After our successful dinner at Jacques Reymond for Panda’s first degustation dinner, we thought we should do it all again, and Libertine was the pick.
Libertine is a French Dining room in North Melbourne. Run and owned by Nick Creswick and Zoë Ladyman, Libertine “proudly supports produce suppliers that are quality driven and strive to use the best game, seafood and vegetables available each season”.
The space, which was elegant and cosy.
We kicked the evening off with a glass each of non-vintage Gardet Brut Premier Cru from Champagne, with a pinot noir and pinot meunier blend of grapes. Later on Panda and myself had a very good Chablis, and Jonella had a glass of red. The by the glass list on the website is different to what was on the wine list on the night so I don’t have the full names of these wines, sorry.
The amuse bouche was cauliflower and parsnip soup with Roquefort.
I found the taste of the soup by itself to be quite mild but combined with the Roquefort it was exquisite. A perfect amuse bouch as it was a lovely dish but you couldn’t have more than what was served. It really set the tone for the evening.
Bread was offered and accepted
Now, this is where I felt Libertine needs improvement. I am not sure what type of bread this was supposed to be but it looked and tasted like the bread rolls you buy in six packs at the supermarket. As Jonella noted, the outside wasn’t crisp or crunchy and the inside wasn’t soft and fluffy. I know not every restaurant can make their own bread but even if you do have to buy it, at least heat it up! These rolls were stone cold, which I thought was very poor.
Moving on to the first proper course, we were served goat’s cheese with Lebanese eggplant, tomato and cucumber.
This dish didn’t look all that inspiring and all the elements by themselves were fine but when combined together, like the amuse bouch, there was just a wonderful taste sensation in your mouth. I even commented that if you could have dishes like this every night you might consider becoming a vegetarian. This was Jonella’s top dish of the night and in my top three.
The next course was terrine du jour, toasted brioche and relishes. When elements on a dish should be combined, like the terrine and brioche, I have a fear of running out of one before the other. To combat this I placed the piece of terrine on top of the brioche, where, due to the shape of the terrine it fitted perfectly. Therefore every bite would have both elements.
This was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The terrine was perfectly seasoned and no one flavour dominated. It was offset by the sweetness of the very lightly toasted brioche. I personally didn’t think it needed the relish or the pickles/cornichons/whatever you want to call them, there was so much going on with the two main elements of the dish that these were rendered superfluous.
Next up was snails with garlic butter and parsley. A first for Panda, she had never had snails before.
We were also offered more bread to mop up the sauce. I am not sure of the etiquette here, but we all slurped the snails straight off the spoon. They were the tenderest snails I have ever had, the garlic sauce was quite garlicky but we all enjoyed the strong flavour.
Time to cleanse the palate with a sour cucumber gel.
Panda and I ate ours first so were able to watch Jonella’s expression as she ate hers. Even though going by the name there was only one flavour in these morsels there felt like there was a lot more going on. It is hard to describe but the maitre-de summed it up by moving his hand in a circle around his face and making odd noises! They definitely cleansed our palates.
The first of the main size dishes was spiced shoulder of goat with roasted beets, pumpkin and parsnip chips.
The goat was beautifully spiced and incredibly tender. However, I think there could have been less accompaniments in the bowl. Keep the parsnip chips for texture but lose either the beets or pumpkin, it didn’t need both.
Our last savoury course was grain-fed waygu rump, veal sweetbreads and sauce poivre (pepper sauce).
Another very tender piece of meat, with moreish potatoes and a lovely sweet carrot puree. Neither myself or Jonella liked the veal sweetbread but that is a personal taste thing.
Onto dessert, goat’s curd and preserved lemon cheesecake with poached quince.
Panda loves lemon and quinces so she was in heaven with this dish. There were four desserts on the Libertine menu and myself and Jonella would have preferred one of the other ones, and both of us would have picked this one last. I thought it was OK, nothing outstanding. I didn’t like the texture of the cheesecake, it felt like it was almost curdled.
We finished with petit fours (a chocolate one, madeleines, rhubarb jelly).
The madeleine was my favourite but I enjoyed trying another jelly.
I also had a hot chocolate.
Our degustation took almost four hours but it was well worth it, and I would highly recommend Libertine. Service was excellent, especially as there was two large groups in as well.