Adventures in Armadale

Our dinner at the newly opened Amaru (@amaru_melbourne Amaru Melbourne 1121 High St, Armadale, Melbourne) hosted by the inimitable Phil Hude (ably assisted by Aine Conran) from Armadale Cellars was such a wonderful treat.Amaru Restaurant

Clinton McIver’s background as sous chef at Vue de Monde has been well documented, as was his dazzling 14-month stint at Clayton Bowls Club, where he honed his menu and carefully plotted his next steps (undoubtedly the best food to ever grace that particular eastern enclave!).

Clinton and his partner Ali have set up close to their home in High Street, Armadale, in a strip formerly more renowned for its pret-a-porter than haute cuisine, but with this addition it’s sure to become a real food destination. Ali and Clinton have been able to create an impressive, high concept menu, but with a warm sense of welcome and dinner party ambience.

Our starters, served as canapes (chivalrously camouflaging any latecomers) each had a nod to Indigenous produce. Puffed Kangaroo tendon served in wildflower honey, caramelized roo fat & burnt fig leather, was like a very antipodean prawn cracker, the saltiness combined with a thin wafer of richness and sweetness making for a lovely mouthful. Lightly cured bass grouper with fresh finger lime, native pepper leaf & fried pigs ear was a gorgeous ceviche of deep water wreck fish on a crispy, porky skin.

Blue swimmer crab with day old bread, vinegar, brown butter & pickled nasturtiums was a delectable crouton topped with shredded crab, its richness lifted by the pickled flower. The 80:20 blend of 2011 Le Vin de LEVIN Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay, served ‘en magnum’ with fresh notes of lemon, green apple and a rounded palate complemented each taste beautifully.

After Phil’s typically idiosyncratic introduction of the wines (he always manages to include a few references to Hawthorn FC), Lynne Levin explained the some-35-year history of the domaine, the organic and biodynamic production, the vineyards and flavour profiles of each of the wines to the avid vinophile audience.1heirloom

Next, we enjoyed the deceptively simple Heirloom tomatoes stewed with marron heads & muntrie berries. The rich umami sauce created by the marron mustard was contrasted with the just-collapsing, multi-coloured heirloom tomatoes, with bright bursts from the berries, which we greedily mopped up with the Organic spelt sourdough & Tasmanian grass fed cultured butter. Such a wonderful match to our savoury, dry, tomato leaf, cool cherry and redcurrant 2011 LEVIN Rosé. Bass Groper

Next, we returned to the groper in greater proportions, Bass Groper, sauce of roasted wallaby bone & tender sea grapes, which was an ever-so-gently cooked fillet with lashes of salty seaweed and a rich reduction of wallaby. The 2011 LEVIN Sauvignon Blanc with its subtle herbaceousness, pink grapefruit, and minerality was a bright and jaunty foil to the sea grapes, though 2011 MISTER L Sauvignon Blanc with its richer, smoky layers of complexity and gentle spine of acidity was a transcendent match.Dry aged Burrawon Gaian duck

The Dry aged Burrawon Gaian duck, preserved blueberry, barbecued radicchio was where our gamays really shone. This dish’s lift of blueberry played joyfully with the more generous cherry and dark berry notes in the 2011 Le Vin de LEVIN Gamay, while the smoky duck and radicchio was a brilliant compliment to 2011 Madame L Gamay’s savoury, spicy, earthy notes overlain with violets, lavender and cherry.
Cultured buffalo milk ice cream

Finally, we were treated to the impressive and slightly savoury dessert Cultured buffalo milk ice cream, cold pressed olive oil, Tasmanian pepper berry and seasonal aromatics. Almost playing the cheese course, the curd-like buffalo ice cream had a lively twang, with the clean, savoury flavours of the olive oil and pepper berry seeming to match equally well with the 2011 LEVIN Gamay and 2011 LEVIN Noble Botrytis Sauvignon Blanc, creating a good deal of lively discussion in the process!

We were so proud that LEVIN Wines was part of Amaru’s very first winemaker’s dinner and we know that Ali and Clinton will enjoy some very deserved success at their world class restaurant. Mister & Madame L look forward to dining at Amaru again when they return to Melbourne!

Amaru

@amaru_melbourne Amaru Melbourne

1121 High St, Armadale Victoria 3143, Australia

+61 (0)3 9822 0144

info@amarumelbourne.com.au

Return to Brae

Returning once again to Brae (@BraeRestaurant braerestaurant 4285 Cape Otway Rd, Birregurra, Victoria) in the first week of the antipodean autumn surpassed all our expectations. While only a month had passed since our last long lunch, we were treated to some amazing new experiences and some fast favourites from last time.

