7/23/2017 01:32:00 PM

Syracuse Restaurant & Wine Bar

Syracuse Restaurant & Wine Bar
23 Bank Place
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9670-1777
Syracuse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

I just realised I've barely done any restaurant posts this year! Looking back at this year's posts, I've obviously been cooking a lot, but in addition I haven't been seeking out high-end restaurants as much as I used to - perhaps it's age, or general lethargy, but I've been less interested in upmarket restaurants, preferring to stick to more casual places or old favourites. However, when my friend Alaina suggested dining at Syracuse, I was definitely keen!

"I've wanted to go here for years. Is it too decadent to suggest for our upcoming catch up?"

Hah! I don't think I've ever said that anything is too decadent.

I looked up Syracuse's menu online, and quickly realised - whuuuut - that super chef Philippa Sibley is the head chef there now! (And has been since May 2016). I know that she tends to move around a lot, but I completely missed the memo that she'd taken on a new restaurant. Bad food blogger!

I've long been an admirer of Philippa Sibley - from her stint turning Il Fornaio into a nighttime dessert bar in 2010, to her year-long run at Prix Fixe in 2014. Prix Fixe was my favourite restaurant that year - I visited four times, and totally loved it! (There was The Whole Hog, An English Midwinter, A Nutcracker's Christmas and Seven Deadly Sins). Leading up to the dinner at Syracuse, Alaina and I were very excited, and I'm glad to say it did not disappoint.

This was my first visit to Syracuse, and I loved the old-school ambiance - soaring ceilings, red velvet banquette seats, lots of wine, decent lighting, and warm, approachable staff. We had a cosy corner table - the perfect spot for good food and good conversation.

I started with an original cocktail - a well balanced and properly sour "CBD Sour", with bourbon and a "float" of pinot noir. It was excellent, and a great, refreshing aperitif to awaken the tastebuds.

CBD Sour - Booker's Bourbon with a float of pinot noir - $19

We definitely wanted dessert (and cheese!), so we skipped entrees and went straight for the mains. The menu reads very much as a Philippa menu - classic European flavours with a strong focus on technique, presented with a touch of whimsy.

Duck Confit "Aux Agrumes", Green Pepper, Fennel - $36

Alaina ordered the duck confit with citrus, and it was gorgeous. The accompanying potato purée was incredibly smooth and buttery, and the duck itself was very tender and flavourful. She's generally not a fan of aniseed flavours (and incidentally, neither am I), but it was cooked until soft, and had a mild, rather than overpowering, flavour.

Risotto "Verdant", Bourguignon Garnish, Nettles, Truffle - $39

I'm notoriously indecisive, and was having a tough time deciding between the risotto and the osso buco with ricotta gnudi. (How good does that sound?) However, I do love nettles, and when our waitress explained that the Bourguignon garnish included snails, that sealed the deal. I'm glad I chose this, because it was delicious! The risotto itself was all'onda (in waves, or flowing) with the rice grains cooked just right - slightly toothsome but not chalky at all. And I loved the garnish of little pancetta cubes, snails, and teeny-tiny mushrooms. To match, the sommelier recommended a glass of 2006 Manzanos 'Reserva' Tempranillo Garnacha, which went down a treat.

At the start of the evening, our waiter explained that they had a special cheese course available. We were already sold with the first words of his description, but every additional word just made it sound better and better! It was a triple cream... Brillat-Savarin... with truffle slices... served with toasted house-made brioche. Amazing! Done! Get out of my dreams and onto my plate!

Cheese course: Truffled Brillat-Savarin with house-made toasted brioche

We also splashed out on a glass of champagne each, because, you know, decadence! It was pretty damn heavenly.

And finally... dessert! We chose to share the Million Dollar Jaffa, a little stack of dark chocolate mousse, orange crème caramel, crisp almond biscuits and a disc of caramelised white chocolate.

Million Dollar Jaffa - Orange Crème Caramel, Dark Mousse, Caramelised White Chocolate - $22

On reflection, I think perhaps this dessert wasn't supposed to be presented at such a jaunty angle - the top two layers fell over shortly after it was placed on our table. But not to worry, because the flavours and textures were just perfect.

I'm not really into jaffa, but based on previous experience with desserts at Prix Fixe, we were confident that any of the desserts would be good, even if they included flavours that we don't usually like. And we were right! This dessert was delightful. The almond discs (like florentines) were perfectly crisp, and both the mousse and the crème caramel had a lusciously smooth texture. I'm also a big fan of caramelised white chocolate, so I saved some for last and savoured it. Fabulous.

We loved Syracuse, and I'm already plotting my next visit there! I can't believe that this place has flown under my radar for so long. Despite being a high end restaurant with an extensive wine list and high-quality cuisine, the atmosphere is relaxed and it's quite low key. I think it would be perfect for a date night, or any time when you just want to enjoy some good food and wine.

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My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.