But there's no point in crying over spilt milk. As the menu was for the most part similar to the one had by Fatbooo, I refer you to his post for far better quality pics to up the drool factor as you proceed with this love letter I now compose to The Estelle Bar and Kitchen in Northcote.
The occasion was M's birthday and I had booked a table for Saturday night well in advance for the second seating at 8.30 (god I hate this 2 seating BS). Deliberately starving ourselves during the course of the day we opted for the 7 course Chef's tasting menu (you have a choice of 5, 7 or 9) with the Classic Wine matching.
After checking up on our dietary requirements and reassuring us that the 7 whites, one red and one dessert wine would only amount to 3 and a half glasses (we drove), we sat back in the slightly stultifying heat and waited for the night's comestibles to begin.
It started off with a trio of starters. Something called a Sardine Fossil served with a yoghurty mousse that was oddly sweet. The Sardine Fossil is a sort of fishy cracker much like your asian Prawn cracker, but slightly more sophisticated (or as we say in Singapore - high class!). The Fossil itself was delicious, but the mousse took a bit of a back seat to its salty fishy crunch ... and I haven't quite decided whether this was complimentary or rather superfluous.
The chickpea fritter with Olive salt, on the other hand, was all sorts of amazing and easily the best of the starters.
We made the mistake of not saving the Melon sponge (in an edible gelatin wrapper) till the end, as it would have been the ideal palate cleanser.
Our first half glass of wine for the night was a 2011 Bannockburn Sav Blanc from Geelong. We are not Sav blanc drinkers but the buttery and honey overtones in this wine were amazing. And it developed even more complexity with the next course served - Heirloom Beetroot and Goats Cheese in a Lavoche (sweet french biscuit) and black sesame fake ash coating. I don't do beetroot, let me just say first up. But I did beetroot here!! And the Goats cheese was out of this world. (you're going to have to put up with my struggle at finding alternatives to "amazing", "wonderful", "delicious" ...)
The next glass we had was a 2010 Henty Farm Chardonnay from Henty Victoria. A rather delicate white but again with those amazing buttery overtones that all good chardies have. Unfortunately this was marred by the slight misstep which was the next course - Tuna Sashimi in a toasted Quinoa crust with horseradish and a Red Cabbage Gazpacho ... yes you read that right ... a red cabbage Gazpacho. And if your face has a sucking on a lemon pout as you read this, that is a fair summation of what I thought about this dish. The Gazpacho is served in a little glass jar and you're meant to pour this ontop of the sashimi. I had a taste of the sashimi sans gazpacho and it was quite sedate, but once the gazpacho melded with the rest of the ingredients, it was the taste of a Singaporean longkang (i.e. drain). Negativo!!
After clearing the table of its redolent effluence, we were served what was the highlight of the liquid portion of our meal - a 2009 Marques de Alella Pansa Blanca from Penedes, Spain. I'm not really familiar with what a Pansa Blanca is, or what the grape equivalent is in antipodean parlance, but it is certainly a varietal that I will be looking out for in future. It has a sweet citrusy scent and flavour that is at once refreshingly light, and quite richly complex. It went exceedingly well with our next dish - the Baccalao with fennel and lemon air! I love Bacalao ... and this one was super salty and lemony and definitely bears repeating on our next visit.
Our second glass of Chardonnay was from France - Paul Pillot Chassagne Montrachet 'Les Mazures' from Burgundy France. I must admit that one Chardonnay was bleeding into the next at this point in time, but if memory serves me this was another clean white that was the perfect unintrusive foil for the Baby Abalone, soft boiled quail's egg and finger lime immersed in Peking Duck Consomme. On paper, this combination of ingredients shouldn't really work, but in the mouth ... oh.my.god! If I was on deathrow ... nuff said.
Our final main was prefaced by a glass of 2008 Shadowfax Shiraz using grapes from a number of regions throughout Victoria. We barely had a sip of this (yummy btw) before our intrepid dreadlocked sommelier returned with another 2 glasses of the Close du Mont Olivet 'La Sabonite' 2009 Grenache Blend from Southern Rhone, France. Apparently the Shiraz was too strong a flavour for the next course and not a good match. So we scored an extra glass of wine. The next dish to arrive was the Taste of Pork - pork loin, shoulder and jowl served with a nettle puree and Celeriac remoulade. The layer of jowl was a revelation, looking like a strip of bacon fat, it was bacony and chewy, almost like jerky and so so ever so yummy!
We were then served our "sweet" wine which was the Carnes de Rieussec 2007 from Sauternes France. I'm not really a dessert wine kinda girl, so I will simply go "meh". But M enjoyed it. The dessert outclassed it on all counts - Fresh Strawberries with Vanilla Cream and Basil Granita garnished with dessicated olives ... I would leave M for this dish if it had a chiselled physique and sturdy thighs! If you wanted to get your leg over on a first date, bring them here and order this. Satisfaction guaranteed!!
Our final dessert wine was the Punt Road Botrytis Semillon 2010 from Riverina NSW. I am a big fan of Punt road wines. There has not been a single bottle that I haven't enjoyed. This was no exception, except Botrytis sounds like a stomach condition. The actual dessert was a Vanilla and Olive Spongecake served with Salted Caramel. And if you want to get a legover me on our first date, serve me salted caramel! Its a pity that the preceeding dish was so amazing, I'm sure this could easily stand as a delight on its own. Delicious, but perhaps not as memorable.
(pinched this photo from http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/wine-and-dine?before=1322419560)
And just because, they served us an extra dessert which they called Coffee and Cigarettes, and which I "lovingly" called Moccona and Peter Jackson's. M enjoyed it.
In his blogpost, Fatboo sums up his evening with this paragraph:
"As we were brisk-walking back to the car in the chill wetness of an incredibly rainy Friday night, fakegf summed up the essence of Estelle perfectly in one simple sentence: "it's so fun and laughter despite being degustation!!". I smiled to myself... in a way, that breathless statement also more or less sums up dining in Melbourne. Grounded, relaxed, tucked-away and delicious."
And I have to agree. Me and M were all smiles and girlish laughter, which was so infectious that it carried over onto the couple sitting next to us and we enjoyed a wonderful conversation with strangers that felt just like old friends. Amazing!