Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Church St Enoteca

527 Church St,
Richmond, 3121 

Often the hardest part of starting a blog entry is the opening. In the case of Church St Enoteca the difficulty stems from the fact that it is a very enjoyable restaurant but seems to lack a wow. Looking at some other reviews of Church St Enoteca it is commonly described as "the quiet achiever" and it is hard to argue against it.

First impression of Church St Enoteca is that it is quiet, clean and classy. By quiet I don't mean empty, just a peaceful atmosphere compared restaurants like the neighbouring Royal Saxon.

Sitting down to our table it was great to see that white linen is not dead, for all the claims that Melbourne is embracing "casual" dining, I still think a dining room that is dressed for the occasion helps to set the right mood.

Going over the lunch menu, it is difficult to go past the two courses with wine for $29.50. I tend to see lunch offers like this as a double edge sword, sometimes they impress enough to go back for a broader dining experience, other times getting the quality and quantity at the price point right is too hard to deliver a fair reflection of the full capability of the restaurant.

Duck ragu with spinach and pecorino romano

The entree of potato gnocchi was a great start, generous chunks of duck meat swimming in a well seasoned ragu matched well with the fluffy gnocchi.

Braised suckling lamb, parmesan crust and set white polenta
Main course of lamb came out and I realized I made a tactical error in ordering, it was a case of déjà vu. While not identical to the entree, it felt familiar, delicious chunks of braised meat in a slightly thinner sauce compared to the entree paired with polenta rather than gnocchi. That said there was nothing to fault, the lamb was cooked perfectly and pairing with polenta is a good choice.

So in this case the express lunch experience was a win and will certainly get me back there, great service, quality Italian food in a great setting. What is there not to like in this quiet achiever? Not much at all!

Church St Enoteca - 14/20.
Church St Enoteca on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Palace

505 City Rd 
South Melbourne, VIC 3205 

It is somewhat fitting that with the departure of Luke Mangan's name from The Palace, that the regally named John King moves in to own kitchen operations. Having worked in some impressive kitchens with the most recent being The Royal Mail Hotel, it looks like this is the opportunity for John King to make a name and reputation for himself in one of the classier gastropubs in town.

First impressions of The Palace would be that the new operators are happy to keep the fitout of The Palace intact, in fact little has changed since my last visit other than the rear wall boarded up whilst the courtyard is renovated

The menu on the other hand has had a significant overhaul and follows a very vague style of describing dishes, some are easy to interpret as to what will arrive, others gave little clue as to what would be presented.

Being in an adventurous mood, I opted for an entree of Pressed Duck, Szechuan plum, coffee crumb, Thai Basil, Lemon Balm. The only thing missing from the plate was a "WIN" stamp. The very generous and well seasoned pressed duck was very tasty and the accompanying plum and coffee crumb helped to balance things out and cut through some of the fattiness. This would easily classify as a main in a lot of restaurants for size and at $21 had a lot going on.

My main course described as Pan seared lamb rump, figs, saltbush, picada, purple congos, yoghurt, port reduction again gave little insight as to what would eventually arrive and the "WIN" stamp needed to come out again. The lamb rump was very rare and a bit gamy which allowed the dish to work with the figs, there was very little to criticize here and like the entree, very generous which meant of course extra red wine to assist.

The only let down of the day was dessert, perhaps I didn't read the description close enough, creme brulee, strawberry, rhubarb generally means one thing, creme brulee with strawberry and rhubarb. Instead I got two small portions of crispy shelled vanilla bean ice cream, scorched strawberries and rhubarb. Overall it was nice, somewhat refreshing unlike the first two courses though, I wouldn't consider ordering again.

So Luke Mangan has left The Palace, the new King of The Palace is set to have a great reign based on this performance.

The Palace - 15/20

The Palace on Urbanspoon

Prawn Star