March into Merivale and especially the $33 Meal Deal ($33 for one course and a glass of premium NZ wine or beer) is a pretty cool idea; a great way for diners to get to a lot of different (Merivale) restaurants without huge expense, and make restaurants like three chef hatted est. more accessible to everyone.
Last year est. offered a $33 1 course, $50 2 course or $65 3 course menu. This year when we arrived we discovered that est. was again offering a two course ($55) option in addition to the standard one course, even though it did not seem to be advertised anywhere else.
Along with the $33 Meal Deal menu we were given the full menu to have a look through and possibly select a dessert to finish off the night. Upon opening the cover something strange happened, Lex almost in a joking manner said we should just go all out and order the tasting menu. That was it really, Lex, Mr O and myself had decided to skip the March into Merivale menu and take on the tasting menu. The final formality was asking our waiter if we could deviate from the 1 hour booking and turn it into a 4 hour journey. Lucky for us there was no problem in extending our stay and before we knew it the tasting menu was on its way.
Tasting Menu – $175.00 per person / with matching 75ml wines $280.00 per person / with matching 150ml wines $325.00 per person
- tartare of queensland scallop, preserved lemon, chilled nasturtium soup
(2002 dom pérignon, épernay, france)
- moreton bay bug, jersey – wakefield cabbage, green peas, young turnips, bonito flakes
(2009 vignetti massa derthona, timorasso, piedmont, italy)
- steamed coral trout fillet, shaved abalone, snow peas, black fungi, ginger – green shallot vinaigrette
(2010 wantirna estate ‘isabella’ chardonnay, yarra valley, victoria)
- roasted duck foie gras, fresh plum, brioche, cinzano bianco
(2007 marcel deiss pinot gris, alsace, france)
- juniper crusted venison, baby beetroot, venison boudin noir, radish, cocoa pepper
(2007 ceretto ‘zonchera barolo’, piemonte, italy)
- pan roasted lamb rib eye, glazed celtuce, ajo blanco, rolled dates, fresh fenugreek
(2004 crawford river, cabernet sauvignon, henty, australia)
- rhubarb sorbet, cucumber, rhubarb, hendricks gin gel
- passionfruit souffle, passionfruit sorbet
(2009 telmo rodriguez ‘mr’ moscatel, málaga, spain)
- mascarpone citrus cannoli, macerated summer berries, pink grapefruit sorbet
(2007 domaine des baumard côteuax du layon ‘carte d’or’, loire valley, france)
- coffee, tea, tisanes and mignardises
tartare of queensland scallop, preserved lemon, chilled nasturtium soup.
2002 dom pérignon, épernay, france.
The night began with a selection of bread (of which I predictably went for the sourdough), some super creamy butter and our first matched wine, a lovely glass of 2002 Dom Pérignon. I do admit I love my bubbles and this is one of my all time favourites. Shortly after our champagne was poured the waiters appeared and we were presented with the first course and treated to their synchronised serving.
A tartare of sliced Queensland scallops, dressed with preserved lemon and finger lime, sprinkled with some puffed rice and accompanied with a chilled nasturtium soup. The nasturtium soup on its own was ever so grassy but when combined with the sharp lemon and lime dressed scallops a great balance was found. The scallops were so delicate and had a texture between raw tuna and raw squid. They were not a big bold flavour but the freshness shone through I was pleased to have eaten them this way.
moreton bay bug, jersey – wakefield cabbage, green peas, young turnips, bonito flakes.
2009 vignetti massa derthona, timorasso, piedmont, italy.
When we had finished our first course and our table was cleared the second wine arrived. It was quite an unusual varietal called a Timorasso. It was great with nice peachy and nutty tones and a great minerality. After a few minutes of conversation while sipping our wines the Moreton Bay bugs arrived and along with them an intense bonito aroma filled our senses.
First impressions were that the bonito was going to be way too overpowering for the bugs, but we should have known better than to judge before we had tried it. The bonito broth was so smooth and oh so buttery, it perfectly matched the Moreton Bay bugs, which themselves were wonderfully creamy and buttery, an absolute treat. With the fennel tops imparting light aniseed flavours and young turnips, onions and radishes scattered around, this dish was perfection on a plate.
steamed coral trout fillet, shaved abalone, snow peas, black fungi, ginger – green shallot vinaigrette.
2010 wantirna estate ‘isabella’ chardonnay, yarra valley, victoria.
We were amazed at the previous dish and eagerly awaited the next. Our third wine arrived and again we were treated to a lovely drop, a Chardonnay with ripe stone fruit touch on the nose giving way to a toasted nutty textural finish. The steamed trout arrived and looked amazing sitting on a bed of shredded snow peas and in an aromatic ginger and green shallot vinaigrette.
The fish was juicy and firm and like the scallops a real subtle flavour. Unexpectedly it was the vinaigrette that stole the show, we could not believe how incredible the flavour was. Aromatic ginger, soft shallots, what seemed to be white wine vinegar and olive oil were meant to be together. Combined with the textural deviations of black fungi, shaved abalone and the almost chewy skin of the trout it just all went so well together and complemented the trout in every way.
roasted duck foie gras, fresh plum, brioche, cinzano bianco.
2007 marcel deiss pinot gris, alsace, france.
