The Estelle Bar and Kitchen
An up front warning people! I have just been to Dining Nirvana! It was one of those moments – a moment where time was suspended, and I was enrapt in culinary thrall. Enjoying dishes that were so sublimely put together, and the components so amazing, that I wished it would go on forever… even after nine courses.
We were at the Estelle Bar and Kitchen… our first visit, but definitely not our last.
It was the catchup to rival all catchups. Me, freshly returned from France, and iMac fresh from a plethora of company obligations. Out of whimsy we had chosen The Estelle for lunch. A place neither of us had visited, but which was on “the list”. One question… why had we waited so long???
Anyway… let’s not meditate upon this quandary too long… for the fact of the matter was we had made it. And there was quite a journey to be had. After a very short discussion (in the car on the way…), we decided that we should do the 9 course lunch. Being our first time – it was necessary…for research purpose, of course! And naturally, I opted for the matched wines… because I wasn’t driving. The only choice I had to make was between the classic or the adventurous matching. Warwick, our lovely host, was very compelling in his description of the adventurous matching… so it seemed a bit of a fait accompli – once we had agreed terms of engagement (no hard spirits, no beer). It turned out to be a great choice!
Les Amuses Bouches
First up, some amuses bouches to tantalise us… we started with the Pickled melon wrapped in a sheet of edible potato starch and topped with sour cream. Amazing. Not to be outdone – the fried veal tendon (which had been slow cooked, cooled, compressed and then fried to a crispy goodness) served to scoop up a delicious, melt-in-the-mouth caramelised onion foam. And finally, the chickpea chips were amazing – moist on the inside, and sprinkled with black olive dust on the outside – they were a textural delight. And this was before we even started the nine courses!!!
Cured salmon, gin & horseradish
Our first official course was sublime – house cured salmon, served with gin pressed cucumber, tomato gazpacho all hidden under a horseradish foam. This was utterly delicious – the gazpacho had just enough of the finest ground almonds to give it body, and the gin soaked cucumber created a grounded counterpoint to the perfume of the tomato and horseradish. This was matched to a sparkling Chenin Blanc from the Touraine (a region I just visited!) called Monmousseau. Tres bien!
Beetroot, orange and ashed goats cheese
Now… let me declare up front. I am not a lover of goats’ cheese. However – Oh. My. Goodness! This dish was divine! The goats’ cheese was covered in an a mock ash created from black sesame seed lavosh – the cheese was so delicate, soft and floral – it was a creamy ball of goodness. Accompanied by an ensemble of candied, pickled and roasted beetroot along with the fresh crunch of radishes, some snow pea shoots and orange gel – this dish was amazing. The matching was a take on Kir Royal – some cassis blended with a Sauvignon Blanc. Incredible!
Who doesn’t love mornay – it’s still a comfort meal in our house. But Scott Pickett has taken it up a notch (naturally!). This time it’s a crab mornay – nestled in a mirepoix of vegetables, and topped with golden breadcrumbs and finely grated Comte cheese. A beautiful dish – the flavours just melded together beautifully, although the crab was a little understated. Nonetheless – a delicious dish – and one that was matched with a drink with a bit of a twist – a lemon martini!
ALAS – so enthralled – photo forgotten!
Wagyu, Egg & Jerusalem Artichoke
Oh. My. Goodness. Stop the press!! This dish was to-die-for. First up – I have to tell you about the matching – and 1962 Masala! Very bizarre – it was dry and spicy but once we started on the dish it changed. It mellowed and perfectly complemented the elements – in particular the Jerusalem artichoke veloute – which was smooth, and creamy, and delicious! The “bacon and egg sarnie” part of the combo consisted of house-cured wagyu bresaola and a quail egg sitting atop a round of toasted bread. All of it was so perfect together – I was lamenting I didn’t have 3 hands so I could alternate evenly between the elements. Match of the day!
