Saint Crispin is the patron saint of cobblers (people that make shoes, not the fruit pie kind) and Saint Crispin the restaurant is located in an old cobbler’s workshop. Got it?
It was, as Panda calls it, Posh Dinner night. This involves myself and Panda, and whoever else is free (this night it was Jonella) heading out for a degustation meal.
After already experiencing what Scott Pickett had done at Estelle, we were keen to see what his latest venture offered.
We wanted a 7pm booking, which meant sitting at the bar. That was fine, if a little awkward for conversation between three, especially in a noisy space, but we made do.
I arrived first and was seated at the end of the bar opposite the cash register and next to the kitchen.
I had allowed myself plenty of time to get to Smith street from the outer Eastern ‘burbs, and of course, find a park. As this was accomplished quicker than expected I was a wee early but was happy to people watch, read a book and sip on a drink.
I would normally start with some bubbles, but the hot weather was calling for something more refreshing and a Tommy Tikki margarita (Jose Cuervo Reposado ‘Chargrilled Pineapple infused’, Thai Basil, Lime, Agave Nectar) hit the spot.
A very drinkable drink and it reminded me that I really really like tequila and should have it more often. I managed to pace myself and was able to offer Panda and Jonella a sip when they arrived. Panda promptly ordered one of her own, while Jonella opted for a different cocktail (which I do not have a photo of, nor do I remember what it was, though I think it might have been pink…).
The menu at Saint Crispin is split into Little Bites, Entrees, Mains, Sides and Desserts. Diners choose two courses for $50, three courses for $60 (with little bites and sides extra) or the chef’s seven-course tasting menu for $120.
We barely glanced at the menu as we were there for the tasting menu. We did hold onto a menu for reference though.
An amuse bouche of toasted chickpea puffs and hibiscus marshmallows was first to arrive.
The marshmallows were a little too flowery for my liking but I liked the puffs.
I didn’t take a photo but we were also served bread that could be enhanced with either butter or caramelised onion cream cheese. The cream cheese was fantastic.
Our first proper course was heirloom tomato, burrata, green gazpacho and Kalamata olive.
Panda summed it up nicely when she said this was tomatoes that tasted like tomatoes.
For their next course, Panda and Jonella had Atlantic salmon, smoked oyster, finger lime and sea vegetable.
And I had a bowl of greens.
Not too much to say about this dish, it is what it is, a plate of baby veg, though I did like the tangy dressing.
The next course was quail, shaved cuttlefish, shiitake mushroom and kombu. My version had the seafood replaced.
I was happy I still received this dish as I am fond of quail and this was a generous moist quail breast on top of a flavoursome mushroom medley. I used a spoon to scoop up all the broth, I wasn’t going to let it go to waste!
Our cocktails had been depleted so a quick chat to the sommelier was called for. The three of us all ended up getting the same wine, a Chablis. It needed a few minutes in the glass to warm up and get some air, but after that it was perfect.
My next course was the Greenvale pork, curried raisin and heirloom carrots.
While Panda and Jonella had the Cone Bay barramundi, eggplant, tomato and sea urchin.
Up until this point, my favourite dish had been the quail, with Panda and Jonella nominating the salmon as their favourite. This was all forgotten with the arrival of the last savoury dish, Bannockburn chicken, sweetcorn, spaetzle and basil.
Yes, the humble chicken blew its predecessors out of the water. Chicken can be boring, plus it is something that a lot of people cook regularly at home, so it has to be pretty special for me to order it in a restaurant.
Saint Crispin’s version, with chicken done three different ways, was superb. All the chicken had great flavours and had retained moistness.
Our first dessert was Yarra Valley berries, vanilla, scorched hay and phyllo pastry.
Jonella and I agreed that this was not something we would normally order but we did enjoy the different flavours and textures more than we expected.
It seems none of us could count this particular evening, as we thought the above dessert was our final course, so we were slightly stunned when another sweet dish was put in front of us.
The Chocolate, earl grey, milk and ginger was more up my alley. It was a very warm night so some of the components did melt rather quickly but I would order this dessert every time.
Some sour cherry jellies rounded the meal of nicely.
As previously mentioned, it was a warm evening and the combination of a crowded space and sitting close to the kitchen meant we weren’t 100% comfortable as it was a little sticky. I did spot one air conditioning unit to the right of the entrance but it wasn’t sufficient on this occasion.
The staff were pleasant but clearly rushed. I was sitting opposite the cash register and overheard a lot of conversations and there seemed to be a bit of crankiness between some staff members which I am sure the heat and a packed restaurant contributed to. Though, in saying that, a table of four did not turn up (and weren’t answering their phones) which did not help the mood of the manager/maître de. Fair enough though, if you are not going to make your booking, have the courtesy to call. Life happens, and while I hate cancelling restaurant reservations, I at least let the restaurant know, it doesn’t take much time or effort to make a quick phone call.
The three of us agreed that we enjoyed Saint Crispin and would go back, but we liked Estelle better. But we also acknowledged that this could be just due to the courses we were served on both occasions, something which can change almost on a daily basis.