Stillwater – Launceston
When I announced I was going to Tasmania for a mini-break just after Christmas, iMac enthusiastically and emphatically told me that I had to go to Stillwater!! It was not an option, it was a requirement. So, we carved a night into the itinerary where we stayed overnight in Launceston so that we could walk over to the restaurant nestled in a corner of the Tamar River (and easily toddle back) and see what all the fuss was about. I was very fortunate to have a friend in the industry serendipitously connected with management at Stillwater (Thanks Quentin!), and he wangled on our behalf so we could do both a la carte and degustation at the same table. This meant that Rambunctuous R and I could do the six course tasting menu, while the boys could do the a la carte option! A rare event indeed. Yay! Well… it was Christmas!
The setting of the restaurant is indeed lovely, and you can walk from the main business area of Launceston through some parks and along the river until you get to the restaurant….
We settled in for our flight of Tasmanian food and wine deliciousness, and allowed the delightful Will to look after us.
Six Course Tasting Menu
The amuse bouche consisted of some silky duck ham with smoked cherry plums – this was a gorgeous, unctuous mouthful with the duck providing a lovely rich complement to the sweet, smoky plum.
Beetroot and crème fraîche mousse, smoked goat’s curd, pickled beetroot and beetroot paper.
This dish was definitely the standout dish of the night. I have to confess that it’s a choice I would never have ordered if left to my own devices – and that would have been a pity. The shard was amazing in visual impact, taste and texture. The mousse was so sweet and creamy – and perfectly partnered with the smoked goat’s curd. This was a dish with great textures and contrasts – I would highly recommend it if you find yourself at Stillwater wondering what to order! It was matched with a 2010 Velo Riesling from the Tamar Valley which complemented it very well.
Yellowtail kingfish and octopus kokonda made with lime, wasabi leaf, chilli, toasted coconut and coriander veloute.
This dish was very delicate and creamy, and probably a little understated for the style. The kingfish and octopus were beautifully cured and tender, and the dressing was the right flavour combination but we were expecting a bit more punch from the lime and chilli – which would have been welcome. Accompanied by a 2011 Holm Oak Arneis from the Tamar Valley, which was a lovely silky foil to the creaminess of the kokonda.
Tasmanian rock lobster, Spreyton avocado, lemon peel puree, avruga caviar and macadamia nuts.
This dish was rock lobster at its best. I tend to find lobster and crayfish to be a bit overrated – a personal view of course. However, the accompaniments to this dish, in particular the amazing lemon peel puree, enhanced the rock lobster and really made it sing. I was very impressed. It was served with a 2011 Josef Chromy Chardonnay from the Tamar Valley – which started out with a very “funky” nose but mellowed out beautifully and changed completely when tasted with the dish. A great pairing!
Confit and roasted Rannoch Farm Quail, corn cake, pancetta crisp and pan juices.
What’s not to like about quail two ways – and I have to say the confit quail literally fell apart and dissolved into ethereal goodness in the mouth. Having said that though, the hero on the dish was the amazing corn cake. It was effectively a silky corn velouté encased in golden crumbs! I asked how it had been prepared, and apparently the corn cream had been set as a custard, cut into cubes which had then been crumbed and deep fried. The effect was that when you cut into it a silky, smooth corn cream came spilling out from the crispy shell. It was amazing. The quail was served with a 2009 Winstead Lot 7 Pinot Noir from Bagdad in Southern Tasmania. It started out quite ‘zingy’ but mellowed out fabulously. Delicious!
Pear sorbet served with Cape Grim sparkling water – I was a bit sceptical about this at first, but the coupling created a very distinctive palate cleanser. The sparkling water added a refreshing effervescence to the sorbet which worked really well.
Robbins Island Wagyu Oyster blade with coffee glaze, mushroom marrow and beetroot puree.
While this is not the most attractive dish, it more than made up for it in taste! The amazing component in this dish was actually the mushrooms – the “marrow” was created with a mushroom custard set in the centre of the field mushroom, giving the impression of a cross section of bone. I am a self-confessed funghi lover – so I was in heaven. The wagyu was as rich and melt in the mouth as it looks in the photo. It was a dish of concentrated rich and earthy flavours. This was matched with a 2010 Moorilla Muse Cabernet Merlot.
Brambleberry Pannacotta, bitter sweet Valrhona Majari chocolate soil, and pistachio vacherin.
I have to admit, this was a stunning dessert, particularly if you were a berry lover. However, both Rambunctuous R and I found it a little overwhelming to finish on. The flavours were just too strong, a little tart and we found it a little jarring for the end of the meal. We had serious dish envy of Talkative Techie T’s white chocolate marquise (see below) which was a much more mellow and delicious dish. In the end, valiant as we were, we couldn’t actually finish the dish. It was matched with a lovely 2007 Pressing Matters R139 Riesling from the Coal River Valley in Tasmania.
Pistachio frangipane and chocolate truffles to finish… which seriously would have finished me off, so I didn’t get to taste them. However, the reports were good.
The A La Carte Option
Both Andrew and Talkative T opted for the a la carte option – having less convuluted tastes than Rambunctuous R and I.
Confit and roasted Rannoch Farm Quail, corn cake, pancetta crisp and pan juices
For his starter, Talkative Techie T opted for the quail dish which I’ve already waxed lyrical about. I have to say – I think he was onto a winner. Interesting to note that the entrée version of this dish is double the size of the degustation course – which gives you an idea of sizes. Personally… I would have easily polished off a little plateful of those corn cakes! Delicious!
Slow cooked Mount Gnomon Pork Belly, pear anise purée and black pudding
Andrew was tossing up between the quail and the pork belly and opted for the latter. The belly was well cooked, but the skin was a bit tough and he ended up resorting to using his steak knife to get through it. That’s one of the gambles you take ordering pork belly – but he persevered! He’s never been a fan of black pudding (hidden under the pork in this pic) – so that was always going to be relegated to the side of the plate. However, Rambunctuous R is a bit of an expert on Black Pudding and is always in search of a good version – she declared it a great rendition and had a lot of trouble stopping at “just a taste”.
Cape Grim Eye Fillet of Beef, Paris mash, smoked tommy toe tomatoes, confit scapes and creamed mustard leaf.
Both of the guys went for the red meat option – the beef looked amazing and apparently tasted divine. Served atop a smear of Paris mash (I’m sure the boys would have preferred more of a mound), the mustard leaf cream served as a sauce drizzled over the steak. I’d never heard of scapes before – but it turns out they’re the green shoots that grow out of the top of garlic bulbs – they were an interesting and quite delicious garnish on the dish.
Tonka bean and white Belgian chocolate marquise, vanilla butter roasted melon, macadamia nut and shredded wheat crumble.
This was the dessert to have – so deliciously mellow and creamy, rich yet light – it was spectacular. The rockmelon was a real surprise, it had been roasted so it was quite tender, but beautifully fragrant so that it was just the right counterpart to the soft, silky chocolate marquise. Delicious!
Overall we had a lovely night at Stillwater and there’s a reason why so many foodies journey to Launceston to check it out. Its one star status in the 2013 Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide is well deserved, and they do a brilliant job of showcasing Tasmania’s finest wine and produce in creative and innovative ways. I just wish we had been able to stay an extra day to take in the partnership’s offering in their new venture, Black Cow Bistro. Maybe next time…
Many thanks to Front-of-House Manager, Bianca Welsh, who along with our waiter Will, ensured we had a lovely time and we were well looked after.