roses luxury
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Rose’s Luxury – Washington D.C

I think my meal at Rose’s Luxury became hands down one of my favourite meals I’ve ever had in the United States. I had read enough reviews to get me all hyped up, after all the current outgoing President, Mr Barack Obama had dined here twice or more. And that man has good taste. But I still wasn’t quite prepared for how much I enjoyed it.

My experience almost wasn’t meant to be as I moseyed to the Eastern Markets early Saturday night in the middle of a chilly February, thinking you know, maybe the internet had exaggerated the lines. I had spent a little too long strolling through Arlington Cemetery in the afternoon and I  had panned to be at the restaurant 30min before it’s opening at 5pm. Arriving at 5:30pm, I didn’t spot the line until I had passed the unassuming facade. Holy shit. I stood at the back of a 25 strong queue, thinking, look I’m one person, usually they can squeeze me in a corner or at the bar somewhere. Fifteen minutes in, I’m cold and tired, so I decidedly approached the front of house outside, with my best “tired, single tourist” routine. It’s a two hour wait he replied, same with the bar on Saturday nights. Yikes, two hours? I was not prepared to wait. So I ended up at the Garrison up the street. Which was superb in it’s own right, that roasted cauliflower dish was killer! The strength of the D.C food scene really surprised me.

With Rose having Sunday off and my last night in D.C been the Monday, I had one more shot at the Luxury. After trying to frantically wrap up D.C’s plethora of museums, it was time once again to see if I could get a seat at the most popular restaurant in DC. And this time I waltzed right into a spot at the kitchen bar. Honestly I’m so thankful for open kitchens and kitchen bars these days, as a nerd there’s nothing better than watching other perfectionists work and elevate their craft.

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The night kicked off with the complimentary house potato loaf & whipped butter. The loaf was for 2+ but they don’t just give you half, if you’re sitting by yourself, no you still get the whole loaf. Brioche like, the bread was soft & pillowy, slightly sweet and went well with the sour whipped butter, sprinkled with fried potato skins. A chef once said, the restaurant is only as good as the bread it bakes. And boy at this point I knew I was in for a treat. My only problem was how many things I wanted to try and the restrictions of my stomach space. Oh yeah and I finished the whole loaf, you don’t waste food that good!

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Oyster with apple and wasabi granita

I usually don’t order oysters, I’m a snob when it comes to seafood, when your parents have owned a fish & ship/Seafood shop for 15 years you get very discerning with seafood in general. But this was a nice aperitif for the palate. The granita refreshing and the oyster was very fresh.

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Pork sausage, Habanero, Peanuts & Lychee salad. 

This was the dish that every damn reviewer/blogger talked about. So I was totally hyped up for itm with some saying that they’d ordered it twice, once for main and once for dessert. I was HYPED GUYS, soooo fricking hyped. The problem with being this hyped is that there was NO way the dish could have met my lofty expectations. The salad of pork sausage, mixed south-east Asian herbs, onion, lychee and coconut cream was delicious don’t get me wrong but coming from Sydney, a city with the best Thai cuisine outside of Thailand, I just felt it needed an extra kick of something. The flavour reminded me a lot of larb type salads but I think it sorely lacked the fish sauce note. I wonder if that’s a type of funk that inner city DC hipsters might not entirely warm up to.

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Confit Goat with BBQ sea island red peas, rice and garlic breadcrumbs

So not only does Rose’s Luxury have complimentary awesome bread, the kitchen also gives every table a free taster dish. I dunno about you but when people provide me with free food they are usually on their way to becoming my best friend. I thought about ordering this dish and I probably should have since it was bloody delicious. The goat confit was super tender, the crunchy beans danced textural salsa with the rice porridge.  “Holy shit YES”, I wrote in my notes. I love been surprised by amazingness.

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Chittara “Cacio e PePe”

Okay so this is where I profess my foodie arrogance and say, look I’ve been to Italy a couple of times, I’ve had some pretty amazing pasta. Last time I was there, I spent 6 days eating my way through Bologna & the Emilia-Romagna region. So I think I know my pasta right? Well, Rose’s Luxury just told me, ‘No, you fucking don’t”. The hand cut Chittara was tossed perfectly in the Cacio e Pepe sauce, it was silky, smooth and perfectly al-dente. But you’re waiting for the elevation right? When hipster fusion gets it right ladies & gentleman, it’s fucking beautiful. It’s like all that self awareness, experimentation, whimsy and taste come into the one entity. So add buttery roasted, charred almost burnt cauliflower, with garlic, sultanas and chilli flakes and suddenly the Chittara becomes the best pasta dish I’ve ever had. Again from my notes, I exclaimed “WOW, WOW, WOW”, like a deranged chihuahua finding pasta nirvana.

