was my favourite of the night - King George whiting served in paperbark. The smoky flavour from the paperbark was echoed in the matching cold-smoked granny smith apple juice. Others at the table thought the apple juice was overly smoky (it was a very strong smoky flavour), but I really liked it.

King George Whiting in Paperbark

King George Whiting in Paperbark

At first I thought the whiting was covered in garlic, but it was actually finely chopped pearl oyster meat. Delicious.

The vegetarian dish for this course was quite different from the omnivore dish: toasted wild mustards with corn broth. The broth had a pure corn flavour, with a mild spiciness from the various mustard leaves.

Toasted Wild Mustards with Corn Broth

Sixth Course
Pork, Rotten Corn and Lemon Aspen
Juice: Sweet fennel

Pork, Rotten Corn and Lemon Aspen

The sixth course was perhaps the most conventional course of the evening, but no less enjoyable for that - pork loin, with corn sauce and broad bean leaves. The pork tasted, to me, like kassler (i.e. bacon steak), and whilst the "rotten corn" sauce had an intimidating name, it had a mild taste. The juice match, however, just did not work for me. I found the sweet fennel juice very aniseedy, and I found that the strong flavour overpowered this dish.

The vegetarian course here was called "Ella's Mushrooms", inspired by Chef Ben Shewry and his daughter Ella's mushroom foraging expeditions. I'm sure there were other mushrooms in there too, but I remember it contained raw button and pine mushrooms, with a little baby thyme.

Ella's Mushrooms

After this, we were led out into the garden for a little break, where we got to see the kitchen garden. were given billy tea (apple tea, I believe, brewed with salt), and "Anzac biscuits", which were delicious little marshmallows with pieces of Anzac biscuit inside. It was nice to have a diversion from all the sitting and eating!

Billy tea!

Anzac Biscuits

Billy tea

Seventh Course
"Pears and Maidenii"
Juice: Beurre Bosc Pear and Ginger

Pears and Maidenii

The first dessert was a pear and Maidenii ice-cream, with pretty petals and miniature pears on top. (That's right, miniature pears! How cuuuute!) I'd never heard of Maidenii before, but I've since learned that it is a type of fortified vermouth. The ice-cream was made with liquid nitrogen (you could see the dessert kitchen from where we were sitting), and was incredibly cold and smooth! I enjoyed this course a lot.


Eighth Course
The Industrious Beet
Juice: Slightly Bitter Orange and Mandarin

The name of the second dessert, "The Industrious Beet", doesn't refer to beetroot, but rather sugar beet, a plant whose root contains a high concentration of sucrose and is grown commercially to produce sugar. 

The Industrious Beet

This dessert comprised Italian meringue, whipped cream, mandarin sorbet, compressed apple, dehydrated mandarin segments and a mandarin sauce - kind of like a very high end Eton mess.

The Industrious Beet with Mandarin Sauce

I enjoyed the different flavours in this dish, especially the freshness of the compressed apple and the zingy mandarin sauce.


Petit Four
Pukeko Eggs

Both desserts were on the sour side, and we were craving some sweetness to signify an end to the meal. These white chocolate eggs, filled with salted caramel, were just perfect.

Pukeko Eggs

And that was our meal at Attica! The service was attentive and efficient, if a little formal. I thought that the food, on the whole, was excellent, with a lot of different flavours, colours and textures going on. The juice matches were a nice idea, and I think it's great that something interesting is offered for non-drinkers, but many just did not work for us. I also found that the dominant flavour in many of the dishes was sour, and with all the sour juices it ended up being quite an acidic meal overall.

Importantly, Adri enjoyed her birthday dinner! A lot of my friends have asked me if I thought the meal was worth it - $195 per person is not cheap - and my answer to that is yes. It was clear that a lot of work had gone into the dishes and the menu, and as a customer, it was fun to see the menu unfold as the evening went on. I hadn't read a lot about Attica's menu before this dinner, and found the progression of dishes inventive and delightful.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Espresso Martinis

Espresso Martini, Tiramisu

Ta-dah! Espresso martinis! When I made the tiramisu, I remembered just how much I love the combination of rich coffee and alcohol, so I thought... why not whip up some espresso martinis to go with? We had all the ingredients anyway, and I don't really need an excuse for caffeinated alcoholic deliciousness. Here's the recipe - super easy! Enjoy.

