Friday, December 10, 2010

Essence (Melbourne) 12/2010

The Marriott invited us to dinner in exchange for photographing their food in an endeavour to attract more local interest in their ground floor city restaurant. Formerly the home of Rockmans Regency it has been refurbished and presents a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu under the direction of petit head chef Samantha Lotte.
Well travelled, from South Africa to London and Dubai before coming to Australia she has a solid grounding in fine French cuisine but this is not evident at Essence. Here the menu is driven by fresh local produce. It is fairly limited for mains to beef and lamb with several pasta and risotto options. Serves are substantial and more English than French in style.There is a reasonable range of entrees and desserts. The menu is supported by a modestly priced wine list with a fair selection by the glass. The venue is pleasant, thet decor is subdued, enhanced by several flower arrangements.
the seating comfortable, tables a good size and adequately spaced, the crockery good quality. It looks out onto two busy city streets, Exhibition and Lonsdale, and opens into the Marriott Hotel foyer. An island bar area
sits between the guests and an open kitchen
They made a bit of a fuss over us when we arrived and presented us with a complimentary plate of Turkish bread with a red pepper,a beetroot and a humus
dip
which was a very pleasant gesture, and a substantial anti pasta platter
of cold cuts, roast vegetables and seafood which would have been at least $50 had we ordered them. They were pleasing to the eye but not really exciting. These dishes were lacking identity. They could have been served anywhere. They were impersonal, beautifully presented, but largely things without real preparation by the chefs. These entrees were also quite heavy and detracted from the mostly heavy main courses. We had been considering entrees but opted to have mains and a dessert after this large introduction to our meal.
We had three dishes, each with some problem. King George whiting fillets

were slightly over cooked and a bit dry. We felt they were mismatched with mushrooms. The vine tomatoes were very fresh, pretty and an excellent accompaniment. The steak, requested blue,
was medium rare and came with a heavy gravy already on the meat. There was no offer of mustards or choice of other sauces. Too bad if you did not like that gravy. The lamb rump,
whilst perfectly cooked, was quite tendinous. if that makes sense, resulting in it being very chewy in parts. However the the fat potato chips, mashed potato and the sliced roast Kipflers
were a potato eaters delight and the soft polenta could not have been better.
Of the desserts a chocolate fondant with a scoop of blood orange ice cream
was delicious, super rich, the hot melted chocolate irresistible. the bread and butter pudding with excellent walnut Ice cream
had very good taste but too much custard and the vanilla brulee served with berries
was really good with the ideal consistency so rarely achieved.
There's a lot of competition for Essence and it's almost all driven by fresh and local produce, which, is, has been and will continue to be
flavour of the month. To be more attactive to Melbourne diners now takes more than that. There needs to be some imagination, some inventiveness something a bit more special than solid meals with excellent ingredients. Chefs have to be able to spread their wings to distinguish themselves from the rest. It's a risk but it's worth taking. Hopefully a new menu will be developed that we will be able to enjoy and remember with pleasure years later.

2 comments:

Fiona said...

No excuses for an overcooked steak :( This isn't a backyard BBQ!

Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi Fiona,
Was that your steak or mine you were refering to?
It's tough to be only good when surrounded by very good.