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Coconut Milk Ice Cream, Burnt Coconut, Lime & Kiwi

I got the lightest thing on the dessert menu because by this point I was well and truly stuffed (damn you potato loaf!). Unfortunately it wasn’t as light as I would have liked. I thought the burnt coconut and caramel just a touch too sweet and the acidity of the kiwi wasn’t entirely enough to cut through. More lime needed. maybe some lime granita. But look it’s probably more to do with the fact that I had ate everything above.

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Overall the monetary damage was surprisingly light for the amazing experience I had. And oh man, I always appreciate humour on the docket. More comedy and whimsey please!

Rose’s Luxury was a totally BAMF restuarant experience, well worth the trip to Washington D.C.

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Nike Roshe One
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Sole Exploration – Roshe One Knit Jacquard & Internationalist Fleece

After finally clearing out my esoteric sneaker collection in the last couple of months, it was time to delve into some new kicks after a couple of years of self-restraint. In my early twenties I had a great predisposition for crazy colorways. The more neon, patterned & contrasty the better. My bright orange AF1s purchased in NYC was testament to this youthful folly. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you view it) I’ve grown up. I’m all about boring Scandinavian lumberjack  neutrals, natural fibers & leathers now. Oh how disgustingly hipster of me.

But as I try and attempt more walking in my everyday life (don’t worry no fixie bike yet), I needed some low comfy sneakers to replace my ravaged daily pair of Nike Free Powerlines, and potentially in styles which will match my much more minimalist approach to sneakers.

Nike Roshe One Knit Jacquard

Nike Sportswear Roshe One

Really, these are minimalist you say? You’re either lying or blind. But hear me out the tiger like stripes are actually quite muted in real life. They dish a dose of cool urban camo.

Colorway – Bronze/Black/Sail

The GOOD – This is my first pair in the Roshe line, which Nike launched in 2012 as a budget runner next to the Frees, which I’m a huge fan of. Honestly I wasn’t expecting much but I was sort of blown away how comfy these are. The sole is pillowy and cloud like, softer than the Frees but not as unwieldy as I find some Lunar Airs to be. The fit is great and no abrasive bits if you decide to go sockless. Also incredibly good grip on wet ground, on par with Frees. Also I got caught in a rainstorm the first time I wore these and they dried super quick!  I’m definitely a convert to the Roshe line!

The BAD – The Flynit upper is pretty thin and not as supportive as the Nike Free range. You certainly wouldn’t want to  prove your agility laterally in these. Basic walking forward on pavement is what these are made for.
Nike Sportswear Roshe One
Nike Sportswear Roshe One

Nike Internationalist Fleece

Nike Sportswear Internationalist Fleece

I’m usually a stickler for Nike ranges I know and trust. I know how dunks, AF1s, Frees etc fit and look on me so usually I’m wary of venturing deeper into the Nike Narnia… but dude… you had me at fleece.

Colorway – TUMBLED GREY / BLACK / WHITE

The GOOD – FLEECE, grey neutral, super soft and super cool in a classic retro silhouette.  Unfortunately that’s about it…

The BAD – I have so many niggling issues with this pair. They’re not comfort out of the box like the Roshe one’s up top. They have plastic bits which cut through the fleece and give you blisters if you go sockless. And if you have low socks on, the back rides up high and angles and chafs into the back of the ankle. The sole is also slippery in the wet. I have no idea why some Nike soles are like this and others are fine. Why not make them all non-slip? Anyway, I may like them better once they’re fully broken in.

Nike Sportswear Internationalist Fleece

Nike Sportswear Internationalist Fleece

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The Fat Duck, Melbourne

So what’s more apt then pulling this blog out of a long self-imposed haitus than to cover what is possibly the greatest meal I’ve ever experienced. Should this be the last post I make on Not So Lazy Sundays, it surely will go down as the most epic.

Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck was to enjoy a sojourn in Melbourne for 6 months in 2015 as its original premises in Bray gets a much needed facelift. And in true Willy Wonka style the tickets to a much wanted seat at the Melbourne establishment were doled out in a hotly contested ballot at the end of 2014. The competition was fierce with supposedly over 100 000 entries vying for around 4000 spots.

My friend won a booking at the “Chef’s Table”. A singular table of 4 situated right inside the kitchen. At first, I baulked at the $675 price tag. The $525 spot in the dining room was already much more than what you would pay at Bray but once presented with such an opportunity, how could I honestly say no? And surely for a food nerd, the one chef’s table situated in a 3 star Michelin establishment was the be all and end all of all food dreams.

For most of the noughties The Fat Duck was locked in a head to head battle with elBulli to be the shining star of what molecular gastronomy could achieve in the dining world. After winning World’s Best Restaurant in 2005, it was to play second fiddle to Ferran Adria’s Spanish behemoth for four years straight, before dropping to an unprecedented third when Scandinavian foraging suddenly became all the rage at the turn of the decade. Now in 2015, The Fat Duck sits at a lowly 73 on the Worlds Best Restaurants list. However is this an indication of a drop in quality of its food and service or merely has the inventive whimsy of its cuisine fallen out of favour with the new rise of the serious hipster gastronome where foraging, farm to table, and sustainable eating is now all the rage? For me my awareness of good food, and cooking came in the mid-noughties and somehow The Fat Duck and elBulli will always be pinnacle restaurants that I wanted to dine in. Now that elBulli has long closed its doors, it’s down to the Fat Duck to fulfill my degustation dreams of the last decade. Here starts my remarkable culinary expedition on the 24th July 2015.

