‘These guys know what they are doing’. I am not sure how many times Panda said that over the course of our latest degustation dinner but I wasn’t going to argue with her, the guys (and girls) at Estelle Bar and Kitchen DO know what they are doing. And they do it very well.
Estelle is in Northcote, a suburb neither Panda or myself had ventured to before. It seems hip and trendy but not overwhelmingly so.
The same can be said for the restuarant. Chic, but casual with an open kitchen and bar dining.
I didn’t know beforehand, but when I rang to make a booking I was told Estelle does set seatings, one at 6pm and one at 8:30. Neither of those suited us but I was told that the bar can be booked for any time. I didn’t think four people would work at the bar but the lovely lady told me they could seat us on the corner with two on either side. Done, locked in for 7pm.
It turned out that on the night it was only Panda and myself so the bar was perfect, we were perched right in the middle, with Panda eyeing off the whisky and beers on offer.
We were asked about drinks and two glasses of Louis Roederer were promptly poured.
We were asked about dietary requirements and snacks were presented. All of this before we even saw the menu.
I have to thank Panda for providing all the photos for this post. I normally have a point and shoot camera but J had taken that away with him so I was left with his SLR. And despite being given a lesson on the all buttons etc I couldn’t use it! I had some lovely shots lined up (could definitely see the difference it made over my usual camera) but it either focussed on the wrong thing or wouldn’t take the photo at all. #Fail.
So Panda kindly agreed to photograph every meal on her iPhone. Thanks Pand!
Our snacks were veal tendon crackling perched in an onion dip, melon wrapped in edible wrap and baked jerusalem artichoke.
We were off to a flyer. I found the edible paper a bit odd but everything else sang with flavours. The veal crackers were quite meaty but I loved the onion dip.
We were then offered the menu. We didn’t need it. Estelle only offers degustation, the only choice you need to make is how many courses; three, five, seven or nine. We had discussed this on the short walk from the car and agreed that seven seemed like a good idea.
The first dish to come out was eggplant, soy and sesame.
This dish consisted of baked eggplant, a soy dressing, daikon radish, toasted sesame and a lime mayonnaise. Simple but yet complex with all the flavours working well together. We both noted throughout the evening how well the textures on all of the dishes worked; crunchy, crisp, soft, they were all there.
Panda’s next dish was gazpacho with smoked salmon and a horseradish foam.
The foam made us both frown. Neither of us have much time for foam, especially when it is overused.
However Panda said this foam made her finally get what foam was all about, the hint of horseradish being the perfect foil for the chunky gazpacho and superfresh salmon.
I had beetroot, orange and ashed goats cheese.
One of my favorite dishes of the night, I loved the presentation (so pretty) the flavours and the textures.
The beetroots were done in different styles and the ash on the tangy goat’s cheese was home made from lavosh.
Now, while we were enjoying our dishes, the ladies next to me had been asked if they were happy to wait 20 minutes to try a new dish the chef was testing. They agreed and were presented with a dish that immediately gave me food envy. I enquired whether we could also possibly try this dish and once it was confirmed we were serious the ever accommodating staff hooked us up with this:
Underneath the crispy home made potato chips was a stunning spicy steak tartare, itself topped with a qauil egg. The chips were sprinkled with dried olive crumbs and garlic flowers. The green liquid was poured over the dish at the counter with the extra left for us to do with what we pleased. The cauliflower sauce was mild and added a subtle flavour and a point of difference to other steak tartare. For me, I didn’t think it was altogether necessary, but that is a personal preference on how I like my tartare. Counting our courses throughout the evening I am pretty sure this was a bonus one, so thanks to the staff at Estelle for that, it was another of my favourites!
By this stage our champagne glasses were empty and the sommlier asked if we required something else. I said I would like a white wine and left it in his very capable hands. Going by the fact he said the wine he poured was from Northern Italy and the price point I believe we had the Kris, 2010, Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy.
After having a taste of mine, Panda had the same. The flavours of this wine were subtle, not in your face and worked extremley well with our food.
Our next course was celeriac, currants and turmeric.
This was vegies done well and done interestingly. Like all the previous dishes, everything just worked, without being fancy or shouty about it.
This next course was Panda’s favourite, the crab mornay.
This was blue and swimmer crab in a mornay sauce with a crumb topping and infused with curry oil.
My next course was my least favurite of the evening, it consisted of duck sausage and a duck croquette.
I found the croquette to be dry and the sausage didn’t have as much flavour as I expected.
Our last savoury course was steak with corned beef and caramilised carrot sauce
Two lovely pieces of meat, the savoury flavours offset by the sweet sauce.
Our first dessert was sour cream, pumpkin and salted caramel.
The individual components sounded like a weird combination but wow, this dish was amazing. Panda described it as ‘pure joy on a plate’.
Our second dessert was Albert’s chocolate garden, inspired by Albert Adrià from El Bulli.
So many flavours and textures but I found the smoked chocolate ice-cream to be too smoky for my taste.
And to finish, a berry compote with musk cream.
This reminded us of musk sticks and was the perfect finale to what had been an outstanding meal.
We both agreed that the portions of each course were perfect. We weren’t full to the groaning-clutching-of-stomach stage but neither were we hungry and looking for more.
The pace was spot on as well. I have been to degustations where it feels like you wait forever between courses and others where you barely have time to breathe. We were done and dusted roughly 2.5 hours after walking in the door, an acceptable time frame for a school night.
The staff were great, hipster but not in a too-cool way, friendly without being overbearing and definitely knowledgable.
The food was familar ingredients done a little bit differently (and always presented beautifully) but not too much to scare the average punter.
Oh, and we got a shock when we got the bill.
But not by how expensive it was, but how affordable. For all the food plus two glasses of wine it was $125 each. I seriously thought they made a mistake, but they didn’t.
Loved the Estelle Bar and Kitchen and would highly recommend it.