Following our review of Cumulus Inc, here is our second instalment of our tour of our favourite top five restaurants in Melbourne. It is also the most recently opened by talented and Bocuse trained Chef, Philippe Mouchel.
His cuisine is firmly routed in French tradition, but includes a few twists and surprises which makes it the newest destination for French flavour in Melbourne. Make sure you book, as it is already very popular.
The Essential Ingredient opens a cheese counter in Rozelle in style
will not be surprised if I tell you I am a regular client of the Essential Ingredient in Rozelle being almost a local, but also I regularly attend their fabulous events. And tonight, I had to squeeze in a quick visit to the opening of their cheese counter, replacing a not so successful café, mainly because there are like three of four other ones, including my friend Pierre Labancz who offers good coffee and his famous croissants and other French pastries, as well as a good range of breads. So cheese is a welcome addition to The Essential Ingredient portfolio of foods, cookware and cooking books.
This event was as usual very well organised and packed. Plenty cheeses were on offer including two French cheeses that I never had a chance to try before! Piper Heidseck Champagne was flowing freely and the knowledgeable staff were there to make sure we had a good time and we did! Thanks for having me and fellow food enthusiasts. We will be back as they say in the movie!
Burgundy dinner chez Bitton Gourmet
Although I have known of David Bitton for 15 years through mutual friends and had been to his original coffee shop years ago, We had never met until a recent Le Creuset event at The Essential ingredient in Rozelle. I was suitably impressed with his cooking skills that night and we started chating - in franglais, bien sûr - and ended up with an invitation for this Burgundy dinner then.
So, I thought it was quite amusing that I had another event at The Essential Ingredient on the same night as this dinner was happening! Hence why I had to pace myself with the cheese and Champagne there and escaped early missing out on patés and charcuterie to be served later...
Well, it was worth it, let me tell you! The original coffee shop is now a private dining room and the new restaurant is located next door in about twice the original space, catering for more than 50 people at any given time. These themed dinners are a regular treat which bring regulars and newcomers alike in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. But the food is not your average Sydney coffee shop fare! It is five star French gastronomy y at its best for a very reasonable money outlet.
It is all about precision, flavours, classic French recipes executed with the best French technique.
We were served a glass of Canard-Duchesne Champagne, a less known, but nevertheless great one.
I even learned a new work: cromesquis, in this case a potato croquette with an escargot and beurre maitre d'hotel filling. The star there was the sauce gribiche, a sauce that can be very bland in most places, but blasting with flavours chez Bitton.
The vol-au-vent which followed was textbook with the lightest pastry (hence the name...) and a perfect filling where the pros, the white wine and the béchamel blended perfectly, with no element overwhelming the others. Quite an achievement! A new Instagram hashtag was created "sur le champ" #bringbackthevolauvent. Check-it out! It was accompanied by a great Chablis from Domaine Pinson, again not a very famous name, but up there with the best and in the same hands since 1880, year of their first release. So they a thing or two about Chardonnay...
Then, we were served a beautiful Blanquette de Veau, with a Dijon mustard sauce, where the mustard was subtlety supporting the sauce without being "in your face" as we say in Oz. The meat was tasty and tender, the vegetable cooked properly and plated nicely - a treat for all senses!
We were served a great Pinot Noir, again not mainstream, and carrying the name of my middle son, Grégoire, a Hautes-Côtes de Nuit by Emanuel Giboulot (no, it is not Bigoulot, which would mean bottle with two necks...) an organic winemaker since 1985. Again textbook Pinot Noir à la française, a perfect match with the blanquette.
We were finally treated to a gorgeous dessert, an ice cream with gingerbread flavour and sprayed with lovely crumbs of pain d'épices. I had to have another glass of Pinot Noir with this. It was subtle and refreshing after a copious dinner, but again punching with flavours. Great dessert!
I normally don't drink coffee that late, but, use firs nest pas coutume, I ordered a macchiato and I was rewarded with a side of the loveliest chocolate truffle, perfect point d'rogue to a very well orchestrated dinner...Merci beaucoup David and Camilla for inviting me and thanks to Sofia for joining us at the Chef's table. Great food, great company and great conversations, this is the life!
Philippe Durst is the Export Manager of a significant winery in Alsace, Dopff au Moulin. We have been "friends" on Facebook for over three years but, until last week-end, we had not met...
Philippe is not only great at his job (he, together with Dan Murphy, sells half of the Alsace wine sold in Australia...) but has a great reputation of being an expert at matching wine with food!
Julien Dopff invented the Crémant d'Alsace after getting his training in Champagne and it is still a great part of the production at Dopff, and still their trademark.