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The walk to The Fat Duck in Melbourne is a non-elegant affair as you trapeze through the garish corridors and foyers of the Crown Casino complex. A large plaque greets you at first, cutting you off from the indoor pool at the end of the building and the retail outlets adjacent. Surely a restaurant of this stature would be in a more elegant corner, but it’s in a Casino I guess, a location where tackiness is not something easily discarded.

Once inside the restaurant you follow a dimly lit banked corridor, down the proverbial rabbit hole towards multiple LCD panels showing a video of the kitchen at work. Making a right turn at the end of the corridor, a seamless black wall slides open to unveil the dining room. The dining room consisted of luxurious half-moon shaped cream booths and tables covered in the best white linen. A low makeshift bar split the room in two as the far wall opened to a stunning view of Melbourne’s night skyline and the back wall was adorned with a 19 500 piece jigsaw puzzle of Heston and his culinary madness. Every diner will get a piece of the jigsaw to fit onto the wall we’re told, and it’s also the largest jigsaw in the world at this point time we’re later told. Heston does not accomplish things in half measures.

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

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But we weren’t here to check out the dining room. We were here for the kitchen. Navigating back to the reception desk after our dining room tour we were guided through the all-important gateway. Holy shit this is really happening. I’m going to sit down in the kitchen of The Fat Duck and eat my way through a 17 course meal. Surely, surely this is the modern day equivalent of finding the golden ticket?

Unlike the booths of the dining room, the chef’s table is a beautiful oversized lacquered timber, scooped by a leather booth on the wall side and built into the corner of the vast kitchen. There’s not a white table cloth in sight. Four sets of glasses and napkins motioned us to sit in a row along the booth, forcing us to look out from the table directly to the pass and galley of the kitchen. The solid wall on our right separated us from the pastry kitchen and on our left a wall and a set of doors separated us from the prep-kitchen. This WAS to be theatre of the highest order. We were situated in the royal box of culinary delights, ready to observe, to eat, to enjoy the drama and to take in the spectacle.

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The Fat Duck, MelbourneThe view from the Chef’s Table to the pass.

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As our sommelier decanted our carefully chosen bottle of Clonakilla 2013 Shiraz Viognier, our waitress Hannah introduced the head chef for the night, the aptly named Edward Cooke, whom had been promoted from his usual position of senior sous chef, stepping in for Jonathan Lake who had the night off. The old adage of never trusting a skinny chef obviously doesn’t ring true at the Fat Duck, like most of his colleagues, Ed was lean, lithe and quick both in movement and wit. Although it was clear tonight’s kitchen was not to be run by someone versed in the Marco Pierre White/ Gordon Ramsey school of screaming, I gathered, like with most chefs, all it would take would be a glare and a snarky remark from Ed to put the fear of god in you. A trait that was thankfully not evident as he very sweetly presented and explained every savoury dish on the menu to the chef’s table. The kitchen itself is immaculate. It’s members calm, ultra focused and even jokey before the long night. These are pure professionals and we are in very good hands.

fatduck_low (6 of 13)A very relaxed Ed at the start of service.

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

And now onto the most important stuff. The food!

  1. AERATED BEETROOT

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

To be eaten in one bite. Think crunchy a beetroot-macaron containing an essence of beetroot gazpacho with horseradish & mascarpone cream to smooth the finish. Excellent way to be amuse bouched.

  1. NITRO POACHED APERITIFS
    Vodka and Lime Sour, Gin and Tonic, Tequila and Grapefruit

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It only took till the second course for the theatre to start. Made to order at your table. You picked a cocktail flavour out of the three (I picked Tequila and Grapefruit). Hannah our waitress then decanted the meringue from the canister into a ball, poached it in liquid nitrogen, and then infused the scent from the fruit by lighting the peel underneath. You then put the whole thing in your mouth. It’s a light cold puff of a refreshing cocktail leaving you with nitro smoke blowing from your nostrils. A perfect palate cleanser. Can I please have cocktails made this way forever now? Thanks!

  1. RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO

The Fat Duck, Melbourne
A deeply rich, purple cabbage gazpacho is poured around a small quenelle of pommery grain mustard ice cream. The ice cream was silky smooth (more like gelato) with a light kick from the mustard. The gazpacho tasted of intense sweet cold raw cabbage with undertones of umami and a vinegary finish. Compressed cucumber added freshness and crunch at the bottom of the plate. It’s the third course and already we’re starting to wake all the taste buds, cold, sharp, creamy, tart, sweet, savoury, heat… Geezus, just gimme an entire bowl of this soup already and I’m not even that keen on cold soups.