Espresso Martini
Sarah's version of a classic recipe

Ingredients
30 millilitres espresso
30 millilitres vodka
30 millilitres Kahlua

Method
Pour all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a coffee bean or a dusting of cocoa powder to serve.
Serves 1
And while we're here, I thought I might take the opportunity to trawl through my backlog of photos and share some photos of espresso martinis I've had over the past couple of years. I like having them if I'm going out on a Friday night after work for a little pick-me-up. Yay!

Espresso Martini - vodka, coffee & kahlua
The Bottom End, November 2012

The Vodka Pour Over - Belvedere vodka, single estate coffee
The Lui Bar, February 2013

The Vodka Pour Over - Belvedere vodka, single estate coffee
The Lui Bar, February 2013

Gentleman’s Espresso - Single barrel Tennesse whiskey, five spice syrup and fresh espresso - $18
Spice Temple, January 2013

After Midday Espresso - Vodka, chocolate liqueur, Kahlua, cold drip espresso - $19
Charlie Dumpling, February 2014

Espresso Martini
No. 8 by John Lawson, April 2014

Martini al caffe - freshly brewed espresso coffee, vodka and kahlua - $16
Tutto Bene, March 2015

Espresso Martinis (and an Aperol Spritz)
Heart Attack and Vine, March 2015

Espresso Flip - garnished with BellaVitano Espresso Cheese - $18
Milk the Cow, March 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rick Stein at Bannisters, Mollymook

The View from Rick Stein at Bannisters

On our recent lovely weekend in Jervis Bay, the culinary highlight of our trip was dinner at Rick Stein's restaurant, at Bannisters Hotel in Mollymook.

Rick Stein at Bannisters 
191 Mitchell Parade
Mollymook Beach, NSW 2539
Ph: (02) 4455-3044
Website
Rick Stein at Bannisters on Urbanspoon

We hadn't planned on doing any blow-out dinners on our weekend away - indeed, I hadn't done any research and didn't even realise that Bannisters was near Jervis Bay. Whoops. However, as we were driving to our accommodation from the airport, I saw a billboard for Rick Stein at Bannisters and was super excited to realise that we could visit it on our weekend!

I was nervous suggesting the restaurant to Kimba and Sandra - neither are big seafood eaters, the restaurant was a good hour's drive away from our accommodation, it is quite expensive, and reviews had been mixed - but they were both up for it, so I rang the restaurant and booked a table for the final night of our trip. Luckily we all ended up really enjoying the meal and the restaurant. Hooray!

So, Mollymook. It's a small seaside town about three hours' drive south of Sydney on the south coast of New South Wales. Driving there, it looked perfectly pleasant and suburban, reminding me of Donvale or Glen Waverley here in Melbourne.... until we drove up a hill and saw the gorgeous blue water. I can definitely see why Rick and Sarah Stein decided to open a business here!

Mollymook

The restaurant is part of Bannisters Hotel, and you have to walk through the guest lounge to get to the restaurant itself. When we arrived, there happened to be an elderly gentleman guest in a (slightly open) bathrobe walking through, which led to me very pointedly staring at the wall and saying a little too loudly: "Oh what lovely tiles!" Tee-hee-hee.

Guest Lounge, Bannisters

I thought the views from the restaurant were just stunning.

The View

And this next view really took my breath away!

Veuve Clicquot Bar - if anyone needs me, I'll be here

Rick Stein at Bannisters

We started with a tasty selection of olives, and bread baked in-house.

Olives

The bread was fantastic! Warm, crusty, chewy, delicious. I loved slathering on the soft salted butter and the soft seaweed butter. So much umami richness.