So, it was great to finally meet him over a combined trip to Melbourne, Sydney and Hong-Kong to promote wines from Alsace. He also havegreat sense of humour and millions stories to tell about his 30 years selling Alsace wines around the world, first for Wolfberger (available in Oz at Vintage Cellars) and for the last 8 years for Dopff au Moulin. For reasons which will be revealed in a later post, we first met at the Fish Market, a place he never had a chance to visit over his previous visits to Australia, so I was happy to give him the grand tour! And I guess he was suitably impressed...
But when it came to having lunch, he was keen to get to somewhere more comfortable where we could still enjoy some good seafood with a couple of glasses of wine, bien sûr. I took him to Ventuno, in Walsh Bay, one of my favourite places in Sydney, as they make great scallops, have a short but good wine list, usually great service and obviously the view is not bad either...
So, after this lovely lunch, some Pinot Grigio and a great cup of coffee - thanks for picking the tab, Philippe - we were off to Prince Wine Store in Zetland for a Northern Côtes-du-Rhone tasting, all from the famous Guigal empire. Although Philippe had visited Ultimo Wine Centre many times in the past, he had never properly mey Jon Osbeiston, so I was quite chuffed to be the one to introduce them to each other.
From the less known Côtes-du-Rhone Blanc, made mostly out of Viognier grapes and a great drop,
to a great everyday Côtes-du-Rhone rouge for less than $20, which I regularly consume, to Crozes Hermitages, St Joseph, Côte Rôtie and Hermitage, we had a blast sampling these beauties from Northern Côtes-du-Rhône, home of the best Syrah. Although I usually prefer Southern Côtes-du-Rhône and the GSM blend, I am certainly a regular drinker of Crozes-Hermitage and St Joseph.
What a great venue for a great event, organised by Australia Trade Tasting! Philippe had invited me to join an Alsace wine masterclass there last Monday, organised by the CIVA (Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d'Alsace) and run by the legendary Huon Hooke who I had the pleasure to meet for the first time. He is a great presenter, with a dry sense of humour - not unlike a good Riesling! We tasted 12 Alsace wines, from a Pinot Noir Rosé to four different Pinot Blancc, a wine I am not familiar with but one I will certainly investigate further, three Riesling, one of them from Dopff and from probably the most famous vineyard of the region Schœnenbourg which carries one of the rare Grand Cru label, which I had the pleasure to drink before on Philippe's recommendation, then onto a Pinot Gris 2013 from Domaine Rieflé-Landmann and finally three Gewurtztraminer, the last one "vendanges tardives" 2009 from Domaine Mersiof with a staggering 74g/l od sugar! All wines were from different wineries and the Domaines scattered from North to South of the Rhine Valley. A great education for a wine region that I didn't know very well.
Also, on the Expo floor, I met some interesting people and had a chance to try my first wine from India - Grover Zampa - a pleasant surprise of a Sauvignon Blanc that could easily have passed for a kiwi wine on a blind tasting! Obviously, there was a great delegation of twelve Alsace wineries , a number of boutique Australian wineries, a great delegation from Spain and Portugal with not only wine, but also Jamon, quests and olive oil.
PRINCE WINE STORE - SYDNEY
Almost 30 Pinot Noir were on offer to taste at my first event of the day. Knowing that I had a second one to go to, I was very selective in what I was going to taste... So here is my list:
Kooyong Pinot Noir 2012 - Having visited nearby Montalto on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne, I was curious to find out about this reputable wine, and I was not disappointed!
Moorooduc Estate Garden Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 - Also from the Mornington, this was the first wine I tasted, and certainly one of the most interesting of the lot. I liked its pepperiness!
Savaterre Pinot Noir 2012 - Beechworth Victoria - Cold climate Aussie Pinot noir at its best. Dark, meaty, ashen, smoky as Campbell Mattinson puts in. I couldn't say it better myself...
Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 - Tasmania - apparently we were in luck, as only 18 bottles of this vintage were left, and the best restaurants here were fighting for them. Very good indeed!
Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011- This winery had their first planting in 1980 and were the pioneers of Pinot Noir in Martinborough, and that's why they could claim the name for themselves!
This was one of my top three favourites this morning, almost as good as the French!
Copain Wendling Pinot Noir 2014 - The Russian River Valley, just north of San Francisco, produces some of my favourite West Coast wines in the US. I am more familiar with the Chardonnays,, but this was a good enough example of Pinot Noir produced near the coast in the Anderson Valley. Still young, it was a tad on the flat side, but I think it will develop over time.
From Burgundy, France
Joseph Voillot Volnay Vieilles Vignes 2012 - Neil Martin (from Robert Parker team) sums it up for me: "there is a sense of nonchalance and harmony towards the finish"... Exactly, like a long lunch!
Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet Vosne Romanée 2012 - just the name would give you a winegasm, but the liquid itself was quite on another level. Citing Antonoio Galloni here: "A model of pure sensuality and finesse, the 2012 is drop dead gorgeous from the very first taste". I told you so...love at first sight, to be shared with somebody very special indeed...Not cheap though!