  1. SAVOURY LOLLIES
    Waldorf Rocket, Salmon Twister and Feast

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Starting from the left we have the Waldorf rocket, taking inspiration from the Waldorf salad. This icy pole has a mild walnut top, clean refreshing celery middle and a sweet apple bottom. If more salads were served in icy pole form, I think we’d all welcome more salads in our life.

In the middle we have the Salmon Twister, a long strip of jasmine tea smoked salmon wrapped in horseradish and avocado cream. This was possibly my least favourite of the three. It was perhaps a little too subtle, the tea flavour was unfortunately not really present and sadly the texture was a little one note, but hey, on the plus side it’s the most beautiful out of the three.

Lastly, Feast is like an homage to that all Australian ice cream, the Golden Gaytime. Except, only in the looks department. In the centre we have what is the smoothest chicken liver parfait I could ever dream of eating, covered with a fig and red wine gel, sprinkled with crunchy toasted almonds. It delivers the first food epiphany of the night. We all look at each other across the chef’s table, eyes wide, mouths full of parfait, moaning in mutual agreement. Oh lordy, this is GOOD, it might even be better than a Golden Gaytime. And that’s sacrilegious for an Australian to say.

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

  1. JELLY OF QUAIL, MARRON CREAM
    Caviar Sorbet, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast (Homage to Alain Chapel)

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

A wooden box of moss is placed on our table, on top lie plastic containers holding a thin strip of film, whereby once placed on the tongue dissolves into the essence of woody oak. Hot water is poured on top of the moss covered dry ice, enveloping us in the scent of an old oak forest as we tucked into course number five. Cold caviar sorbet floats on top of the marron cream, covering the jelly of quail, hiding the pea puree right at the bottom. It was a slightly heavy salty start but once I placed pieces of the truffle toast on top of each mouthful, it all made sense. The crunch and lightness of the toast contrasted with the inky heaviness of the cream/jelly. Again you realise why components are put together the way they are. Heston and his band of merry people have perfected each dish. There is always a rhyme and reason.

  1. House bread, butter & Murray River pink salt

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Breaking with tradition in Melbourne, The Fat Duck has started making bread again. And we were all glad because the bread is…EPIC. Made with burnt flour from Italy, the crust is crunchy and fresh but the interior is soft and pillowy. It’s like as if someone made the perfect combination of sourdough and Wonderwhite. The house butter, has a freshly churned sour note and paired with the salt provides an almost uncouth rustic bliss in a restaurant famous for its refined chemistry. It’s just bread and butter right? No liquid nitrogen, no sous vide, no molecular hurdy gurdy? Wow okay then.

SNAIL PORRIDGE
Joselito Ham, Shaved Fennel

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Just as I was enjoying my bread thoroughly, a wild Snail Porridge appeared. It’s a staple of The Fat Duck, and one of the trio of dishes (along with Sound Of the Sea and Egg & Bacon ice cream) to solidify Heston Blumenthal in the annuls of culinary history. For a dish I had heard so much about for so long, I was practically giddy at the sight, clapping my hands like some deranged 12 year old. And boy it didn’t disappoint. Warm and delicate yet oddly hearty, like a good bowl of mum’s congee. The sous vide snails were succulent and the shaved fennel and greenery brought a refreshing crunch. This dish was subtle but in the most beautiful fashion, like somersaulting on freshly prepared lawn on a spring day. I mopped up the last remnants of the green parsley broth with the last corner of bread I saved…it was a perfect morsel.

  1. ROAST MARRON
    Shiitake, Confit Kombu and Sea Lettuce

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

We’re in full flow of the savoury mains now, and here’s a new dish specifically created with respect to Australian ingredients. The delicately sous vide and then quickly roasted marron sits on top a bed of marinated thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms, daikon and braised kombu, separated by a seasoned sea lettuce twill. It’s partnered on the left by a line of caramelised onion with amaranth and sorrel. The dish is finished with dots of black sesame tahini with plum extract. I had to listen back to my video recording of what Ed said just so I could describe exactly what was in this dish.

Why? Well mere words cannot describe the matter of eating this dish. Remember at the end of Pixar’s Ratatouille where the critic, Anton Ego had that beautiful single moment of realisation? Yeah I had that moment. I had that moment every bite I took. I felt like I was hooked on an umami IV. Everything was so intense but then completely balanced by the sweetness of the marron, the onions and tahnini. And that twill… OMG THAT TWILL, package it Heston, I will not eat another chip in my life if I had constant access to a bag of those. The twill gave the dish the texture, the crunch, but unlike most crispy seaweed recipes it didn’t turn into chewy wet mess on the tongue. Instead it just dissolved and left a seasoned vinegary finish. Like a salt and vinegar crisp sent by the gods.

