Don't get me wrong. This is one of the finest dining experiences one can partake of in Australia. Certainly Jacques Reymond deserves 3 hats from the self appointed Fairfax Dining Judges.
BUT, from the moment one enters the beautiful rooms to the time you leave the polish and flair of the staff is overwhelming. And somewhat over acted. There was never any great connection with the serving staff who very much seemed to be talking by rote with little heart or soul put into 1. connecting with the diners or 2. explaining the details of what was on the plate they set down beside you - we assurred ourselves by the night's end that every set down was accompanied by three morsels of information - in many cases this information was not sufficiently fulsome to do the dish or the chef justice.
The dishes themselves, without exception, were creations of artisans. Beautifully cooked. Tastes that went together in a sensible French inspired way with noticeable touches of the orient, e.g. the Peking duck; Szechuan pepper and palm sugar on the skin of the John Dory, tamarind that accompanied the pig.
At one stage we asked for the serving of meals to be slowed so we could actually savour each course and so we could enjoy a conversation. The maitre d' was excellent but on many ocassions just plain supercilious. and unfortunately carried an air of arrogance. Certainly, we have experienced this approach from maitre d's in France but they generally lighten up over the course of the meal. Not acceptable in good dining establishments in Australia especially when the perosn is a fellow native.
The food itslf was, by any standards, dressed beautifully! There is a vegetarian degustation available but we wanted the full French experience and went for the 9 course degustation menu. After careful consideration we chose not to have the accompanying matched wines (good price at $95) because we prefered to drink Billecart-Salmon Brut ($168) and an Australian red (Wirra Wirra RSW 1997 $165) finishing with Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling 2009 ($65). For such a commanding restaurant the wine list although covering variety and included a good stock of French wine was by no means extensive.
The red was disappointing but passable and was well matched to the menu which was heaviliy meat oriented.
We paid an additional $26 per head to have a beautifully pungent trouffle shaved onto the veal dish - which came towards the end of the menu.
The dessert was magnificantly plated and put a cap on the previous courses although one might argue the level of sweetness was a tad on the powerful side. Taste was sensational across all the offerings - refer photo.
The petits fours did not arrive until after we had drained our coffee - a cardinal sin and the only let down by the wait staff who were otherwise most (overly) attentive.
We did not spot the great man himself during our stay which I think would have added an extra highlight to a really exquisite meal.
Without a doubt a truly international dining experience and one that Australia (and Melbourne) can be rightly proud!
This is not a cheap diner. For decent wines you would expect the whole degustation meal to cost around $250 per head. A la carte will be what we do next time.
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