We all know that JR is closing at the end of the year, and there’s been a flurry of bookings for the last chance for what has been Melbourne’s finest restaurant for the last 25 years.
I first dined at the original Lennox Street, Richmond premises in 1988 which must have been just after it opened. I was so impressed I returned when I came down from Sydney for Melbourne Cup that year, and organized foody friends to also do so. The following year we kidnapped a friend for his 40th birthday and flew to Melbourne (“but I have afternoon meetings” he pleaded with his PA” “yes, all afternoon in Melbourne” she replied). I’d sent down a “birth-year” wine - 1949 Cos d'Estournel - for what was a wonderful occasion. After that busy start I’ve dined there occasionally over the intervening years and never been disappointed.
I doubted I'd have a chance to visit before the closing so I was rather excited when Hunter winery Hungerford Hill invited me to a degustation there last week …
Big puffy gougeres speak of French dining, a JR staple since the beginning, but a beautifully sweet piece of hapuka with Japanese-style pickles and yuzu displayed Jacques’ forays into flavours beyond the shores of his native land, or even the confines of Europe. A mercifully small piece of fine Wagyu showed that less is more for this unctuous, rich treat; this a beautifully balanced dish cooked a la plancha with flavours of burnt onion and coffee cutting the fatty meat. These last two sound excessive but their restraint brought it all together.
His modernist take on the classic Mont Blanc looked more like a snow-capped mountain than any piped cream version I’ve had, and the flavours of strawberry, bay and chocolate made this a dreamy way to farewell this wonderful part of Melbourne’s dining history.
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