The silence at our table drowned out the cacophony of the kitchen as I’m sure we were all contemplating life, love and the universe in between forkfuls of marron and shitake. With what was to become the second food epiphany of the night,  I honestly felt a pang of depression once I had cleaned the plate. I was left with a new measure for food. A scale of 1 to Fat Duck Marron. It was hands down the best plate of food I’ve ever eaten in my life. It was almost unfair to the rest of the courses to come. And it saddens me that there’s a real danger once the The Fat Duck, Melbourne holiday is over, this dish will never be made again.

Okay enough self pity, the show must go on!

  1. MAD HATTER’S TEA PARTY
    Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Okay so I’m going to put my hand up right now and admit to the fact that I’ve never actually read Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’ve never even seen the Disney film, I have however seen the 1999 NBC telemovie with Tina Majorina and an all-star cast including Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Short, Gene Wilder, Ben Kingsley etc. Okay so that’s probably not something I should admit to, but one should really read Alice in Wonderland before coming to the Fat Duck as forms crucial inspiration for Heston’s dining experience. He likes to celebrate the creativity of the illogical and nonsensical, taking you down into the rabbit hole with him. The Mad Hatter’s tea party consisted of a very upmarket bullion cube in the shape of a fob watch dusted with gold leaf dunked into a teapot of hot water. Once swirled the soup emerges, smelling sweet, salty and heavy. It’s then poured over the mock turtle soup ingredients (inside out egg garnished with tiny enoki mushrooms, cubes of truffle, ox tongue and pickles). Supposedly in 19th century Britain, turtle soup was so popular that turtles became too expensive and thus muck turtle soup was invented. Which ties nicely into the mock turtle character in Alice in Wonderland.

The soup was salty and laden with umami and whilst the egg and other condiments worked well you always felt the this course was more about the spectacle than anything else. But a tea party is not complete without sandwiches and the ones provided were quite extraordinary. Taking inspiration from Mrs Beeton’s Victorian cookbook, toast sandwiches appeared on Top hat decorated tiers. 2 triangles of fluffy white bread sandwiched a toasted triangle of white bread, with cucumber, truffle and egg white mayonnaise. Something incredibly old school, simple and highly delicious. I’ll be trying this one at home.

  1. “SOUND OF THE SEA”

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

This is classic Heston land, essays have probably been written about this one dish alone. It’s all about eating with heightened sensory awareness and I was about to find out whether it really worked or whether it’s just a cheesy gimmick.

Like with the snail porridge, I was practically jumping up and down when the big sea shells with iPod shuffles arrived and we were instructed by Hannah to start listening to the sound of the sea. The earphones go in, and it’s the soothing noise of rolling waves crashing lightly on a beach, garnished with the laughter of children playing, seagull cries and the sea breeze. It was discombobulating at first hearing everything whilst still observing the general commotion of the kitchen. I wonder if those in the quieter dining room would have been more drawn in.

But once the dish was served I didn’t really care, my focus was on all the lovely elements in front of me. The smell of salt water hits you first, your eyes dart around catching the various components. It’s just so beautiful and it looks like your dish just crawled from the beach.

The raw proteins of kingfish, thinly sliced abalone and bonito tasted very fresh but together with the edible sand (tapioca, miso & anchovy), foam (seaweed & vegetable stock) and the crunch of the sea succulents, I literally felt like I had swum out into the ocean and ingested it in a big chunk. I don’t know how to better describe the taste of the dish other than it literally tastes like the various elements of the sea. I liked treatment of the abalone, for me abalone is usually associated with Chinese soups or stir frys, where it can become tough and chewy  but thinly sliced, smoked, almost raw and you can really appreciate the sweetness and delicacy.

Plate cleaned up, earphones out and you feel like you’ve just come back from a beach side holiday, back into the kitchen of a 3 star Michelin restaurant but now with multiple senses irrevocably satiated. In the end I thought the inclusion of the soundscape was completely warranted given the substantial payoff of the food. You realise why this dish is so important to the Fat Duck lexicon. It’s all about the multi-sensory experience, achieved by using multiple molecular gastronomic techniques but also still highlighting top quality natural ingredients.

  1. SALMON POACHED IN A LIQUORICE GEL
    Endive, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Continuing with the theme of seafood, the next plate offered a sous vide salmon covered in liquorice gel, topped with golden trout roe, paired with roasted endive, vanilla mayonnaise, sprinkling of grapefruit kernels and finished with a generous lashing of Spanish olive oil.

I’ve never even thought of sous videing salmon…yet, the texture it evoked was out of this world. Whilst holding its shape on the fork it melted into a buttery finish on the palate but at no stage did it have an overly fishy or oily aftertaste that even raw salmon has. This dish was subtle at the core, which was great because that liquorice gel could have easily overpowered the salmon. What was really interesting was the use of grapefruit. Again not a pairing I would have picked but like so many other dishes presented, often one simple element ties everything together on the plate and just elevates it. The sweet acidic bitter pop of the grapefruit complimented the roasted endive whilst simultaneously contrasting with the salmon and the gel. Another combination that I’ll be trying in my own dishes from now on.

