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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
1121 High St, Armadale Victoria 3143, Australia
+61 (0)3 9822 0144