Buried in the basement is a huge kitchen at which 16 apprentice chefs hone their skills under the guiding hand of Chef de Cuisine Lea Atkinson. Wednesday and Thursday they open to the public for lunch and dinner cooked by the trainees, who work four days a week in Melbourne restaurants and one day each week here. For $30 they provide a three course meal, choice of one of three entrée’s, mains and desserts. They have a one page inexpensive and very reasonable wine list, mostly available by the glass for about $7.50. Seating about 50 patrons the tables of various sizes are well spaced and comfortable, set with white linen and good quality cutlery and glassware. A kitchen table, with a TV screen overhead, seats 12. Timothy Squires, currently working at Gingerboy, was in charge in the kitchen the day we ate there.
So how was it.
Frankly it was excellent.
From the seaweed, sesame seed, dashi sea salt to season the bread rolls to the final cheese plate we both loved it. Sandra started with a Jerusalem artichoke soup with a velvety, rich, creamy texture garnished with slightly sweet artichoke chips.
Its fine taste was enhanced by the great feeling in the mouth. It’s a personal thing but this was as good as it gets. My kangaroo carpachio with lemon aoli and a zesty petit herb salad was another fine entrée.
This low fat meat is ideal served raw with greens. A tempura smoked eel entrée was also on the menu.
It looked appealing and I was assured it tasted as good as it looked.
We both loved the crispy skin beautifully spiced pan fried red duck beast with wok tossed bok choy, spiced plum jus on a hot and sour salad. It was a little chewy and may have benefited from a little more rest before being served but it was a well balanced course that would be appreciated at Ezards or, indeed, any first class restauant.
There is also a vegetarian option, pureed polenta with sauteed wild mushrooms, and tatsoi salad. A third offering, which I would have loved to have had, was venison tenderloins with caramelized onions, mushrooms andred wine jus.
A small cheese platter
served with water biscuits and lavosh bread
had four local cheeses. Two particularly stood out a triple cream brie and the Jindi blue that beat all contenders to take out the worlds best blue in Canada last year. This beautifully balanced cheese made for a fine end to the meal.
Prepared by the apprentices and served by students of the Academy Sofitel our lunch was extremely good and would have been fair value at a 50% higher fee. It was a culinary pleasure to experience the cooking of these apprentices.We happily recommend it.