Ok ... after having had such an amazing time at Estelle's, we were genuinely excited at the prospect of dining at St Crispin's - and we managed to score 2 spots at the bar on a Saturday night at the reasonable seating time of 7pm. After recently being awarded Best New Restaurant by The Age Good Food Guide, we didn't think this was going to be that easy a task.
But on a lovely spring night we wore our loosest clothing to accomodate the eventual culinary bloat and propped ourselves up at the bar ready for our tastebuds to be impressed.
We had already decided on having the Chefs Tasting Menu at a cool $120 a pop, so after reassuring the waitress behind the bar that we had no food allergies either real or imagined, we started off our celebratory evening with bubbles of course - a glass each of NV Guerrieri Rizzardi Prosecco from Veneto, Italy. Not as "extra dry" as it was made out to be, but the fruitiness suited the Amouse Bouche that emerged from the open kitchen in what seemed like no time at all - Black Olive Macarron with Hibiscus Marshmallow (you will have to excuse me with these descriptions - there was too much to take in and I was typing into the phone without the aid of my glasses).
There would have been a time, not so very long ago, when I would have turned my nose up at this post-modern melding of sweet and savoury, but I am chipping away at such prejudice and now actually enjoy having my tastebuds challenged. Besides which, that initial sugar hit developed more complexity with each successive bite. Both M and I did not want the flavour to end. It was a very promising start.
Barely having time to utter more than a few excited sentences to each other about our starter, they were pouring our first proper glass of wine - a 2010 Portuguese White from Alantejo, Esperado Pe Branco Antao Vaz blend, and serving our first proper dish - Wagyu bresaola, shallot rings, purple cauliflower and hay ash.
I'm not entirely a fan of the air-cured beef and the way wagyu has inveighled its way into practically every vaguely beef related dish I find a little tiresome. Partly because I'd be hard pressed to pick between a richly veined piece of wagyu beef and a nice juicy plastic wrapped steak from the local supermarket if they've both been treated with respect and temperance.
Anyhoo, I have to admit that the combination of Wagyu and the Bresaola method, if you may, was apt and provided a salty counterpoint to the richness of the mound of steak tartare underneath. Oh and that Tartare sauce gel - a combination of all the usual tartare sauce flavours, worcestershire, tabasco and olive oil - yum!
Before I go on, make sure that when they ask whether you want bread your answer is a resounding Yes! Otherwise you miss out on the Caramelised Onion and Cream Cheese spread - thats a definite must try in the home kitchen one lazy afternoon.
I was really hoping for the Pullet egg, but next up we got the Spring Vegetable Salad with Cos Lettuce Puree ... so so fresh it was literally raw ... no I mean that, nothing was cooked on the plate. (And right about now there should be that soft sibilant voice of doubt quietly whispering "and you paid $120 for that!") But I say kick those doubting thomas's to the kerb! Because yes yes it wasn't cooked, and i.e. was just prettily plonked on a plate, but those raw peas and shaved zucchinni and asparagus in combination with whatever yoghurty thing that was and the subtleness of the pureed cos lettuce ... it just all worked! (Especially with the little bits of crunchy toast!)
Besides which it needed to be the quiet foil to the show stopper that was our final of the entrees - Atlantic Salmon confit, shaved calamari, oyster,squid ink and saffron. I can even taste it now as I write this description. The confit Salmon was super soft and velvety with a surprisingly fresh taste, but that bed of slippery shaved calarami absolutely made the dish - these were lightly poached so we were informed. The less said about my oyster the better, but it certainly changed the timbre of our Portuguese white. The Squid ink just added to the briny seaside feel of the dish. Order it when you're there.
Thankfully, they gave us a bit of breathing space after this, before Scott himself served the first of our mains - Flinders Island lamb, wild garlic, gnocchi and broad beans. This had a number of different cuts of lamb, shoulder, cutlet and leg - they didn't really do much with it, in fact I'm surprised our cutlet didn't jump off the plate and walk away in indignation, but there you have it. If you're not a fan of lamb, then perhaps this would have been a struggle for you. We love lamb, so it was torture sublime! The wild garlic puree was a revelation ... I've got to get into these unguents! And the gnocchi - perfection.
Our second main was the Swordfish with mashed "some kind or other" potato, crispy whitebait and pickled onion. I'm still trying to figure out what went into the mashed potato, besides potato! It was delicious, and had an extra sort of cheesey nitrogeny earthy hit. The fish was of course cooked just right.
To accompany this phase of the meal, we switched to a red - 2011 Francois Labet Vieilles Vignes Burgundy - a rich complex red, that perhaps our terroir does a little better here than over in its European counterpart. You can be the judge - because as always at this stage in proceedings, one grape blends pretty much well into another.
With another brief pause to gird our loins, it was onto the first of our desserts - Vanilla and White Chocolate Panna Cotta served with mango chunks, coconut foam and ginger puree jelly. You really just have to say Panna Cotta and my pants are halfway down my knees ... but you add Vanilla and White chocolate into the mix, and honey I'm spent even before you've had a chance to unzip yours! This is the rhythm of a great meal - begin with amazing starters to excite the palate, and end with the blingiest final act on steroids so that they leave you wanting more! Is that hyperbolic enough for you? Need I say more about this amazing dish? The proof is really in the pudding here.
The second sweet offering was a bit of a let down after that in some respects, but the chocolate was rich and unctuous and it made your mouth do that aristo pout purse of the lips ... chocolate, earl grey, milk and ginger. M really enjoyed that ginger and milk smear, and the crunch of the chocolate crumble under the earl grey ice cream.
M rounded his meal off with a glass of Laphroag with a tap water chaser! On recommendation of the resident somellier, I opted for a sweet German Rhiesling - Shloss Lieser Rhiesling Kabinett 2011.
According to Mr Somelier, the key word is Kabinett, if ever you are after a sweetish Rhiesling. It wouldn't matter which winery, where the grape is from, and what the price point is, as long as it states Kabinett, you can be assured of a decent drop. And apparently, the maker of Coca Cola was inspired by a Kabinett Rhiesling when he developed the Coca Cola recipe. Fun Fact (?) Perhaps. But lets not try this out at Trivia night anytime soon.
In summation, although St Crispin's offering is slightly more muted than the quirky experimentationat Estelle's, its still an amazing menu nonetheless and well worth checking out. Yes its expensive, but not quite as expensive as some other restaurants dealing in the genre Degustation. Forego that extra daily coffee for about a month and you're nearly there!!