Racine Restaurant is located at La Colline winery in Orange, an 8 minute drive from the city centre. Shaun and Willa Arantz own and operate Racine, with Shaun heading up the kitchen and Willa managing the business side of things. They’ve been running Racine for close to four years and received their first hat in the SMH Good Food Guide awards 2012. With the 2013 awards being held the day after our visit we were pleased to hear they retained their hat.
Our four days in Orange included a must visit to Lolli Redini and Racine Restaurant. Sunday lunch was booked in at Racine on our actual anniversary. Once I’d made the booking, Willa contacted me to see if we’d be interested in a degustation (which they only usually offer on special occasions – apparently most locals prefer to order a la carte). Well, of course we said yes – what better way to spend our anniversary than a long (boozy) lunch?!
The morning was spent popping in to Factory Espresso for a coffee, drinking cider at Small Acres, then wine tasting at Ross Hill. We arrived at Racine rather merry. Sommelier Louella explained they would just surprise us with dishes, so long as there was nothing we didn’t like or couldn’t/wouldn’t eat. Instantly memories of Loam came back to me. This is my kind of dining.
Jerusalem artichoke soup, nigella seed grissini.
An amuse bouche of silky Jerusalem artichoke soup kicked things off. Creamy and rich, punctuated by hints of chives and rich truffled oil. The house made grissini were some of the finest I’ve ever seen, with a mild peppery taste from the nigella seeds.
Goats curd mousse, celery, onion ash and truffle honey.
2010 Dona Paterna Alvarinho.
The first course was a share plate of goats curd mousse. I adore goats cheese and goats curd, and now I know I love goats curd mousse. Goats curd has a distinct powerful flavour yet the mousse was light, creamy and delicate. A sprinkling of onion ash was a master stroke, truffled honey and celery semi-gel took the dish to greater heights and I could have eaten a bucket load of this. A great combination.
Confit salmon, pickled cucumber, soy and wasabi.
2012 Angullong Sauvignon Blanc.
Salmon and blue swimmer crab greeted us for the seafood course. Dylan started with the confit salmon that was slow cooked until it just melted in the mouth. I was hoping for more of a hit in the wasabi meringue but it was the sesame ‘dust’ and dashi jelly that won me over.
Dressed blue swimmer crab, corn consomme and salmon roe.
2011 Word of Mouth Pinot Grigio.
As Dylan was digging in to the salmon, I got stuck in to the luxurious mountain of blue swimmer crab, piled high in a lake of corn consomme. Pork crackling powder elevated the strong consomme with its rich, bold flavours. I couldn’t help but shamelessly dip the rye bread into the consomme – and yes, it was sensational.
Whole pressed duck (deboned), black fungi, spring onion and buttermilk.
2010 De Salis Pinot Noir.
Following the seafood were two spectacular bird dishes. The deboned, whole pressed duck was presented as a rectangle of glistening, crispy skin enveloping a rich slab of duck meat. The milk custard (buttermilk) and mushrooms tied the fresh broccoli and spring onions in well. And I don’t think you can pair duck with anything but Pinot Noir – the De Salis 2010 was one of the best Pinot Noirs I have had recently, with berries and sour cherries on the nose and a fine mouthfeel.
Roast chicken breast, braised chicken leg and pearl barley ragout.
2005 Hamilton’s Bluff Sangiovese.
I don’t often see chicken on restaurant menus anymore, and no doubt it’s because of the current obsession with pork and duck that seems to be taking over kitchens everywhere I go. But I will say I simply adore a well cooked piece of chicken. Too often it’s overcooked and dry, but a breast has so little fat it needs to be looked after. Poached and pan roasted, this is how chicken should be cooked. Always. The breast was succulent and simply gorgeous. Wholesome, nutty pearl barley ragout, a little witlof and a few dollops of onion cream was all it needed to really sing. I loved this dish.
Beef short rib, kipfler potato, pickled onion and horseradish.
2010 Ross Hill Shiraz.
Racine must be loving their flavoured meringues – we saw a wasabi meringue with the salmon and then the beef short rib was plated with horseradish meringue. It’s a funny thing that I dislike 99% of condiments yet I absolutely adore wasabi… but cannot handle horseradish! Yes, I am odd. Nevertheless, the dish wasn’t just about the meringue. With a good combination of tastes and textures you could really enjoy the purity of the beef, highlighted by each accompanying ingredient.
Seared venison, beetroot, anchovy powder and baby sorrel.
2010 Hedberg Hill Temperanillo.
Finishing off the savoury dishes was the venison. Locally sourced Mandagery Creek Venison was twice cooked while still retaining its pink flesh and tenderness. The earthy beetroot puree threatened to overpower the delicate meat but the dehydrated cabbage was a lovely crispy textural element. But to be honest, the beef and venison couldn’t quite match the duck and chicken, I was still swooning over those birds.
Textures of citrus, olive oil cake, Campari and sesame.
2011 Patina ‘Scandalous’ Riesling.
Moving on to the sweet course, we were presented with ‘Textures of Citrus’ and ‘Apple Crumble’. I’m not sure which one I was more excited about, they both looked stunning. Although the mandarin sorbet was melting, that couldn’t take away from its fresh and powerful flavour. Olive oil cake may sound heavy but there is something about it that is simply irresistible. Similar to a pound cake in density, it’s moist yet not oily, herbaceous and not as heavy as you might think. A ribbon of Campari jelly, slices of blood orange and zingy lime sherbet rounded it off nicely.
‘Apple Crumble’, cheesecake mousse.
Small Acres Poire Cider.
Last but not least was the ‘Apple Crumble’, which I wasn’t sure would have anything on the citrus dessert I’d just reluctantly handed over to Dylan (it’s hard to share sometimes). A little smashed by this stage, I managed to spill my cider all over myself – I’m all class, I know. But let’s not lose focus, the deconstructed apple crumble was out of this world. The apple had been cooked for 12 hours at 52 degrees until you could slice it like butter. Green apple gel spots, apple granita and intertwined ribbons of fresh green apple introduced a variety of textures and intensities of apple which combined with the crumble base and vanilla bean mascarpone to make this one delicious dessert.
Smoked white chocolate fudge / Vanilla financier / Honeycomb.
Though I was absolutely bursting by this stage, I am never one to say no to anything. I started with the smoked white chocolate fudge which was totally weird and kind of freaked me out – I’m just not a fan of smoked sweets it appears. On to the little vanilla financier I went – which wasn’t too shabby, but in all honesty I had saved the best to last and I was not let down. The honeycomb was soooooooo tasty.
A macchiato (beans from Bills Beans, of course) was in order to help me sober up – lucky for me Dylan was DD for the day.
Head chef and owner, Shaun popped out of the kitchen as we were about to leave. And though he was ready to wind down for the afternoon he was more than happy to have a chat with us before he did. It turns out he grew up not far from where I did. He and Willa relocated to Orange and have been at Racine for close to 4 years. He’s a down to earth guy with a passion for locally sourced, fresh produce. His philosophy on food is translated onto the plate – local, sustainable, seasonal. And mighty tasty.
Racine Restaurant is a must for anyone visiting Orange.
La Colline Wines
42 Lake Canobolas Rd
Nashdale NSW 2800
(02) 6365 3275