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I tell you I don’t review restaurants that often and here I am again, reviewing another. A recent trip to Melbourne allowed me to tick another restaurant off the list using my ‘solo dining’ theory. ‘Golden Fields’ conjures up a vision of a rosy cheeked Chinese peasant in their Mao suit looking out across the golden wheat fields, shielding their eyes at they witness the glorious revolution emerging over the horizon. There is a glorious revolution indeed, led by Chairman Andrew McConnell who owns two other excellent restaurants in Melbourne: Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.
The place is absolutely heaving at 7pm but I am able to squeeze in to one of the last spots at the bar, before the queues started to form. No bookings for small groups or individuals here but my ‘solo dining’ theory reigns supreme. The bar is a great location as you get to overlook the kitchen and prep areas, where there is plenty to see, ooh and aah over and add to the list for ‘next time’. The concept is small sharing plates and some larger mains so I order a glass of sparkling wine, some Candied walnuts & nori, a couple of tasters to start with and then sit back to watch the action in the kitchen. The atmosphere is calm, quick but exacting. A chef in front of me reviews each dish, using the biggest tweezers I have ever seen, plucking a sprout here and placing a crumb there before they go to the table.
My first taste is from the ‘Raw’ section of the menu Fresh sea urchin, flat bread, crisp lardo, escabeche. The sea urchin is fresh and tastes of the sea but perhaps a little over powered by the acid of the escabeche. The crisp lardo is wafer thin and melts in the mouth. Prepared right in front of me with care and attention, it is a delicious couple of mouthfuls that’s over too soon. Make sure you buy two of these.
From ‘To Start’ I have the highly recommended and much blogged about New England lobster roll, hot buttered bun, cold poached crayfish, watercress & Kewpie. Kewpie, for the unitiated, is the Japanese branded mayo spread onto a hot buttered brioche roll that is a perfect pairing for the sweet crayfish. The pricing is understandable given the core ingredient but at $15 for 3 bites, next time I’ll be getting the slightly more substantial Pork & prawn fried school prawns, crisp pork, garlic mayo that my neighbours are enjoying.
Another peruse of the menu and it’s a glass of red and the Steamed eggplant, silken tofu & pickled chillies from ‘Salads & Vegetables’. There appears to be a fantastic ‘no wrong door’ policy at play as far as service. Anyone will take your order, clear your dishes, top your water glass or serve your food including the chefs, bar staff or waiters. You certainly can’t complain about the attention. There’s some nicely fried, chewy garlic chips and fresh coriander scattered on top of the dish when it arrives as well as sesame oil in the dressing. At first I find the tofu a bit ‘fridge cold’ but it soon levels to room temperature and is welcome and soothing against the spicy dressing and pickles. The eggplant is perfect – I love this dish and want to recreate it at home. Shredded chicken, sesame paste, house-made cold rice noodles, chilli oil is on the list for next time.
Although I want to try so much more, I am reaching my limit and know that I want to fit in dessert, having seen my neighbour’s Green tea ice-cream, pumpkin and liquorice. That’s what I would have had if one of my favourite ingredients hadn’t been on the menu. But it is. So it’s Peanut butter parfait, salted caramel & hot chocolate. These have been flying out of the kitchen all night – by far the most popular item after the Lobster rolls. The parfait is cold and chewy, resting on a bed of crushed, fresh peanuts. The hot chocolate is in fact a type of chocolate mousse – it doesn’t taste hot but it does taste amazing.
People are still queuing at the bar as I pay my bill and by the time I return from the bathroom, my place has been re-set and the next people are being seated. This is a place to visit time and again, working your way through the menu as well as re-visiting old faves. Regular readers will know that I value service as highly (sometimes more) than the food. My first experience of a McConnell establishment was in my early blogging days at Cumulus Inc (re-visit here) and once again, I am not disappointed. This is the Great Leap Forward. $77 for 2 drinks & 5 items.
157 Fitzroy St
Visited: Tue19th July 2011 – Dinner Service
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