Jane Eyre Gevrey Chambertin 2013 - only 900 bottles produced, so lucky us to taste it for free! Not the most expensive in the line-up though and very much worth the asking price!
A big thank you to Alex Wilcox and Jon Osbeiston and their suppliers for this great tasting!
BELLEVUE HILL BOTTLE SHOP
Almost 90 Pinot Noir from around the World were on offer to taste here, a very expensive exercise for the shop owner and his partners, but also very taxing on your humble blogger...So again I had to make drastic choices and concentrated on French and US west Coast, and was eventually coerced (gently...) into tasting the Oakridge 864 from Victoria. More on this latter...
From Burgundy, France
Clos de la Marjolaine - Savigny les Beaune 2010
Blagny 1er Cru 2010
Volnay 1er Cru 2010
Domaine Roy - Savigny les Beaune 2010
Pierre Janny Volnay 1er Cru - 2010
Maybe I was suffering Pinot Noir fatigue, but I found it very hard to find clear differences between these French Pinot Noir. Classic Bourgogne Pinots, all very good, but maybe too much by the book
Faiveley Mercurey Le Clos du Roy 2012 - In the words of The Drink Shop in the UK: On the nose, scents of small red fruits mix pleasantly with spicy and woody aromas, which come from the wine being raised traditionally in oak. This wine is very nicely balanced on the palate.
Its rich aromas blend marvelously with its tannins, giving a wine which is greedy and full of body.
Henri de Villamont - Bourgogne 2012 - probably the best value of the line-up, outstanding for only A$32.00
Lucien Muzard & Fils - Bourgogne 2012 - in the same vein at an amazing A$36.00
Parent Bourgogne 2011 - Excellent at A$48.00, amazing value as well
Can I risk to say that maybe 2011 and 2012 were better vintages than 2010?
From Languedoc, France
Le Fou (The Madman) 2013 - In my youth (!) the wines from Languedoc were primarily "Vins de table", but then over the last 25 years, there has been a conscious effort from the regional authorities to push the quality up, invite New World winemakers to try their luck there - including a few Aussies - and this wine is certainly a good example of the high quality Languedoc wines can command. Certainly more fruity and full than the Bourgogne wines, this was very drinkable indeed and at A$22.00 was one of the most affordable of the line-up. You would be mad not to try it!
From the US West Coast
Bliss 2010 - Mendocino - California - The name sums it perfectly...
Mouton Noir - Lieu Dit 2011 - Oregon - At A$68.00, this was an amazing choice. I have said way back that Oregon was the perfect place to grow wines that could compete with the best of France, and although general more expensive, this is a fine example of a well priced Pinot Noir
Underwood 2013 - Oregon - Very good example of entry level Pinot at A$28.00. will buy some!
A big thank you to Dan, Mickey an Calvin for organising such a great event!
After a two month break, the growers are back at the Pyrmont Market in Sydney.
Before Christmas, I paid a visit to compatriot extraordinaire, Gilles, who with his wife of 30 years grows organic garlic near Braidwood, a small town between Canberra and Batemans Bay. It is a very seasonal business, as the garlic is harvested in November and all sold by the end of February, when it is time to plant again. See photo below.
Today brought two surprises; a new frenchman, Jean Marc Amar, who is at the market for the first time with his Australian made, but very French saucissons. It is believed that a 300g saucisson doesn't last more than 15mn...These ones will certainly have the same fate (or should I say fete...)
The second surprise comes in the form of an Italian inspired goat cheese from Willowbrae Cheese. Karen went on a grand tour of Italy last European Autumn and has refined her recipe since. One word: amazing!
Both products featured photographically below.
If you are going to have saucisson and/or cheese, then you need bread...and some red wine: you are in luck!
Near by in Ultimo, Ultimo Wine Centre have just received a shipment of the most amazing Pinot Noirs from Burgundy, and Domaine Gachot-Monot: Nuits-Saint-George, Cote de Nuits-Village and Bourgogne.
I have tried the Cote de Nuits-Village: it is simply delicious, supple, fruity, typical Pinot Noir, and thanks to the high aussie dollar, it is only 39.00$. I gather it won't last very long...If you miss out, you might want to rush and get one of the very few bottles left of Ultimo Wine Centre Hospices de Beaune Corton Grand Cru ‘Cuvee Dr Peste’ 2007...
Finally, we can find bread and pastries (fromage et dessert anyone???) in Rozelle, where Labancz Patisserie boulangerie has taken over my favourite bakery, Moana Bakery, which has been operating for over 15 years and with three different owners. Pierre Labancz, of Deus Cafe fame is baking a reasonable baguette, although not as good as Moana, but excels in the "pate feuilletee" department: croissants and pains au chocolat being butter rich, crispy and fluffy at the same time...
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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