O.MY – Beaconsfield – Sunday 12 June 2016 – Dinner

Pumpkin gnocchi

Pumpkin gnocchi

Exceptional meals are inspirational occasions where your imagination stays transported long after you’ve put your knife and fork in the position of your choosing. That blissful feeling of complete satisfaction is not achieved at many restaurants and usually there is an X factor that is responsible for the elation.

Travel, and celebration, are two extraneous circumstances that add to many dining experiences to make them memorable. Closer to home, on a chilly evening with no particular celebration (except for the Queen’s Birthday!), in the outskirts of this great city, is a shining epicurean example of how the ordinary can become extraordinary.

O.MY was not my idea. In fact, for some reason I thought it was out near the airport? Catherine had been keeping an eye on the growing enthusiasm for the offerings of three brothers out in the sticks. Having travelled home from Brisbane this morning on less than four hours of sleep, I still maintained a good level of excitement knowing that this place was at the top of her list.

Contrasting the seasons with fresh leaves and pickled vegetables, emulsion and pork broth

Contrasting the seasons with fresh leaves and pickled vegetables, emulsion and pork broth

By the time we were in the foothills it could have only been five or six degrees, making the walk across the road from the car seem like going from a heated spa to a cold swimming pool. The saving grace of this small restaurant was that it holds few tables, meaning the door would be permanently closed for a few hours, allowing the room to grow warm quickly. Tables are quite close together meaning our initial conversation was hushed, but this changed quickly as one of the brothers, and Sommelier extraordinaire, Chayse, liquored up several enthusiastic guests.

There is no menu so you choose between four, six and eight courses. The prices for this type of restaurant are very reasonable, so we felt compelled to try the eight courses ($110), and on reflection we would not liked to have missed the two extra dishes. Though on our next visit we would consider having four, given you have a complimentary starter, and dessert (counted as one course) is more like three smaller courses.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut

We found the menu gathers momentum as time passes by. The starter is playful with a contrast of the current season (fresh leaves from the farm) and earlier seasons (pickled vegetables). You grab a pickle with your leaf and dip in the emulsion, taste, and then refresh with a delicious and deep flavoured pork broth. Next comes the first official course of pumpkin gnocchi with a rich barbecue style sauce. When you hear the other aspects of the pumpkin (including the “drippings”) are themes in other dishes, you realise the care, effort, and interest that the other brothers, Blayne and Tyson (both chefs), put in their produce. All three of them working much of their “free” hours in the farm.

At this stage Catherine and I are still on our first glass of chardonnay, which has a great mouthfeel and elegance, made by Payten & Jones in the Yarra Valley. Our first glass because Catherine is driving and I am still recovering. The next dish is the weakest of the evening, with lettuce leaves covering sauerkraut, with a chicken sauce bringing the dish together. I could see some of the idea behind it, but the combination didn’t work for me with the three components not mingling. The next dish left the prior in its wake, with a beautifully presented ode to Jerusalem artichokes.

Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke

We hadn’t finished our chardonnay, but our Sommelier insisted on a splash of another wine (on the house) to better match the potentially clashing chemicals in the artichoke. Such an intricate dish is difficult to describe, but there were several cooking methods employed to combine different tastes and textures of the artichoke including roasting, pureeing, and simply slicing raw. At this stage some of the themes, plating, crockery, and later on some of the seemingly stripped back (but extremely detailed) desserts, had me thinking back to an amazing meal at Momofuku Seiobo. The intricacy and complexity continued throughout the night, this time with a thick wedge of perfectly cooked mackerel, sitting in a squid sauce full of flavour.

Kangaroo

Kangaroo

The two extra dishes we received as part of the eight courses came next, and both were unforgettable. First, kangaroo loin with beetroot, and honey, was stunning. Using a well known combination, but putting their mark on the dish, the chefs show their ability. Next was my favourite dish of the night, with a centrepiece of smoked lamb. Every taste was incredible; perfect lamb in a divine sauce, with simple accompaniments. The Farr Rising Gamay, from the son of one of my favourite winemakers of all time, is a terrific expression of this variety made famous by Beaujolais, and a tremendous match for both dishes.

