WE LINED up last month for the Degustation menu at Lulo Tapas and wine bar in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn. It was a Saturday night, our friends were in town, we were looking for an outstanding night out. Five diners: four women and The Bloke.
Ambiance was lively without being too noisy, and we could talk quietly among ourselves. We admired the pine-box shipping cartons as interior decor along the back wall, as well as the whisk lights and red bull figures under the bar. Settings of timber tables, no covering. Simple, bit of fun. Seats comfortable.
First round, the oysters. Ideally, we could have done with more but then … we would never have finished, would we? Beautifully fresh.
Next, sous-vide spanner crab, covered with molecular foam on metal spools. Frothy tasty morsel, spoon-licking.
A little twist, octopus in tins – Carla wouldn’t try it. Nice but probably wouldn’t select this again.
Chicken ribs … never seen them before, but came with chili caramel and corn smear, crushed nuts.
Paprika bread and oil as palette cleanser.
Back to the menu … Jamon Iberico Pata Negra … beautiful, but it usually is. Alluring dark wafer thin meats.
Gypsy salad … lettuce, egg, olives, nice & refreshing, cleansing.
Deep-fried stuffed zucchini flowers … crispy, tasty, specially added to the menu. Nicest stuffed zucchini flowers we’ve ever had.
Then the big item … Wilderness beef ribs and carrot salad – delicious, superb, complex with pomegranate seeds … try this as the “side” to your roast dinner any day … the ribs melt in your mouth, taste was just perfect, Pedro Ximenes sherry cauliflower puree, nice crunchy bits at the end … perfection. If her husband was here he’d hog the beef to himself.
Another side … Yuca frita … she said “the best chips I’ve had in a long time”. Better than a potato and sweet potato chip. Avocado and smoked yoghurt.
Ice cream – raspberry, vanilla, sherry, passionfruit, nougat … split verdicts … nougat (CE), sherry (PH) great prunes and consistency/mouthfeel, passionfruit (LM)
We drank two bottles of 2009 Badger’s Brook Pinot Noir (Yarra Valley, Victoria) @ $48 each. Well priced.
Value for money? Most Degustation menus cost more than this, the servings were generous, none particularly hard to cook, not “cheap” but really good value for money. About right for amount.
Service: very good service; the girls loved the waiter’s accent and authenticity. Our team included 2 women and one man and their pace was perfect. Their explanation / interpretation of the menu items was very helpful. And at the end, he used his iPhone to calculate the split bill … very accommodating in a way which is currently unusual.
We’ll be back 🙂
Not often this happens but this month we have been able to compare a Melbourne dining evening with another in Bendigo and it was like-with-like … they were surprisingly comparable and we loved them both.
At the Sageleaf Bistro in Burwood Road, Hawthorn in Melbourne, we shared a tasting platter with a glass each of local bubbles, then moved on to mains of roast rump of lamb with a confit of potatoes, shallot, olives and tomato with parmesan cream and picada (his) and pan-roasted confit of duck leg with parsnip puree, mushroom and grape tartlet (hers) sharing a side of buttered greens and slivered almonds. The mains were matched with a Mt McLeod pinot noir and we finished with two hot chocolates. (Details from our receipt and the published menu)
Three nights later, at the Bouchon restaurant in High Street, Bendigo, north-west of Melbourne, we sat down to a shared platter of charcuterie for two (housemade rillette, terrine, salami and jamon with croutons, mini brioche and chutney) with two more glasses of local (Balgownie) bubbles, followed by mains of chicken ballotine stuffed with wild mushroom duxelle, pomme puree and tarragon and chicken jus (hers) and Murray Valley pork belly confit, braised cabbage and bacon, fried sage and jus (his) matched with a Mandurang Valley merlot and another shared side of buttered greens (beans this time) also with slivered almonds. Instead of hot chocolates we finished up with a peppermint tea and a brulee on one side of the table and an espresso and a Glenmorangie single malt on the other. (Details from our receipt and the published menu)
Surprise, the tab was only marginally different, probably a result of the Glenmorangie addition on the chilly Bendigo evening.
The things we noticed most on each night – apart from the fact that our tastes are eminently predictable – were the high quality of the ingredients and the care taken with presentation, but also the attentive but unobtrusive service in both restaurants. No fuss, no waiting either, no hurry and thankfully, excellent tables. Sageleaf is in a bright modern room and has the simple feel of a 21st century bistro; Bouchon is in an old brick-lined room, perhaps a refurbished factory or warehouse, narrow and cosy in a French-styled Australian way. Neither was too noisy or too reserved and the other guests seemed to be perfectly normal people, just like us.