For the autumn menu, we decided to give our complete attention to Dan Hunter’s menu, so rather than matched wines with each taste, we decided to choose some special bottles. We were very kindly treated to NV André Beaufort ‘Reserve Polisy’ Brut, Aube, Champagne with our first small dishes, an interesting organic grower champagne, with a smoky, mineral character.

Brae autumn starters

Chilled cucumber and cold garden leaves was a bright combination of clean flavours to thoroughly whet our appetite. Zucchini flowers and lemon aspen tart was an incredibly fresh and inspired use of zucchini flowers, as very good as it looks.

Crimson pearl potato and smoked eel sandwich, which we’d tasted in a slightly different way last time, was a delicious little wafery-fishy mouthful.

Brae larger dishes

Tomatoes and davidson plum in chilled crustacean broth was verging on a spiritual experience! The slightly dehydrated tomatoes intensified and focused the flavours, which burst into the mouth. They were complemented by a dusting of dehydrated plum as well as whole Davidson plums, floating in a chilled crustacean broth, a really transcendent combination.

Prawn, nasturtium, finger lime was a twist on our last visit, was a sublime prawn pillowed within nasturtium leaf, topped with a burst of finger lime cells. Ice oyster, once again, what a truly incredible dish. The sheep’s milk ice cream flavoured with the oyster’s brine and freeze dried oyster and herbs is just a wonderful experience.

Sea urchin and chicory bread pudding featured fresh chicory that lent a balancing bitterness to the intensely rich sea urchin. With a sprinkling of dehydrated citrus peel to pull it all together.

With the larger dishes, we really enjoyed the 2008 Benoit Ente ‘Champ Gain’ 1er Cru, Puligny Montrachet, France, which was a beautifully balanced wine that had been decanted to open up its gorgeous white flower, citrus and mineral characters.

Brae dishes

Calamari and fermented kohlrabi, last of the peas and beef fat was another incredible dish. The finely sliced calamari was just slightly poached and the kohlrabi, cut to resemble the calamari, had been fermented adding an umami dimension. The teeny-tiny baby peas were amazingly fresh and the richness of the smoky beef marrow and fat pulled the dish together perfectly. (The peas and beef fat were cooked in the smoker in a pan with holes in the bottom, the drippings falling onto coals below to create a flavoured smoke for the peas!)

Southern rock lobster cooked with carrot, white onion and sea butter was a revelation and standout on the day. The delicately cooked lobster legs were seasoned with ground green olive, chrysanthemum leaves, a gorgeous sea butter that we surmised was a reduction of the lobster shells and carrot, with the quite crisp, fresh white onion adding some grip to the dish.

Eggplant and salt grass lamb washed with sweet onion juice, fragrant and acidic plants was a homecoming to one of our favourite dishes from the summer menu, a tantalizing salty-sweet onion slice of lamb with gorgeous leaves from the kitchen garden.

Hapuku and sunflower, minutina in brown butter was a beautiful deep water wreckfish that fell apart in large, moist flakes, sitting on a smear of pureed sunflower seeds. We thought the sunflower seeds tasted a little like tahini and matched so beautifully with the crisp minutina greens tossed in burnt butter.

Wood grilled Tajima beef aged 45 days, Otway shiitake, fermented cabbage was a beautifully textured, smoky medallion of beef. We thought the real star of the dish was the wood smoke, which was contrasted by the sharpness of the thinly sliced cabbage and complemented by the smokiness of the mushroom.

Brae puddings

With the desserts, we drank 2011 By Farr Viognier ‘Dessert Wine’, Geelong, Victoria. Gary Farr’s wines, made close by, are understandably darlings on Brae’s wine list and this standout pudding wine worked wonderfully well with the sweet dishes.

Plums simmered with pear, honey and cultured milk revisted the Davidson plums we loved with the tomatoes, but this time poached in sweet pear, with silky ice cream, honeycomb (made from honey from their apiary) and glacéd citrus peel on top.

Parsnip and apple was once again a delight, with the crispy parsnip shell, honeyed crème and powdered apple creating an inventive twist on the cannoli.

Brae Rooms

Feeling perfectly satiated after an opulent lunch, it was wonderful to stay at one of Brae’s recently-opened six luxury suites, so beautifully appointed by Six Degrees’ architecture and Studio Round’s interiors.

The room had an urbane 1960s vibe that John & Sunday Reed would have been most at home in. The walls were decorated with beautiful contemporary art, there was a proper record player and vinyl collection, the most lavish mini bar, marble benches and fully stocked wine fridge, a delightful charcuterie and cheese repast for the evening and big sky sunset views.

What a triumphant return and we’re so looking forward to hosting the very talented Dan Hunter in London in the near future!

Brae +61 3 5236 2226

Twitter @BraeRestaurant Instagram braerestaurant

4285 Cape Otway Rd, Birregurra, Victoria, Australia