Smoked lamb

Smoked lamb

We finish our savoury dishes on a high with beef that has been dry aged for 40 days, which comes with a restrained amount of fermented potato scattered with young carrots, and a powerful beef ragu that is best to have in small doses. This dish acts as a filler, without lacking any of the presentation or flavour of the previous dishes. Again I had our sommelier come to my aid with a thoughtful half glass to match.

Lemon tarts, orange cake, and beignets

Lemon tarts, orange cake, and beignets

We had realised by now on adjacent tables that dessert held more than the usual excitement as several courses were being served instead of the promised single course. To start we tried a petit four style collection of lemon tarts, orange cakes, and beignets. They were all good ways to begin, but the lemon tart with its terrifically balanced acidity from a natural yoghurt, won the day.

Smoked pumpkin ice cream, chestnut puree and toasted buckwheat

Smoked pumpkin ice cream, chestnut puree and toasted buckwheat

Next was a revelation in the form of smoked pumpkin ice cream, chestnut purée, and toasted buckwheat. While the attractiveness of the colour could be questioned, this was one of the most memorable, full flavoured, sweet but savoury, desserts that I’ve encountered. The thought needed to get all of the elements perfect, both separate and combined, is an art. But really, as impossible as it seems, the next dessert was just as brilliant. Enter a combination of chocolate (of brownie texture, and sauce), kaffir lime sorbet, and a determined chilli gel, and you have another dessert that broke some of the rules without being found out. The chilli gel in particular was knock your head back hot if you just have a touch at the end of your spoon, but combined into each bite it softened in itself, and extended the taste profile.

Kaffir lime sorbet, chocolate

Kaffir lime sorbet, chocolate

As we shared a peppermint tea, and our final taste of salted caramel, we spoke in awe of some of the dishes, struggling to rank some of them against each other. All the way through all the waitstaff had been fantastic. No doubt they are aided by a smaller room and a close to one for five floor to customer ratio, but there was never a time we needed anything. So much so that I hadn’t turned my head to look at the room until it had started clearing out as other tables finished. My Negro vermouth during dessert, and the mocktail made for Catherine of plum, ginger and pepper, were again expressions of the attention to detail, and careful experimentation that is part and parcel of the experience.

It’s an unusual name, in an unusual area, but O.MY exudes a tremendously bright light that is enough to get the attention of the big city and beyond. A visit out here and there’s no doubt you’ll be sold on the execution of some cutting edge ideas, and the enthusiasm with which they are presented.

O.My Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Orana – Adelaide, City – Saturday 1 August 2015 – Dinner

Crab & Yoghurt sorbet, codium & sea purslane

Crab & Yoghurt sorbet, codium & sea purslane

Noma’s Executive Chef, Rene Redzepi, recently contacted his peer at Orana, Jock Zonfrillo, to discuss Jock’s take on “Australian” cuisine. It is fitting that I was reading about this on the way to Adelaide, and our eventual date with Orana. It must be quite an honour considering Orana is undoubtedly taking more than a pinch of inspiration from what Noma is doing with Nordic ingredients.

When I am going to a new restaurant I rarely read any reviews, or even look at the menu, because the less expectation, the better. However, whilst doing preliminary research, and making a booking, there is still a certain amount of information you take in, as well as when speaking to others about your future visits. At one Adelaide Hill’s winery, the owner mentioned that some people try thirty new ingredients when dining at Orana. I found that incredibly exciting.

Alexander palm heart, native honey & green ants

Alexander palm heart, native honey & green ants

Orana is not the only restaurant in Adelaide making huge waves. It is located around the corner from another trendsetter in Africolo, and there are a host of other new names. Upstairs from popular sister eatery, Street ADL, the space is in a word, tiny. Small enough that Catherine and I counted twenty-six chairs, nicely spaced, facing the middle of the room, and the largest table of six. Oddly, everyone facing inwards towards one table seems to work out, especially given there is no decent view outside. The space is simply furnished with some smart fittings that are both stylish and noise reducing. The tables are also simply adorned, making room for some artistic decanters later on.
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Once seated we are given an explanation of the tasting menu to come. Amazingly we are told we will start with fifteen “snacks”, before going on to four savoury mains, and then dessert, which again includes several snacks. One thing I did research, but can’t remember being specifically told, is the price of the tasting menu ($175). Equally, when asked about whether we wanted to take the option of matching wines, the price ($120) does not come up. This happened at Vue de Monde too, but I’d prefer to know or at least be given an overview when booking (which was on Dimmi) or when the restaurant confirms. All the same, we are eager to get into the food and with a couple of small requests for change on the wine matching, which the sommerlier agrees to, we decide on the wine matching too.