After three amazing seafood courses it was time for the roasted duck foie gras. To accompany the foie gras was a Pinot Gris, which from the menu seemed like a curious match but upon tasting the honey like sweetness with a high acid and mineral finish it made more sense to us.
The roasted duck foie gras was pillowy soft and ever so creamy while the Cinzano Bianco gel was refreshing and sweet. The plums gave a lovely acid hit which was enough along with the wine to keep the richness of the liver in check. This was my first real taste of foie gras in pure form and I am pleased it was so impressively done.
juniper crusted venison, baby beetroot, venison boudin noir, radish, cocoa pepper.
2007 ceretto ‘zonchera barolo’, piemonte, italy.
For the meat course there was a choice of venison or lamb. I can never say no to venison as it is such a lean rich meat and when cooked well comes only second to a great steak for me. Naturally the matching wine for the venison was a Nebbiolo. It was rich with berries and had quite a tight tannic structure and went superbly with the venison.
The venison itself was cooked impeccably and was meltingly soft to eat, the juniper crust imparted its unique flavour and the boudin noir added a real richness to the dish. I loved the baby beetroots as they match venison so well, while the cocoa pepper was quite a strange component and I was not fully convinced it suited the dish as well as it should have.
pan roasted lamb rib eye, glazed celtuce, ajo blanco, rolled dates, fresh fenugreek.
2004 crawford river, cabernet sauvignon, henty, australia.
Lex chose the lamb over the venison as beetroot and boudin noir are not her favourite ingredients. The lamb looked amazing and tasted even better, it was so tender and the fenugreek/cumin spice crust was subtle enough to let the lamb be the hero. The celtuce was a very strange new vegetable experience reminiscent of endive with a somewhat bitter taste and a texture between celery and cucumber. The Cabernet Sauvignon wine match for this dish was spot on, it had quite a mild tannin level with big berry fruit flavours yet it didn’t overpower the lamb.
The option of a cheese course was offered to us before moving on to dessert, and while we did take the time to look over their selection and almost come to an agreement of a few cheeses to share, in the end we decided to skip the cheese and move straight on to the sweet stuff.
rhubarb sorbet, cucumber, rhubarb, hendricks gin gel.
As a bit of a palate cleaner we were treated to a rhubarb sorbet with cucumber and Hendricks Gin gel. It seemed quite an odd combination but it all worked quite well. There may have been a little too much cucumber for Mr O and I but Lex just loved it. It was very refreshing and quite an interesting dish.
The last time we had a passionfruit soufflé was at Guillaume at Bennelong and it taught us something worthwhile. The lesson learnt was simple, after enjoying a degustation/tasting menu steer clear of a passionfruit soufflé. Why? It is just way too sweet a way to end a lovely meal. We’ve had friends who have tried passionfruit soufflés at est. & Rockpool say the very same thing, the flavours are just too big to finish on. With that in mind we all opted for the citrus cannoli.
mascarpone citrus cannoli, macerated summer berries, pink grapefruit sorbet.
2007 domaine des baumard côteuax du layon ‘carte d’or’, loire valley, france.
To go with our dessert was a wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes, it had a lovely sweet textural mouth feel but a light dry finish, it was quite a marvellous wine. When the cannoli arrived it was the perfect quenelle of pink grapefruit sorbet that caught my attention. It looked almost too good to spoil, but it was there to be eaten so I dove in and found it to be bitter and sour with Campari overtones. The cannoli itself had to be the thinnest any of us had ever seen before yet the were ever so crunchy. The mascarpone flavoured with citrus was gorgeous and it all went so well with the mix of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. Such an awesome dessert to finish with.
coffee, tea, tisanes and mignardises.
We had almost finished the est. tasting menu and all of us were completely impressed once more with how superb the food, staff and atmosphere was. Of all of the places I have ever dined nothing compares to the unique style of est.’s service, it always impresses me watching the synchronised serving, it may be very old school but I love it all the same.
As is the fine dining way we finished up with coffee and mignardises (also known as petits fours). Macchiatos all round was the order and before long our coffees arrived and we were presented with two plates of mignardises. Once again it was time to fight over the selection.
The choice was: lemon & poppy seed macaron, dark chocolate and passionfruit truffle, passionfruit marshmallow, olive oil and vanilla bean jelly, dehydrated raspberry financier and a chocolate and caramel truffle. Right away it was apparent that there was going to be some tension with our choices. Mr O jumped right in on the passionfruit truffle and it was left to Lex and I to battle over the last one. Luckily our fantastic waitress saw our dilemma saved the day by having a third plate brought to our table.
Crisis averted we were able to find that each of the tiny, bite-sized desserts had a redeeming quality. The macaron was wonderfully lemony and refreshing, the passionfruit truffle was indulgent and intense, the marshmallow was soft and creamy, the jelly tasted of pure vanilla goodness, the financier was almondy and fluffy and the chocolate truffle was just a big hit of chocolate.
One last round coffees were ordered and once they were finished it was time to leave. Our plan for a quick one hour sample of est. had turned into an amazing four hour adventure and all of us loved every single minute of it. I was glad that we had chosen the tasting menu and I was impressed even more that est. was still able to live up to my expectations the third time around.
Level 1, 252 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 3000