Upstairs at the Stokehouse

The Stokehouse
30 Jacka Boulevard
St Kilda  Vic  3182
03 9525 5555
Open 7 days a week
Lunch 12 -3pm, Dinner 6pm – Midnight

The wonderful iMac (her choice of code name) had decided that we needed a night out at her favourite restaurant, upstairs at the Stokehouse, before the year ended!  I heartily agreed (as both of us are inclined to do when it comes to fine dining) and we rustled up some good friends and secured a sunset booking a couple of nights before New Year’s Eve.

Since our booking wasn’t until 8pm, we had some pre-dinner drinks at a fantastic bar in nearby Fitzroy Street – Laika, which I highly recommend.   I never know what to order for cocktails – so explained to the waiter that I wanted something aromatic with ginger and lime. The bartender made the Thailander for me, which wasn’t actually on the 10 page long menu. It was made with ginger liqueur, chili vodka and lime juice (among other exotic ingredients I can’t remember) – and it was fantastic.  By the time we arrived at the Stokehouse we were well and truly in the mood for a good night!

Campari and pink grapefruit juice

Not to let our arrival at a fine diner stop the party – we opted to have a Campari and pink grapefruit juice as our aperitif!  What a great little combination – I think I’m a convert!  We perused the menu and made our choices….

Warm sourdough rye bread and butter

While we were waiting for our first course, we were served some bread. It was absolutely beautiful, soft and warm – you’ve got to love that! But we tried not to eat too much as we had our eyes on dessert… one must think ahead!

 Beef tartare, pickled shimeji mushrooms,
horseradish cream, rye toast, tarragon emulsion

A couple of months ago, iMac had declared to me that the Stokehouse Beef Tartare was the best in Melbourne. Strong words indeed – especially because, at the time, we were eating my favourite steak tartare at the Hotel Lincoln. She had thrown down the gauntlet!!  So strong was her conviction, that three of us ordered it to check it out!

This version certainly has a lot more going on – and is definitely more highly engineered  (…dare I say contrived?).  Don’t get me wrong – it was lovely – no doubt about it – and it is clearly a fine dining interpretation of a French classic.  The meat was beautifully hand cut and fresh, and was accompanied by a delicate horseradish cream and tarragon emulsion.  However, I found that the pickled mushrooms, while being a fantastic component in theory, dominated the palate a little bit.  And I really did miss my egg yolk and some toasties to carry the tartare.  The sliver of rye “toast” added a lovely crispness and crunch – but wasn’t able to act as a foil for the richness of the beef or the piquancy of the mushrooms.  In summary, it was a great modern interpretation of a classic dish – a little bit further removed from the original than I anticipated.  The lovable Professor F, our only male companion for the evening (what a lucky guy – out with four gorgeous women), agreed – he certainly missed his egg yolk!

Seared Atlantic scallops, ruby grapefruit, walnut and
witlof salad, parsnip puree, chickpea cress

Special guest P had opted for the atlantic scallops – which looked absolutely gorgeous. Large and juicy, they had been seared to perfection and the parsnip puree looked deliciously creamy.

Kingfish ceviche, salted grapes, flying fish roe,
sunflower seeds, zucchini, chardonnay vinaigrette

The gorgeous A.T. has a weakness for ceviche – a dependency I’ve just started to pick up on – so she felt compelled to order the kingfish entrée! And it looked stunning – what a brilliant idea to put grapes into the mix!  Beautifully presented on a black dish, the amazingly vibrant colours really stood out providing a feast for the eyes.

All in all, we were extremely happy with the first courses – happy campers!

And during our entrées, we were able to enjoy this gorgeous, amazing Melbourne sunset – which even made this container ship look beautiful.  Ahhh…. life’s good.

Roasted squab with peaches, prosciutto, red cabbage and hazelnuts

This is my main dish – how amazing does it look?  One of the specials of the night, I couldn’t resist the description – so I ordered the squab.  The meat was juicy and tender, and beautifully seasoned.  I just adore the pairing of fresh stone fruit with roasted meat – it’s something that really works.  The prosciutto provided tender, salty bursts of flavour, and the nuts added a crunchiness to the dish.  Delicious.