Potato damper, lamb butter; Emu in background with wild plum & mountain pepper

Potato damper, lamb butter; Emu in background with wild plum & mountain pepper

The snacks are brought out by head chef, Shannon Flemming, in what is a trend for the rest of the evening. I like the chefs having an opportunity to present their dish to you, and explain what ingredients are used, along with any story about the creation of the dish. For the first snack, damper, Shannon asks us to grab the tongs and turn it over in the hot coals that have been placed on the table. In one minute we can grab the damper off the hot coals and dip in the lamb butter to begin an evening of gorgeous combinations of local and Australian ingredients; invention abounding, and discovery similar to the road trip we have enjoyed from Melbourne via Mildura.

Without detailing each and every snack, which could go on for pages, I’d like to focus on a few of the new ingredients we tried, and some of the more inventive, or delicious bites we tried. It’s hard not to first mention the Alexander palm heart with native honey and green ants which I enjoyed two serves of! The ants are clearly sitting atop the delicately chopped palm heart and my curiosity needs to try one on their own. Surprisingly, they taste of fruit, berry like, with a burst of flavour as you crunch into them. The small spoonful of a dish works as a combination, purposely quite sweet to provide balance to the other savoury bites.

Prawn & Davidson plum

Prawn & Davidson plum

The red dust of the Davidson plum on the barely cooked prawns is spicy. The absolutely beautiful emu is gently seared with wild plum inside oozing out in your single bite. The lamb in kohlrabi is bursting in flavour. The macadamia cream drunk from a cup is a pure expression of the impeccable nut from Queensland. Never off the menu to date, the thinly sliced pumpkin again demonstrates the ability of the chefs to harness and accentuate a single ingredient.

Roast beef & pumpkin

Roast beef & pumpkin

One of my favourite snacks was towards then end where the last few were slightly larger. The crab and yoghurt sorbet is creamy and slightly sweet, on a bed of codium and sea purslane, which both are found in or near the sea. Reminiscent of the oyster ice cream at Brae, you will see sorbets and ice creams of seafood more and more, because somehow it just works.

Settling into the main dishes, a spelt dish starts us off. It is soft and generous, but not as exciting as the other mains. Next we have the first of three impeccable savoury courses. The kangaroo is encased in thinly sliced beetroot, along with many other accompanying ingredients including grasses and wild garlic. The roo itself is softly cooked, separated into bite sized tastes, almost pulled, and just tastes amazing. Whether combined with the other ingredients or on its own, it is beautiful, which is not easy to do with kangaroo.

Charred kangaroo, beetroot, grasses & wild garlic

Charred kangaroo, beetroot, grasses & wild garlic

The fish course is one of Catherine’s favourites. Mullet is again lightly touched, showing off its unctuous goodness. It comes with an ingredient we only first tried two nights back at Penfolds Magill Estate where several of the staff here have worked. The ice plant is a succulent used here that you will see more in mainstream restaurants in years to come because it has an inviting but unique flavour.

Coorong mullet, lentils, walnut & ice plant

Coorong mullet, lentils, walnut & ice plant

My favourite dish of the night is the Angus beef, served aside ox tongue. When combined with the caramelised leaks, and soft smoked potato, it has nothing of the flavour you would expect from what is often just another meat dish at the end of a tasting to make sure you are full and satisfied. This is a very adult version. Strong flavours in balance, to be eaten in small bites and not devoured.

