The fine edge of dining does not make complete sense to me in Richmond. This is an area rich in offerings, but traditionally not at the top echelon. That is rapidly changing.
For the first time in many years there is an Age Good Food Guide restaurant of the year here, and not far down the road towards the city sits Mister Jennings which has been making waves of its own. We have been looking for a good excuse to try it, not realising that it is actually very reasonable in any case.
Walking past a few months ago, we took the very unusual modern day measure of booking in person. The Friday night eventually came around and now we have been seated mid-restaurant, Catherine comfortable on the banquette, in a smallish room with about 30 diners. There is also a chef’s table available, and a private room upstairs.
The fitout is clean and minimalist, providing more of a bistro feel, leaving the food to star. We are poured free flowing sparkling water at a very reasonable $4 a head, and quickly decide to try the five course tasting menu for $85 a person. The tasting tonight features scallops in a pea soup, frozen kangaroo (a signature dish), blue eye fish, sirloin steak with mustards, chips and salad (another signature of the house), and dessert to finish.
A chicken dagwood dog is brought out as a fun amuse, packed with flavour. We then get our first course which is my favourite dish for a couple of months. The scallops, served raw, is adorned with a motley of herbs, each providing a defined burst, and the delicious spring pea soup is perfectly balanced to provide enough salty richness but not overshadow the scallops.
Catherine requested a swap to the beetroot and goats cheese instead of the frozen kangaroo, and for her it was a great decision. I had a try and this classic combination doesn’t get much better. However, the frozen kangaroo provides a serious illustration of the talents of head chef, Ryan Flaherty. You have carpaccio style kangaroo in pieces over a semi-sweet / semi-hot chutney with Nashi pear providing balance.
The blue eye seems to be sous-vide, appearing from underneath a good looking layer of squash, curry leaves, and purposely placed caviar. By this stage of the meal we were both very impressed. Each bite of the fish combined with the other ingredients was superb.
We were both drinking a white wine with our first few dishes. Catherine’s a Gippsland Chardonnay and mine an Albarinho; both were a good match and both provided a nice point of difference but these days it is hard to find a bland wine by the glass list. Our next wine was a German red recommended by our waitperson to match the later courses, in particular the sirloin. It was definitely a nice versatile wine, but I’m sketchy on the finer details.
All of a sudden we were up to our steak. It is served to share, already sliced (which I prefer) and is cooked on the rare side of medium rare (we were not asked our choice). Tonight we were offered white truffles to be grated over the top, and we unusually accepted. It was spread generously and enhances what is already a beautiful piece of meat, with that salty crust from the grill, and absolutely no need for a steak knife. The chips are seasoned with some paprika and the simply dressed salad of cos, radish and chive. It is a satisfying main.
For dessert we were told we would get a different dish each. The two we had our eyes on earlier were the ones actually served and Catherine got her wish of the almond sponge; me with the the chocolate I was keen on. The separated sponge is a highlight on its own, and with the other ingredients. The chocolate looks great with a meringue surrounding several textures including frozen, and mousse like, with blueberries interspersed. The sponge was better; but both were great.
This entire meal we were intrigued with how good each dish looked and tasted. By the end we were feeling like we had got to a really amazing party very late in the piece. Luckily in our case the party is possibly only starting for Mister Jennings and we’ll get many more chances to visit.