Alas – because I was so enthralled, and all my hands plus an extra one I didn’t have, were busy – I completely forgot to take a photo of the dish! There’s only one answer – to go back of course! Sorry people – bad blogger Helen, bad blogger!!
Masala match with the Wagyu, Egg & Jerusalem Artichoke
Snapper, peas & konbu
Onwards and upwards people… This dish must get the guernsey for the prettiest elements – the konbu was so delicate and pretty! The snapper was perfectly cooked – moist yet caramelized. Pea puree happens to be one of my favourite things in the world (perhaps there could have been a little bit more – but that might be just me!)… and the julienne of spring vegetables brought a little crunch to the proceedings. A fabulous combination of flavours and textures.
This was complemented by a gorgeous mourvedre rosé from Heathcote (not the place you’d expect to get a rosé) – from Greenstone Vineyards, it was fantastic – very dry with lots of nutty tones – I may have found a new favourite!
Korobuta pork, date & cauliflower
This next dish was another piece of art on the plate – a perfectly executed piece of pork, complemented with date purée, caramelised cauliflower (hello!!), Swiss chard and pork crackling. Exploding with a juxtaposition of flavours and textures, it worked together beautifully. By this stage, we were swooning with giddiness. That caramelised cauliflower should be outlawed! It’s so good. This dish was again matched with a stellar wine – this time a gorgeously mellow tempranillo called Romanico from Toro Wineries. Is it possible to have two matches of the day???
Grimaud duck, butternut pumpkin & cepes
The duck course… I love the duck course… and this was duck done two ways so there was double love! There was a beautifully pan seared slice of duck breast, and a confit duck leg croquette. The accompaniments consisted of butternut pumpkin purée, cep mushrooms, broad beans, burnt orange purée and wild rocket flowers. This was matched by a gorgeous red blend that consisted of Barbera, Pinot Nero, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo. Heaven!
Sour cream, pumpkin and salted caramel
Ahhh… the dessert courses! Does this mean we’re coming to an end… ? But what a way to go! You had me at “salted caramel”. This dessert was so much more though… the sour cream ice cream, pumpkin seeds and salted caramel were sitting upon this amazingly layered vanilla and olive oil sponge. Quite simply: Amazing! Light and sweet (but not cloyingly so) – the dish had this great crunch from the pumpkin seeds. And was fabulously complemented by Nocello over ice – a great match. Have I said that too many times today??? Sorry…. There are not enough superlatives!
Albert’s chocolate garden
Now… I don’t know who Albert is – but he deserves a big kiss! This chocolate garden was made up of a gorgeous chocolate soil and chocolate twigs, while underneath was a coffee gel and macerated cherries. It was beautifully decorated with baby mint and a shard of sweetness (not sure what that was – but it was great). This was served with a sloe berry gin and porter – basically gin and beer. An interesting combination which worked quite well with the chocolate dessert.
And finally we were offered this enchanting palate cleanser which was a layering of mixed berry compote topped with a musk foam and dehydrated cherries. It was amazing – the musk foam evoked memories of the star shaped stick that we all used to eat as children. Delicious!
What a stunning meal. Scott Pickett has really hit his stride in this inner suburban restaurant – which he bought in early 2011. His right hand man and head chef is Ryan Flaherty, who has worked at The Fat Duck and el Bulli – a pretty impressive portfolio. Together they are doing food that suits them and it’s extremely good.
Chatting to Scott after our lunch, he appeared to be relaxed and happy, and confessed that he was really enjoying the change of pace from The Point, where he was essentially delivering on someone else’s brief. At the Estelle, he’s expressing his own culinary ideas and enjoying the creative opportunities that a mainly degustation offering allows the kitchen. It seems to be paying off – and with fantastic food like this – The Estelle is truly straying into two hatted territory. However, Scott says he’s happy with the one hat, and doesn’t want the extra one. He’s found his zone – and the zone is good. Get there quick – I know we’ll be back.