Coorong Angus beef, smoked potato & leek

Coorong Angus beef, smoked potato & leek

Each dish was well explained by the chefs or floor staff who were serving us, and service was the highest quality, balancing attentiveness with absence for conversation. The sommelier did a terrific job too. We had started with a versatile blanc de blancs from Champagne producer Jose Dhondt (topped up without our beckoning by the sommelier to see us through the fifteen snacks), and went on to a 2012 Chablis by Patrick Piuze (as requested) with the spelt. The kangaroo was theatrically presented inside a large bowled Riedel glass which was full of smoke. Once lifted and wafted in your direction, the glass is filled with a local South Australian Amber Ale beer by Robe Town. Not a huge beer fan, Catherine requested a wine to be matched instead and got to try a great red from producer “Head”.

Pocky sticks!

Pocky sticks!

With the oily Mullet fish, we tried an equally inventive wine. Oddly Cabernet Sauvignon from the Adelaide Hills is combined with Sauvignon Blanc and Petit Verdot from the same block in an experimental vineyard. While the team at Domaine Lucci understand there is more Cab Sav in the blend, the actual proportions are not known as all the grapes are combined in the winemaking process. The result is offputtingly delicious for a traditionalist like myself, and the combination with the fish is superb. More traditional but equally delicious, the SOS 2014 Sangiovese from the Yarra Valley finished our savoury courses off, combining gracefully with the beef.

Bunya tubers & Davidson plum molases

Bunya tubers & Davidson plum molases

Going into our dessert snacks the Australian theme did not subside at all. We tried marshmallows tasting of bush lemon and dusted with mountain berries. Cinnamon jam doughnuts featured too, only the jam was made from riberry bush berries, and pocky sticks came in flavours of dark chocolate with local porcini mushrooms, white chocolate with quandong, and Spruce pine. To match we had a glass of Joseph Riesling Traminer by Primo Estate which is a Botrytis dessert wine that I’ve liked for many years.

The first of our main desserts is Davidson plum molasses over Bunya tubers in the form of ice cream. It is the sweeter of the two desserts and is followed by the only other dish besides the pumpkin that has stayed the distance on the menu (though I did suggest they might want to think about keeping the beef on!) It is not overly sweet, and is one of those dishes that works far better in combination than tasting the ingredients separately. Set buttermilk is surrounded by a strawberry juice with eucalyptus oils dispersed. It seems simple but it isn’t.

Set buttermilk, strawberry & eucalyptus

Set buttermilk, strawberry & eucalyptus

Even the petit four with our tea and coffee was imaginative, looking like a normal chocolate truffle, but tasting just like your classic chocolate crackle from the local bake stall at the fete!

We had an extraordinary time at Orana. With ingredients coming from far and wide, across our beautiful country, many of them indigenous to Australia, it was a journey. The floorstaff and chefs guided us with care and humour through the experience, and I can see why Rene Redzepi is taking lessons from Jock on his venture into what is Australian. Orana is Adelaide’s dining Fringe Festival, and it promises to be just as successful.

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Brae – Birregurra, Victoria – Saturday 30 August 2014 – Dinner

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Destination restaurants are special. At times the community creates the restaurant, and vice versa, but the best examples have the two living hand in hand. Birregurra is a town I didn’t know well, but I will be getting to know for years to come thanks to Dan Hunter making it his town.

Dan Hunter didn’t establish Birregurra and he didn’t create the venue where Brae resides. It was previously “Sunnybrae” and I was unfortunate not to eat at this predecessor that had an amazing reputation of its own. However, Dan has, in the space of months, and particularly over the past fortnight, put Birregurra on the map for restaurant lovers both in Victoria, and throughout Australia. I expect he will put it on the world map in the not too distant future.

Radicchio growing in the extensive garden

Radicchio growing in the extensive garden

It is one thing to have a successful destination restaurant in a capital city that requires out-of-towners to fly in for a “must try” experience. It is a further stretch to have a restaurant in a small town, 90 minutes outside of the city. The thing I love about destination dining is the feeling of being away. Even if only for a night you are having a new experience, not only of the restaurant, but of the town the restaurant lives and breathes in. We chose Harvest Birregurra B&B as our accommodation for our Brae experience and Fiona & Steve could not have been more hospitable. We were relaxed well before we ventured to the restaurant in Steve’s “Chariot”.