  1. THE DUCK
    Blood Pudding, Chicory and Green Coffee

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

If you have duck in your restaurant name then you pretty much have to serve a duck course right? Well we’re lucky the Australian lamb season had finished up because otherwise this duck course would have been a lamb course.

It started with duck crackers standing in a glass of aromatics. The crackers are made from blended duck with tapioca flour and texturally it was reminiscent of a very thin prawn cracker. Then came the duck. A generous (sous vide then pan fried) strip of duck breast sits on top of chicory stems pickled in green coffee, flanked by sautéed chicory leaves, blood pudding, green coffee pickle juice, roasted onions, pickled caper leaves and a nut encrusted pigeon heart.

The duck was cooked perfect, the skin slightly crisp be not earth shattering. I’m a huge fan of offal and the pigeon heart was amazing. The heaviness of the duck and blood pudding was enlivened by the green coffee and pickles. The third part of the course was the duck cigar. A crisp spring roll shell broke into the smokey duck neck meat steeped in a red wine and plum sauce.

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

And thus ended the savouries and Ed and the main kitchen team’s contribution to our dinner. Here’s a few things to note whilst enjoying a very expensive meal in someone’s kitchen. You can smell everything that’s been prepared, feel the heat coming from the galley, hear what’s been said, not said and various dietary requirements of those in the dining room. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a food nerd there’s no better place to be. But part of me wonders if Chefs ever hold back knowing they’re been watched by customers in the kitchen, now that so many new establishments have these fandangled chef’s tables. Do they feel free in expressing emotion in the kitchen? Knowing that someone might be videoing or taking a photo or relaying a snide remark to the social media? I hope the chefs don’t tone it down for us. But what was nice for us at the table was that it allowed us to be noisy and loose and probably little less uptight than we would have been in the dining room.

Every plate coming back from the dining room passed us, allowing us to see what was eaten and crucially what wasn’t. And what was really surprising was the amount of food which some tables left on the plate. I’m of the notion that if you’ve paid this much for a meal, and it’s taken countless people thousands of hours to perfect, and then they cook it tirelessly and perfectly for you…you better eat the fuck up. It angered me greatly when I saw savoury lollies come back into the kitchen with one little bite taken out of the top and the countless “Sound of the Sea” plates walked passed us with almost everything intact. I think it’s shameful. You’ve come to eat and experience something extraordinary, so eat and don’t waste, even if you’re not quite sure of the flavours just trust the chefs and don’t ever…ever…ask for your duck to be well done.

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Now… the desserts…

  1. HOT & ICED TEA

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

A warm viscous version of the hot tea sits on top of the cold tea. Upon drinking, both the cold and hot tea go in your mouth at once. Perplexing your brain. It’s warm, it’s cold…whoa… The tea tasted citrusy and refreshing and only later on would I figure out what the flavour was. Fun palate cleanser.

  1. BOTRYTIS CINEREA

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Okay are you ready for food epiphany number three of the night? This has got to be singularly one of the most beautiful desserts on the planet. By course thirteen we were already starting to feel the fatigue but when this hit the table (and btw I saw this plated up in the pastry kitchen so it wasn’t totally unexpected) our jaws hit the floor. So many components, where do you even start?

So what the hell is Botrytis Cinerea? Well scientifically it’s a necrotrophic fungus which effects many plant species. However in its benign form it’s better known as Noble Rot, a condition which effects grapes and produces a highly coveted sweet white wine. One of the best known of these wines is the Chateau d’Yquem (which goes for >$300 per half bottle, I checked). And the Fat Duck Botrytis Cinerea is a deconstruction of the particular flavours of Chateau d’Yquem.

And to list just some of the components, there’s the blown sugar grape with citrus blanc filling, milk chocolate grape filled with feuillantine, caramel & popping candy, tart grape sorbet, peach wine gum grape, dusted mini churro, silky grape gel, Chateau d’Yquem soaked raisins, edible soil made from lots of really cool ingredients including Roquefort powder, chocolate and vanilla salt, topped off with crystalline toffee leaves and a golden toffee twist.

And the taste… nothing short of amazing. I tried each component separately and then together with the sorbet, gel and soil. And it’s stunning. Again so many textures and so many senses engaged, sweet, sour, savoury, salty, crunchy, chewy, melt in mouth. If my mind wasn’t blown by the Marron earlier in the night, this would have been the dish to send me to Ratatouille land. I’m so enamoured with this dish that I’m even contemplating buying a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem because that’s probably the closest I’ll come…to eating this dish again.

Supposedly the combined efforts of 8 pastry chefs goes into making this dessert, each setting down one of the key components. And I highly recommend watching Masterchef Australia 2015 finale to see how the final 2 contestants tackled this monstrosity over 5 hours, just to understand the level of complexity of this dish.

My contemplation of whether my $675 was worth it had long vanished by this point of the night but surely, this one dish was already worth a great chunk of that cash. One of my favourite paintings is Bacchus by the great Caravaggio, and in the lower third, he displays a platter of rotten fruit yet arranged with great flair and beauty. And this dish is basically the Caravaggio Bacchus of desserts. Finding beauty, aura & composition from something made out of rotten fruit.