Housebaked bread, butter, seaweed butter

Kimba's entrée was a dish of raw tuna, marinated in passionfruit, lime and coriander. The tuna was incredibly fresh, and Kimba loved the unusual addition of tart passionfruit to a ceviche-style dish.

Marinated tuna with passionfruit, lime and coriander - $26

The zucchini flower entrée that Sandra ordered was very tasty - crisp zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella, Parmesan and pine nuts. It also happened to be the only vegetarian dish on the menu (excluding sides) - Rick Stein at Bannisters is definitely a seafood restaurant - so if you're dining with vegetarians I'd suggest ringing the restaurant first to make sure they can accommodate.

Tempura zucchini flowers, with parmesan, mozzarella pine nuts, and basil oil - $20

I absolutely loved my entrée, the oysters Charentaise. These were five freshly shucked oysters, served with two spicy sausages. (Incidentally, it looks like they've reduced the portion size - I saw on Lorraine's blog last year that it used to be half a dozen oysters and three sausages for the same price). 

The sausages were extremely juicy, and very spicy, even by my chilli-fiend standards. I thought they were fantastic! Even now I can still remember the taste of those sausages - just gorgeous. I generally prefer oysters natural (I think mornay or Kilpatrick tend to overpower the oysters), but these were a great compliment.

Oysters Charentaise - A seemingly odd combination - freshly opened oysters with some hot, spicy sausages. The idea is that you eat an oyster, take a bite of the sausage, then a good gulp of cold white wine. $27

Sandra and Kimba both went for the only non-seafood option as their main, this glorious behemoth of a steak. It was a 450 gram rib eye, served on crispy potato squares, with a deeply savoury onion gravy. So delicious! That sauce was seriously good!

450g Cattleman's cutlet from Milton - served with sauteed potatoes, and a salad of cos lettuce, shallots, cream and Cabernet Sauvignon vinaigrette - $48

Each steak also came with a generous "Cheesemaker's salad" on the side - cos lettuce with shallots and a creamy Cabernet Sauvignon vinaigrette.

"Cheesemaker's Salad" - cos lettuce, shallots, cream and Cabernet Sauvignon vinaigrette 

I ordered Bannisters fish pie as my main - a very luxe dish, full of prawns, fish, scallops, and mushrooms, smothered in a creamy truffled white sauce and gratinated with crisp bread crumbs.

Bannisters Fish Pie - Salmon, blue eye trevalla, snapper, scallops, mushrooms and prawns in a creamy fish velouté sauce with black truffle. Gratinated with breadcrumbs and parmesan - $44

If I'd realised that the salad accompanying the steaks was so generously portioned, I would have skipped ordering a vegetable side for myself. Neither Sandra nor Kimba could finish their salads and we were happy to share. However, I still enjoyed the pan-fried zucchini with chives and olive oil. A simple combination of flavours.

Pan-fried zucchini with chives and olive oil - $7

I could apply the same logic to the french fries and say we didn't need them, because the steaks came with crunchy potato cubes, but we ended up eating them all anyway. Because, you know, fries!

Shoestring fries with rosemary salt - $7

I never order pavlova at restaurants, seeing as I make it so often at home, but we all just wanted a little something something sweet to finish off the meal, and thought a little pavlova shared between the three of us would be just right. And it was!

Pavlova with vanilla bean whipped cream, kiwi, strawberry and passionfruit - $14

And that was our meal! Very delicious, but quite expensive, and being a Sunday we were also slugged with a $10 per person service fee. I wasn't thrilled with the service fee, but I think such fees are standard in the ACT and NSW (?), and suppose that high prices are to be expected when you've got a celebrity chef name, high-quality and locally sourced ingredients, and a lack of other fine dining options in the area. Overall, we really enjoyed our dinner at Rick Stein at Bannisters, and I'm so glad we made the effort to drive out for a little Treat Yo Self dinner! The service was friendly and prompt, and overall we had a really fun evening.