Lucky lunch at Loam Restaurant

It was a lucky Saturday.  Andrew and I were actually down at the Bellarine Peninsula, enjoying the weekend with our lovely friends Bubblezz and Adventurous Pete.  The phone rang at 9:38am on Saturday morning… it was Loam Restaurant, letting me know they’d had a cancellation – and since I was on the waiting list – they had a table for us at 12 noon.  Happy Days. 

I had tried to book into Loam a couple of weeks beforehand – but was warned by the preamble message on the answering machine, “to ensure your first choice of date, you need to book 6 weeks ahead”.  Sure enough, when I got through, there was nothing available – but I was asked if I wanted to get put on the waiting list in case of a cancellation.  Sure, you never know your luck.  

Like I said – it was a lucky Saturday.

This definitely was a girls’ lunch only – especially when we appraised our “meat and potato men” and just said… I don’t think so.  Let’s face it – Loam is an avant garde kind of restaurant.  There is no menu – you have to trust the kitchen.  You just tell them what you won’t eat – and they’ll cater to that.   Best leave it to us to do some reconnaissance boys and we’ll get back to you…  love you!!!

Let me warn you though – Loam Restaurant is a bit out of the way.  We did get lost – because we trusted “Lola”, our GPS to lead the way and ended up circling the Drysdale town centre roundabout a few times before deciding to head back to the “potato shed” – a landmark we were meant to look out for.   In due course we made it down the end of the long dirt track that is Andersons Road, and we were only about 10 minutes late.  What a view greeted us… the restaurant itself is like a 5 star oasis in a rural setting, with a spacious layout of blonde wood and classy design.  The central focus of the room is the amazing, huge servery table where wines, cutlery, glasses and other accoutrements reside – but it had serious competition from the gorgeous view that assailed us from the magnificent plain glass windows.

The view looks out across farmland to Queenscliff – it is absolutely stunning and acted as a glorious relaxant as we settled into our seats and got ourselves ready for a sumptuous meal.

As we were seated we were offered a choice of water: sparkling or rain?  How gorgeous – we couldn’t help but opt for rain.  Of course, we did get some sparkling – the beautiful Oakdene Matilda sparkling that is. 

The menu was presented to us – quite simply, it’s a list of seasonal ingredients and you let your waiter know what you won’t eat.

We decided duck tongues and eel were items we could go without – but we were happy to consume all the other ingredients listed.  Just to let you know – you shouldn’t actually circle the menu. They’ll remember whatever you tell them.  Oops! 

There’s a choice of 4, 7 or 9 courses – and if you want more, they’re happy to continue feeding you for $15 per course.  Even though Adventurous Pete had cooked me scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast (this was before the phone call!) – we decided 7 courses would work for us.  Bubblezz was very happy she had slept through breakfast by this point.   I also opted for the matched wines – Bubblezz was driving though, so decided that she would make do with a couple of glasses.

Let the games begin.

Olive bread with home churned butter

Even the bread and butter here is amazing – the butter was beautifully soft and whipped to the lightest texture, sprinkled with sweet leek ash, and we could add our own salt to taste.  Gorgeous.

Amuse bouche: Cloth bound cheddar sable biscuits, salmon jerky with caper leave emulsion, lightly pickled Port Arlington mussels.

Something to prepare us for the gastronomic journey to come – some really interesting morsels.  My favourite was the sable biscuits, flavoured with bitey cheddar they were soft, moist and crumbly.  Scattered with freeze dried balsamic vinegar, they were absolutely delicious.

Spanner crab, sweetcorn, slippery jack, sea blite

This dish was light and ethereal. The sweetcorn was prepared 2 ways – as a custard in the base of the dish, and then the powder on top was blitzed popcorn (obviously the husks were taken out because this was light and airy).  The slippery jacks were last season’s, dehydrated and also pulverised; and for the uninitiated (i.e., yours truly), the sea blite are the small succulent greens poking out around the mound of blitzed corn. In addition, there is some beautifully fresh wakame on top.  The spanner crab itself was the star of the dish – sweet and mellow, it was beautifully complemented by the other ingredients.

