While dining at maze and chatting with our waiter about what we had planned for our little adventure in Victoria, he immediately suggested Loam as a ‘must’ on our itinerary. We knew only a little about Loam but had vague recollections of the ‘no menu’ philosophy. Sadly we really didn’t know if and when we would be able to make it an hour and a half south of Melbourne to dine at Loam and left it at that.
Then when checking out of Merrijig Inn and chatting with Kirstyn, she was also of the opinion Loam was a ‘must’, but having just attended The Age Good Food Guide awards the prior Monday where Loam received the ‘Best New Country Restaurant’ award she thought our chances of getting a table were slim. Without hesitation she picked up the phone and made a call to Astrid at Loam in the hope of finding us a table. Thankfully she was able to get us a booking for lunch later the following week. Ever so grateful for Kirstyn’s generosity as well as her lovely work taking care of us in the restaurant and for our accommodation we penciled in the date, and headed back to Melbourne.
Over the week in we spent more time reading about Loam and learning of head chef and owner Aaron Turner and his time at Norway’s Noma and at Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca. Knowing more about the ‘no menu’ philosophy and the awards Loam had received we had a great drive down from Melbourne to Drysdale in the Bellarine Peninsula ready to be wowed by the ‘Best New Country Restaurant’ in Victoria.
7 courses – $90.00 per person / with matched wine $160.00 per person
- Sand crab, horseradish, broccoflower, nashi (2007 Château du Cléray Muscadet Sèvre et Maine)
- Blue-eye and its bones, garlic, celery, black turnip (2008 Louis Jadot Mâcon Blanc Villages)
- Mushrooms wild and grown, kale, pine needle yoghurt (2009 Farr Rising Saignee)
- Wagyu rump, hen’s egg, squid, wild garlic (2009 Sorrenberg Gamay)
- Suckling pig, smoked apple, charred leek, fennel pollen (Eric Bordelet Brut Tendre)
- Veal rump, Jerusalem artichoke, milk, cabbage, squid (2008 Paradise IV ‘Bates’ Ford Shiraz)
- Blairliath cheddar, carrot, honey, spiced loaf (2009 McAdam’s Lane Zinfandel)
- Rosemary, thyme, ewe’s milk, blood orange and vinegar [Dylan]
- Mandarin peel, olive oil, coconut, almond (2009 Dr Loosen ‘Dr L’ Riesling) [Lex]
Breakfast radishes, nori salt, sea salt.
Picked straight from the garden with little more than a modest wash these breakfast radishes were a lovely amuse bouche. It was nice to have an amuse bouche that was so simple and presented on such a beautiful piece of slate rather than a plain white plate. Sprinkled with sea salt and the nori salt they were wonderfully crisp and could not have started the meal off any better. A lovely tribute to a dish made famous by Noma where Aaron worked prior to opening Loam.
Sand crab, horseradish, broccoflower, nashi (2007 Château du Cléray Muscadet Sèvre et Maine).
The first course of the degustation was a light and fresh cous cous made from broccoflower (a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower) and was bursting with flavour. The horseradish custard was subtle, the crab shone through with its distinct flavour and the compressed nashi added that little extra sweetness to finish off each bite. We were amazed with how natural and healthy the dish was, we both really loved it.
Blue-eye and its bones, garlic, celery, black turnip (2008 Louis Jadot Mâcon Blanc Villages).
Presented on a lovely dark plate the pan fried blue eye cod looked amazing with a perfect crisp orange skin. It was finished with our waiter pouring a rich roast chicken stock over the fish while he described the course to us. There was quite a lot going on but from the very first bite it was unbelievable, the chicken stock and the juicy fish were a match made in heaven. The powdered bones just melted in my mouth and had quite an intense flavour complimenting the wakame and crisp celery. Both Lex and I were surprised with the combination of fish and chicken being so spot on.
Mushrooms wild and grown, kale, pine needle yoghurt (2009 Farr Rising Saignee).
Aaron presented us with the next course, a mix of mushrooms that had been hand roasted on an open fire and matched with pine needle yoghurt, fresh kale and wild sorrel flowers. The mushrooms varied from quite soft and delicate to the seriously meaty and were all packed full of flavour. Aaron’s ability to pair flavours was once again highlighted with the brilliant addition of pine needle yoghurt to the mushrooms. Another amazing course, we were both excited and feeling the best was yet to come.
Wagyu rump, hen’s egg, squid, wild garlic (2009 Sorrenberg Gamay).