Local snapper fillet, diamond clams, Serrano ham,
Spanish pepper,  thyme and aioli

The lovable Professor F decided to balance his steak tartare entrée by having the snapper fillet as a main.  He really enjoyed it – the fish was cooked perfectly, and the aioli added a lovely creamy contrast to the confit of Spanish peppers.

Tuna a la plancha, butter poached prawns, tomato escabeche,
yoghurt, roe and peppercorns

Special guest P continued her marine theme – following her scallops with the tuna a la plancha. Someone in our group suggested the “la plancha” meant that it was “on the beach” – however, a quick google search reveals that it refers to a spanish flat grill.  That might explain why the tuna was beautifully seared on one side, leaving an amazing layer of tender, raw flesh.  It looks amazing – and was well accompanied by the buttery prawns, poached cherry tomatoes, creamy yoghut and peppercorns – and look at those jewel-like roe… just beautiful.

Hopkins River (VIC) 220gm pasture fed Angus beef tenderloin

The gorgeous A.T. was all set for something else… until she saw the tenderloin being delivered to another table. She quickly settled on the beef – and was not disappointed.  Accompanied by a potato dauphinois, and a smattering of fresh greens – the meat was juicy, tender and tasty – herb encrusted goodness!

Western Plains pork loin, belly and cheek, baked apple, coleslaw, port wine sauce

Lovely iMac settled on the pork ensemble – and upon delivery, promptly had plate envy from a number of us (despite the gorgeousness of our own dishes).    The inspired trio of porcine delights were expertly prepared, sweetly tender, and beautifully accompanied by the soft baked apple and fresh coleslaw. iMac looked very happy as she tucked in….

We ordered a few sides to complement our dishes…

Clockwise from left: Fried potatoes;
Cauliflower gratin, spring onions, prosciutto crumbs; and
Buffalo mozzarella salad, peas, broad beans, lemon dressing

These sides were amazing and well worth ordering – I especially loved the mozzarella salad – it was so fresh with contrasting flavours and textures. It was sweet, creamy, clean, fresh, and gorgeous!

Almost replete – there was only one thing left to do… order dessert!

Chocolate torte, passionfruit sorbet

Two of us ordered the chocolate torte for dessert – which was foolish! The dish was so rich, and quite generous – so one would have been enough for the two of us, or even three of us.  As it was – we foisted spoons upon our non-dessert ordering counterparts and instructed them to help us out – and we still could not finish.  But this is not a reflection on the dessert itself – because it was beautifully rich and creamy and awesome. My only criticism being the segment of biscuit that accompanied the dish – which was quite bland and didn’t really add anything…

The Bombe – frozen white chocolate parfait with strawberry sorbet 

iMac had already made up her mind about dessert back in November… such is the pull of The Bombe. Arguably the Stokehouse’s signature dessert – it consistently remains on the menu amid a constantly changing landscape.  The lovable Professor F also ordered it – and both he and iMac quickly polished off the stunning semicircle of soft fluffy mashmallow and wicked icy interior.  It appeared to be a lighter dessert option than the chocolate torte – so Professor F was called into duty to help with the chocolate…  ahhh, the things he has to do!

The seasonally changing hanging plants

Overall, we had a stunning night. The food, the company, the service, and the view all combined to deliver a very special evening. You can probably see why the Stokehouse is considered THE place to bring out of towners – it has amazing water views, fabulous ambience, and a wonderful menu.  It brings together all that is great about Melbourne – and shows it off in grand style. The food is beautifully executed and presented, and the service is very good. I can understand why iMac has settled on it as her favourite restaurant…. but it doesn’t mean we’ll stop exploring….

The fabulous four… me, iMac, Prof F, and A.T.
Special Guest P took the photo.

Stay tuned for our next exciting adventure…

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