CARAVAGGIO (b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole) Bacchus c. 1596 Oil on canvas, 95 x 85 cm Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence In order to understand the historical position of Caravaggio's art, we have to be aware of his peerless and revolutionary handling of subject matter. This is true not only of his religious themes, but also of his secular themes. His Bacchus no longer appears to us like an ancient god, or the Olympian vision of the High Renaissance and Mannerism. Instead, Caravaggio paints a rather vulgar and effeminately preened youth, who turns his plump face towards us and offers us wine from a goblet held by pertly cocked fingers with grimy nails. This is not Bacchus himself, but some perfectly ordinary individual dressed up as Bacchus, who looks at us rather wearily and yet alertly. On the one hand, by turning this heathen figure into a somewhat ambiguous purveyor of pleasures, Caravaggio is certainly the great realist he is always claimed to be. On the other hand, however, the sensual lyricism of his painting is so overwhelming that any suspicion of caricature or travesty would be inappropriate. Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 2 minutes):Franz Schubert: Drinking song from the 16th century D 847, quartet --- Keywords: -------------- Author: CARAVAGGIO Title: Bacchus Time-line: 1551-1600 School: Italian Form: painting Type: mythological

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

  1. THE NOT-SO-FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST PART I

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Look I’m usually quite disdainful of cereal so it’s hard for me to get too excited about it. The first part of this course comes in the form of Heston’s cereal box, complete with a puzzle piece, for the aforementioned giant jigsaw in the dining room, and a packet of dried carrot & parsnip chips with popping candy. To pour on top is a parsnip milk. It’s all very fun but amounts to not much more than some vegetable chips, sugar and watery milk. Okay the popping candy was novel but I can’t think of an occasional where popping candy isn’t novel. But the actual point of this course is so you can read Heston’s ice cream method on the back of the box. Because that leads us into part II.

  1. THE NOT-SO-FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST PART II

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

So we’re two seminal Heston dishes down already, last one to go. It’s the famous bacon & egg ice cream. I may have let out a little audible squeak of joy, when the copper saucepan emerged on our table. Hannah cracked open the fat duck eggs with the custard for the ice cream in to the saucepan, Miguel, pastry whizz appeared out of nowhere to grind some bacon essence on top. And then the liquid nitrogen went in.

Okay look, using liquid nitrogen to mix ice cream is everywhere now. It’s as ubiquitous as Tawainese fried chicken, bubble tea and Masterchef franchises these days. But can you imagine back in 2005 and been introduced to this? It would have blown your mind. Actually it still kind of blows my mind.

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The ice cream is served on top of French toast with candied pancetta. Did you know this dish pretty much single highhandedly started the bacon for dessert craze? Yeah you can thank Heston next time you find bacon in your apple pie.

It tastes exactly like you would expect. Not very sweet, smokey, bacony, eggy ice cream. The candied pancetta was awesome and the French toast a perfect crunchy, soft buttery accompaniment. So not mind blowing as of yet, but the course also came with a little pot of orange with earl grey marmalade complete with an edible white chocolate lid.

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Okay I’m not that much a fan of marmalade. But remember how everything here has been done with rhyme and reason all night? Well we were instructed to put the marmalade on our plates and eat it together with the toast and ice cream.

HOLY MOLEY!!!! It basically took the dish from 8.5/10 to 13/10. I don’t even know how. I tasted the marmalade on its own…it was really nice marmalade, and the icecream/toast was really nice  by itself…but somehow together. BOOM. I just wished I had more. It was over way too quickly.

The kicker though once I finished, I realised the Hot/Cold tea at course 12 was actually the flavour of the marmalade. Very cheeky and clever tying the desserts together like that.

  1. WHISKY WINE GUMS

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Picture frames were placed in front of us with the gummies shaped like little whisky bottles pressed onto the glass. The gummies were labled 1-5 in order in which to consume. 4 of the whiskeys originate from Scotland with one from Tasmania. And they range from the most mild to the strongest. The ages were also imprinted on the map behind.

It’s such a unique way to foster curiosity and appreciation for something I had very little knowledge about. But it was so easy for your mind to understand whiskey once guided in this fashion. I wasn’t a whiskey drinker at all, but now I totally will be thanks to these enablers.

  1. “LIKE A KID IN A SWEET SHOP”

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

By the time the lolly bags were placed in front of us it felt like the end to a really great birthday party. We’d had a celebrity sighting already in the form of Hugh Jackman & Deborra Lee Furness in the kitchen and somehow the whiskey gums were the closure our palates needed. No further food was consumed as we all decided to pocket the sweet shop bags and maybe share some of the Fat Duck magic with our families back home in Sydney.