One of the many questions we’d been asked was if we had any problems with eating raw beef. Guessing there may be a carpaccio on the way we were happy to see a steak tartare arrive. Beautifully plated on top of egg yolk which was cooked at 67 degrees for 60 minutes to become a velvety cream like consistency, it was quite a dish to behold. The Wagyu was only lightly seasoned, scraped not minced and had an incredible flavour but when eaten with the egg yolk it took on a whole new life. A marriage of taste that was only then boosted with the punch of the wild garlic flowers. My only issue with the dish was that I ate it too quickly and felt I would never find another steak tartare this good again.
Suckling pig, smoked apple, charred leek, fennel pollen (Eric Bordelet Brut Tendre).
The Age Good Food Guide’s dish of the year for 2010 and quite easily my favourite dish of the year. Pork with apple sauce is such an old and quite simple combination, but Aaron has taken the mundane and created a dish that deserves its title. Perfectly crisp crackling gave way to soft flesh that I was just astonished with. The apple puree was made of pink lady apples that were smoked over branches of olive trees from the grove and the smoke imparted a quality that I felt made the dish. The caramelisation of the charred leak sweetened it so much and it took on a whole new level of flavour. I could not fault anything with the dish and only wished for more.
Veal rump, Jerusalem artichoke, milk, cabbage, squid (2008 Paradise IV ‘Bates’ Ford Shiraz).
Not ones to shy away from food, when offered the option of an extra savoury it was a definite yes. A skin of milk covered the generous portion of veal, and it was adorned with savoy cabbage and drizzled with squid ink contrasting with the white milk skin. A visually intriguing dish with soft and succulent veal really suited to the bed of Jerusalem artichoke it was sitting on. The milk gave a creamy taste whilst the squid ink added saltines a little too strong for my tastes. Nevertheless a top dish and so very different in appearance to anything I had eaten before.
Blarliath cheddar, carrot, honey, spiced loaf (2009 McAdam’s Lane Zinfandel).
Similar to Attica’s Apple & Wheat dessert it was the smell from the spiced loaf wafting over the table that caught our attention. A cheese course or a bridging course from the savoury to the sweet we found it hard to really place the dish. Sweet Dutch carrots against the intense savoury cheddar cheese and the loaf spiced with cardamom, cloves and fresh marjoram sprinkled on top were quite a combination, but a plain cheese with sourdough effort would perhaps have been preferred.
Rosemary, thyme, ewe’s milk, blood orange and vinegar.
Was this a dessert or was this a savoury course? I had flashbacks to sourcedining and the mixing of quite fragrant herbs in a dessert course and was unsure what to expect. Comprised of rosemary panna cotta, thyme granita, ewe’s milk granita, blood orange and a vinegar meringue I was surprised that I didn’t dislike the dish right away. The rosemary panna cotta wasn’t too strong, thyme granita a nice match to both the panna cotta and ewe’s milk, not a big hit of blood orange but still noticeable however what really stood out was the meringue. So astringent, I’m still unsure if I loved it or hated it, but it is definitely one that I vividly remember.
Mandarin peel, olive oil, coconut, almond (2009 Dr Loosen ‘Dr L’ Riesling).
Our final dessert course was presented in an unusual double walled glass with a base of mandarin peel, almond crumble, filling of dried and aerated coconut milk and topped with olive oil powder. Not the sweetest dessert; the olive oil added a complexity to the dish that was hard to miss. Another course where each individual element was quite robust but when mixed a thoughtful balance was found. I cannot fault the dessert in any way we just hoped for a grand finale in the same essence as the ‘Quay 8 Textured Chocolate Tart’.
With just three guys in the kitchen working their magic it was a real eye opener to have food of this calibre arrive on time and perfectly executed dish after dish for the whole five hours we were there. Our waiter was extremely informative and perfectly attentive; never were we unable to catch his eye if we needed anything.
When it was all over and we sat completely satisfied it was an easy and mutual decision to say that Loam was by far the best restaurant we had eaten at in 2010 and definitely our second favourite restaurant ever. Astrid is one of the best, if not THE best Maître d we’ve come across. So friendly, smiley, happy, so eager to please and thoughtful, glad to have a chat, nothing was too big of a drama. The dining room was pared right back allowing us to admire the view and the food, the bathrooms were not overlooked, with Aesop soap and all the little touches. So much more than a lunch, it was a completely wonderful experience.
We are unsure when we’ll next dine at Loam due to the distance but to anyone out there in Victoria, or planning to make the trip south of the border, Loam is a restaurant you need to experience. Thanks to Aaron, Astrid and the entire team, we hope to see you soon.
650 Andersons Road
Drysdale VIC 3222
(03) 5251 1101
Loam Restaurant Website