Egg yolk, potato and jerusalem artichoke, sauce of comte and vin jaune

Egg yolk, potato and jerusalem artichoke, sauce of comte and vin jaune

Dan Hunter knows how to create brilliance to travel for. He was head chef at Mugaritz in San Sebastian which is one of the world’s best restaurants, before creating a destination of his own in Dunkeld at the Royal Mail Hotel. But Brae is special, Brae is his. There is overwhelming expectation created by the CV, and the recent awards Brae has received before it’s first anniversary.

It is easy to forget we are in the country as we step through the doors and into the comforting confines of a fine dining restaurant. For a building looking like a homestead, it is surprisingly sleek and restrained inside. The tables are well spaced, and the kitchen is in the spotlight, many of the tables facing the bright lights like it is the stage in a theatre.

There are many floorstaff and many chefs. On the floor there is a certain hum, it is smooth, and everyone is doing their job in an orderly fashion, but it is not stuffy. In fact, small delays and mistakes are made, but they are not worth noting. There is an assuredness in the service, but it is like the first quarter of a footy game – everyone knows their job, and is doing it well, but the team is not quite perfectly gelling – though it is not far from it.

The degustation consists of eight tastes to begin, five savoury courses, and two dessert courses. There are many influences, so many influences the cuisine can only be described as modern. The one dominant influence is the restaurant garden out the front as you drive in, which is rich in the freshest seasonal produce imaginable; the envy of city chefs. Most ingredients are sourced locally, including many of the wines in the optional matching.

Iced oyster Beef tendon and mountain pepper Globe artichoke Radish and fermented cream

Iced oyster
Beef tendon and mountain pepper
Globe artichoke
Radish and fermented cream

Of the eight tastes, there are several that are outstanding. At the top is the “iced oyster”. There is no oyster at all. It is the essence of the oyster in a delicious sweet and salty ice cream served in the shell. Then the “beef tendon and mountain pepper” looks like a glorified prawn cracker. The gelatinous tendon must be dehydrated, and perhaps stretched, to achieve both an inviting texture, and a decadent richness. The prawn heads are served quite crisp and you are encouraged to eat the entire head, which is both flavoursome and a little disconcerting at the same time. If it wasn’t for friends, who I’ve seen devouring large prawn heads many times, I would have opted out! Other tastes featuring globe artichokes, radishes, and turnips, presumably straight from the garden, are excellent too.

Hapuku just cured with orange, celeriac, pickles

Hapuku just cured with orange, celeriac, pickles

The Hapuku fish is lightly cured with citrus and stands out even though delicate. It is beautiful from a textural perspective, the dressing glossing over the plate, and featuring varied herbs including Vietnamese mint, elk and lemongrass. Tiny pickled vegetables add some crunch into a genre of dish that is becoming a modern classic. In the next dish, warm ricotta again is the focus, covered in ground winter truffle, and incredibly presented with nettles and brassicas (mustardy cabbage) standing through the cheese.

Warm ricotta and nettle, winter truffle and brassicas

Warm ricotta and nettle, winter truffle and brassicas

Another modern classic is any dish featuring egg yolk. There are so many variants on this theme that it needs to be amazing, otherwise it is passé. Dan Hunter’s version is restrained for such a typically rich dish, and the dried jerusalem artichokes, and soft flavoursome potatoes, enhanced by the comte and vin jaune sauce, are definitely amazing together. The raw wallaby, in an array of spices, is covered in radicchio that has been soaked in maple syrup and charred. The charred beetroot it is served with is utterly superb. The two tie each other together in one of the best dishes I’ve eaten. Yes, it is raw wallaby and that is confronting in more than one way, but this is culinary genius. It is building on a foundation of two ingredients that work together, and launching it to out of space.

Raw wallaby, wattle and lemon myrtle, charred beetroot and radicchio

Raw wallaby, wattle and lemon myrtle, charred beetroot and radicchio

After the wallaby, it is hard to impress any more, but the Wessex saddleback pork is strong and flavoursome all the same. The meat is cooked so perfectly there has to be some science involved. There are so many techniques and such inspired cooking throughout the savoury courses that you are left wondering how the food could be topped by dessert. We were soon to find out.