Yolk, winter vegetables, sherry vinegar, oatmeal oil

Another surreal dish – the yolk had been slow cooked for 33 minutes at 65 degrees and drizzled with a Pedro Xeminez sherry vinegar to provide just the right balance of sweet acidity. The vegetables were crunchy dehydrated imitations of their former selves, and included fennel, parsley, asparagus, cavalo nero. They provided a brilliant crunchy counterpoint to the rich lusciousness of the egg yolk. 

This dish was paired with a Leura Farm Sauvignon Blanc.

Oyster, desiree potato, fenugreek, parsley

This dish was very interesting and trés experimental.  Bubblezz and I agreed that it was our least favourite dish.  The potato is julienned into long thin “noodles” – and served raw. The curry beurre blanc sauce was a little piquant and herby – although the creaminess of the oyster did work to counteract this.  For some reason, we just didn’t feel as though there was synergy there.  Not to worry – on to the next course.   This course had been matched with a Marsanne.

Capicola, Jerusalem artichoke, salt & vinegar garlic

One of the great dishes of the day – local Jerusalem artichokes (grown by the lawyer-turned-farmer up the road), paired with elephant garlic puree and house cured capicola (pork neck).  It was an absolutely stellar dish – maybe we were swooning because it was our first hot dish of the day.  The flavours melded together, yet retained their identity.  Stunning.

This dish was paired with the best wine of the day – Brash Higgins Nero D’Avolo. This was an absolutely gorgeous wine, fermented in beeswax lined clay amphoras – it had a silky, soft mouthfeel with a perfume that filled my senses.  So gorgeous, I immediately went out and bought half a dozen bottles (once I tracked them down)!

Squab, butter beans, rice starch, wild pea

The squab was cooked beautifully, and was complemented fantastically by the butter beans which had been thinly sliced on the cross section and then blanched so they retained this wonderful crunchy texture.  And how gorgeous does that wild pea frond look?  Art on a plate!!  The wine served with this dish was from the volcanic soils of Mt Etna in Sicily, Murgo Rosso – a blend of two grape varieties.

Mauri taleggio, fermented cabbage, raw honey, pollen

Our cheese course was a very simply presented piece of taleggio – sitting on a smear of wild honey to add sweetness, and blanketed in cabbage that had been fermented for 10 days which added a touch of piquancy.  This was served with a Pinot Meunier from Bests Great Western.  Did you know that Bests Great Western is one of Australia’s oldest wineries, and they have 47 grape varieties in their vineyards?  Five of which remain unidentified despite extensive DNA testing and CSIRO investigation!

Ahhh…. Does life get any better?  At this stage, I noticed a flock of brolgas flying in formation across the crisp, clear blue sky.  Naturally, I was too relaxed (and six sheets to the wind) to be reflexive enough to take a photo.  So, you’ll just have to take my word for it that they were gorgeous.  We were in dining nirvana!!

But wait there’s more…

Onion, honeycomb, quinoa, meyer lemon

The dessert course – the most outstanding dish of the day, in our humble opinion. Onion ice-cream!!  That’s right, onion icecream (apparently made by infusing crème anglaise with caramelised onion, and then straining before freezing it).  Totally amazing!!  Who would have thought  onion ice-cream could taste so good. It was helped along by the lashings of crumbly wild honeycomb.  On top is a crown of quinoa paper sprinkled with freeze dried meyer lemon powder.  Delicious!  This wine was matched with a Jura from East Burgundy – alas – I hated it.  So, it was whisked away and replaced with a Don PX Dulce – a gorgeous sticky version of the Pedro Xeminez sherry. Much better.  The attitude of the staff was so lovely – there was no preciousness at all about me not liking the wine and replacing it with something else.  Brilliant service.

Petit fours – Lemon curd tart with rosemary and green tea jellies

And just when you thought it was safe…. out come the petit fours!  The green tea jelly was slightly dehydrated so that it had the thinnest candy like shell.  But the winners were the beautiful lemon curd tarts, which had the thinnest, crispiest pastry – just enough to hold up the curd.  It provided an amazing burst of citrusy goodness.

A truly fantastic meal – Aaron Turner and his wife Astrid are providing amazing food and brilliant, unaffected service out here in the coastal hinterland of the Bellarine Peninsula, and have effectively put Drysdale on the gastronomic map of greater Melbourne.  This is a destination restaurant that’s worth getting a little bit lost for.  Try it as soon as you can – and if necessary, put yourself on the waiting list.  You never know your luck!

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