The bag contained aerated chocolate with mandarin jelly, apple pie caramel with edible wrapper, oxchoc (wagyu nougat, Guinness and beef caramel) and a white chocolate Queen of hearts card filled with strawberry jam (my definite favourite). Even in minute chocolate form you can sense that Fat Duck attention to detail and whimsy.

sweet (1 of 1)Photos by Wendy. My family and I consumed my bag before I could take photos.

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

The Fat Duck, Melbourne

So that’s that. A 5 hour marathon of a meal. For me it was a dream come true. To experience so much of what I’ve read and seen through a book or screen…in real life. I felt silly to think that I even contemplated for a second coming to The Fat Duck because paying this astronomical amount of money for food seemed insane (and to most it would still sound insane). But…this was a once in a lifetime experience…a once in a lifetime meal.

The effort, creativity and attention put into the food and the theatre of it all is absolutely inspiring. I came out of this meal inspired by new tastes, by new modes of storytelling and by the careful structure of presenting the perfect experience. This is a standard that we should all yearn to aspire to. This is the level I aspire to be in my work and my life. This is the highest form of art.

And for worth its worth, it was just so much fun!

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Sydney Night Noodle Markets 2014

Although not quite street food friendly, Sydney has been taking steps in recent years to welcome more food festivals. And the night noodle markets is one of the bigger ventures. On Saturday night, it was so busy and bustling, that no spare tables were spied even at 8:30pm. The stalls were packed and you better enjoy queuing because there’s a lot of that to be done

In terms of the stalls, there was a good representation of Sydney staples like Mamak, Ding Tai Fung, New Shanghai & Messina. With the exception of a few dessert stalls, it was all Asian fare. I guess “night noodle market” is deemed to be a more welcoming that “night hawker market”. But the latter term probably better represents the event. There are also sponsored “areas” where alcohol was available with themed setups where for example you could enjoy your meal in the vicinity of a luxury Mercedes Benz, because hey if you eat near one, you might as well be tempted to buy it right?

So…What about the food? In general it’s okay, as in okay I’m not too disappointed but I’ve probably had better in some Chinatown food courts. To start I had chicken Karaage ($8) & duck gyozas ($8) from Harajuku Gyozas which were adequate, with the gyozas surprisingly flavoursome. Then some hipster wholemeal roti & 2 curries ($12) from Spice Villa, again adequate, but come on, wholemeal roti? Look I’m a reluctant hipster at heart but sometimes, just don’t screw around with the staples. Then it was drop all pretences and gird your loins because baby there’s a BBQ pit nearby…

Sydney Night Noodle Market 2014

Sydney Night Noodle Market 2014

Boasting by far the longest queue of the entire night market was Hoy Pinoy, Filipino BBQ extraordinaires from Melbourne. The one thing I know about street food is that if there’s a giant throng of people around the stall, it’s probably good. Actually it’s probably better than good. JUST LOOK AT THE HEAVING PILES OF MEAT SKEWERS… OH MY!!!

Sydney Night Noodle Market 2014

Sydney Night Noodle Market 2014

Anyway, they sold Pork Belly skewers and BBQ Chicken skewers (all $5 each) with pork belly basically winning the night (honestly does pork belly ever not win the night? It’s really the joker card of the dining table). The skewer was sticky from the gochujang inspired marinade, smokey from the charcoal grill, beautifully caramelised and just blissful. And who doesn’t love a meal that comes on a dangerous weapon of mass destruction? Those were the largest and thickest kebab skewers I’ve ever seen. You could erect a medieval defense mechanism with them, in fact I was surprised no drunk bogans had impaled themselves by that stage of the night. They were indeed that sharp. Okay maybe said bogans were all too sloshed at the Harvey Norman tent to find their way to a good meat skewer. Hoy Pinoy was a line that I’d be happy to stand in again but unfortunately I was quite full by this time so dessert? y/y?

ALAS, by the time I’d waltzed to Messina in anticipation of their lucky pot pie gelato masterpiece, they had cut the line off so it was not to be. So instead we’d settled for mini pancakes with chocolate & red bean sauces ($10). Lending a slightly sugary and tepid disappointment to the night.

Sydney Night Noodle Market 2014

Hawker markets in Sydney are usually more miss than hit. Usually the food is adequately delicious for the setup but it’s the price that kills. Most plates are equivalent to or a few dollars more than their food court counterparts but with a smaller serving. So you’re essentially paying 8 dollars for an “entree” and 12 dollars for a “main”. Compare this to real street food cultures like Hong Kong or Penang where you’re paying only a few dollars for a similar plate. I get that Sydney is an expensive city (DON’T WORRY WE ALL GET IT!!!), but honestly when it costs this amount of money to eat food off plastic plates whilst standing around an assortment of plastic chairs and tables in a park. It feels pretty disingenuous when I can walk 5 min down the road and enjoy a similarly good if not better meal for 2/3 of the price in a much more relaxed setting.

Okay look… maybe it was all worth it for that Pork Belly skewer in the end.

Sydney Night Noodle Market 2014

Sydney Night Noodle Markets
Hyde Park, Sydney, October 10 – 26, 2014