We wouldn’t normally choose the wine matching. In multiple course degustations it is definitely a good idea, but getting the volume right is difficult and we were convinced some time ago that matching a glass to every couple of dishes can work better on occasion. Tonight, we were convinced otherwise and we appreciate the sommelier’s suggestion which he equated to four glasses of wine. The absolute highlight was the 2011 By Farr “Sangreal” Pinot Noir from nearby Geelong which was matched to the saddleback. The depth of the pinot is exceptional, with a great mouthfeel that lingers like the warm sunny day we’d just experienced. I thought the other highlight, amongst many other great matches, was the 2013 The Story “Westgate Vineyard” Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier from the Grampians. The perfect foil for the egg yolk, delivering savoury richness and balance.

Quince simmered with onions, honey, cultured milk

Quince simmered with onions, honey, cultured milk

When all you know of a dessert is “quince simmered with onions, honey, cultured milk” you could be led to believe you are about to eat another savoury course. However, the waitstaff put this impression to bed when they informed us the saddleback was the last of the savoury courses. So what we discovered with mouthwatering bite after bite is an intriguing dish, luckily not tasting of the onions the quince are poached in, but in perfect balance both in taste and texture. The slightly sweetened cultured milk has little pieces of honeycomb below it providing a crunchy burst of sweetness of its own. There are two strips of citrus peel providing a bitter note, with the divine honey bringing the dish together. It is one of those times where you don’t need to combine all five elements, but when you do you are rewarded.

Parsnip and apple

Parsnip and apple

Our next dessert is a signature of Dan Hunter. It has a high visual impact when brought to the table with the largest parsnip crisp you have ever seen protruding from the plate like a dosa in Southern India. On the parsnip is delicious shaved apple that enlivens the palate. Underneath, resembling a log, apple features in a mousse-like texture, and dehydrated apple, with skin on, is scattered over the plate. It is incredibly flavoursome, and incredibly fun. You end up breaking off pieces of the parsnip, scooping up some mousse, adding a bit of apple, and enjoying a taste sensation! It is hard to do any justice to the amount of imagination and technique this dish would require and it wouldn’t be out of place in any of the world’s best restaurants but feels completely at home in Birregurra.

For a destination restaurant to work it has to have something special, and it relies on the community to add a further intangible quality to the experience. Birregurra is used to having a great restaurant to call it’s own, and Brae seems to have captured the imagination of this community and given them another aspect of their town to be very proud about. Dan Hunter has made a good decision to move here, and I’m positive Birregurra is the envy of towns across Victoria and throughout the world.

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Eleven Madison Park – New York City – Thursday 12 June 2014 – Lunch

Entry to Eleven Madison Park

Entry to Eleven Madison Park

When you are on your way to one of the world’s best restaurants a number of things go through your mind. For me, normally whether I can afford it, and will it dish up what I hope for.

This time around I had one main measuring stick, Columbus Circle’s Per Se. The walk from our friends place in Chelsea was short but very sweet. And in the park, the line at the Shake Shack was 200 metres long already (at least).

I know a fair number of people who’ve eaten at Eleven Madison Park and my expectations were tempered. It was my last day with Catherine before the World Cup, so good company was guaranteed!

Lobster - Poached with Beets, Ginger and Nasturitum

Lobster – Poached with Beets, Ginger and Nasturitum

The entry is not spectacular which straight away eases the pressure and intimidation that you can feel at such a restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, the Art Deco entry is pretty cool. It is also below Credit Suisse which offsets the ease a little! The staff throughout were as you would expect at a three Michelin star restaurant if you are ticking off the good aspects. What we didn’t expect from the staff was the ease they put us at. Three or four very relevant and clear, but uncommon questions, and a few explanations were absolutely so juxtaposed to the stuff you get at many fine diners that we knew we were up for something not just special but magnificent.

And then came the food!

My main measurement of great restaurants is firstly not having any “misses” in a degustation – tick. Next comes new flavours and some surprises – tick, tick, tick. After that comes the fun, theatre, company, and a bill that is either commensurate or close to what you just experienced – all ticks.

The fun and theatre is epitomised by Eleven’s take on Katz Deli’s classic pastrami on rye. I love Katz’s but Eleven takes it to a level only a master could attempt. The pastrami itself is melt-in-the-mouth! Along with the sandwich is a surprise that I’ll leave to you to experience. Then there’s the picnic basket for cheese course – in this case you are constructing while laughing at how fun and elaborate the thought process for the chefs must be.

Duck with Lavender

Duck with Lavender

There is the joy of seeing the whole roasted duck with lavender stuffing. Which then is hastily, but very effectively, served to you with gorgeous accompanying rhubarb compote, and lavender jus. Remarkable. The best “main” or more correctly “finishing savoury” dish I’ve had at one of these multi course degustations.

Duck - Broth with Cured Duck and Watercress, Roasted with Rhubarb, Shallots, and Scallions

Duck – Broth with Cured Duck and Watercress, Roasted with Rhubarb, Shallots, and Scallions

I like the beginning that takes you to a number of flavours and influences, but not all in one mouthful. Bowls of all sorts of deliciousness to begin. From the combination of Beluga Caviar and baked potato ice cream, to the English peas.

Beluga Caviar and Baked Potato Ice Cream

Beluga Caviar and Baked Potato Ice Cream

English Peas - Warmed with Meyer Lemon and Egg Yolk

English Peas – Warmed with Meyer Lemon and Egg Yolk

Seared (my choice) or terrine, foie gras is offered. The rocket purée is not my favourite but the foie gras is perfect. There is nothing that is ordinary or used as a filler throughout the meal.

Foie Gras - Seared with Fava Bean Marmalade and Sorrel

Foie Gras – Seared with Fava Bean Marmalade and Sorrel

One of the themes of your meal (which you decide at the beginning) is used to great effect. In my case, coffee is used as a sauce for the stunning Bombe Alaska. I love how the staff talk you through the history of the dish – educational and incredible.

Almond - Baked Alaska with Rum, Caramel and Coffee

Almond – Baked Alaska with Rum, Caramel and Coffee

Another education is the Waldorf salad. Made in front of you, the waitperson explains the history of the classic you are about to eat, before lifting up your plate reveals the modern Eleven take on the classic which is obscenely well put together – linked by a perfect purée of celery.

EMP Take on Waldorf Salad

EMP Take on Waldorf Salad

The sommelier is helpful with the wines and our usual option is to have a glass with every couple of courses. What was nice is you speak about the style you like and they play with it from there. You are also asked for a budget in a completely unpretentious way – and what’s more is they stick to it!

The wine selections for me were great. I asked for unusual varieties I may have not tried that will go well with a couple of courses in a row. In particular the Austrian Nueburger with the Waldorf was fantastic. Catherine asked for some classics based around Chardonnay for white and Shiraz for red – again the wines were beautifully selected.

Asparagus - Braised with Potato and Black Truffle

Asparagus – Braised with Potato and Black Truffle

There was a lobster course, an asparagus and truffle course, chocolate covered pretzels with sea salt, and black and white cookies to begin and finish (savoury and sweet). It sounds like a lot of food (and it was) but it wasn’t in excess and we felt great throughout the meal. The timing of delivery had to have been well thought through because we didn’t once feel the need to slow it down as we often do.

Whey - Sorbet with Caramelised Milk and Milk Foam

Whey – Sorbet with Caramelised Milk and Milk Foam

Which brings me to dessert. The whey sorbet with caramelised milk and milk foam looked beautiful but not unique. Just like the rest of the meal, the great presentation was usurped by the flavour. Balance of sweetness, richness and lasting flavour. The caramel in particular a triumph. Then our waitperson presented a perfect dome of Bombe Alaska. Mouth’s watering, the dome is whisked away and brought back out in a much more reasonable portion, covered with our choice of sauce. It has ruined Bombe Alaska for me forever. Well, until the next time we are back at Eleven!

Spectacular in every sense of the word, Eleven Madison Park is a stunning example of how good restaurants can be. The lengths the staff and creators have gone to are best shown in the ease at which greatness is executed. Experience tells me that I cannot understate how special this dining experience is.

Eleven Madison Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato