Monday, February 21, 2011
Hare & Grace (Melbourne CBD) 02/2011
Raymond Capaldi is a chef for whose cooking I have the greatest admiration. We ate often at Fenix when he was there, thoroughly enjoyed the menu he designed at Persimmon and ate his food at a number of restaurants where he made guest appearances for special meals. His cooking was modern, adventurous and exciting with attractive flavours and appealing presentation. Not surprising then that we were very keen to try his new venue on the corner of Collins and King Street.
The restaurant is split between a bar and table area at the front and a well spaced seating area facing the open kitchen. Tables are made from recycled blonde wood packing cases with mysterious stencilled information on them.
They are spacious and seating is comfortable. Overhead lights are largely obscured by the simple ceiling decor, which is pleasantly inoffensive, made up of clusters of bare branches which are hung upside down.
Our waiter ushered us to a table and, I suppose in an excess of hospitality, inquired if we would like something to drink before we had sat down.
Menus have become another art form in restaurants. They vary from the elaborate, with descriptions in French and English to the barest minimum of information, such as that at 11 Madison, which names only the main ingredient leaving the waiters to elaborate on the dishes, to the totally non existent, supplied only on request, some days after the meal. H & G take the middle ground. The basic cooking method is followed by a list of what you will get on the plate. This works well. There are entrees, about $17, principle dishes, about $37, and sides, $8 or $9 as well as wood fired grills, beef, lamb or chicken or a choice of a three or six course 'Providores Banquet' for $80 or &120. and desserts, about $17.
Circ fried ham hock finger, celery, parsley, white peach, caper cream had the meat picked from the hock and cooked up in a crisp breaded pie.
It was quite nice although the crust was very thick. All the things promised on the dish were easily identifiable and made a nice combination . A yabbi 'sandwich did not cause any great excitement.
For mains braised roast short ribs, pickled tongue, 1000 island garnsh, bone marrow cream, despite each thing being excellently prepared, also lacked any excitement.
This remained a weakness through out the meal. A fillet of roast ocean trout served with a fried egg, hazelnut, peas, sausage sauce was also well prepare but uninspired.
Neither the wood fired eye fillet (250gm) nor the Gippsland grain fed T Bone (600 gm) carried any taste of the wood which made them rather ordinary although I found the meat quite excellent.Side dishes were especially good and I would have the peas with roasted buckwheat, fregola blue berries and sorrel oil every time.
A dessert of chocolate bar Pedro Ximenez jelly and was the most enjoyable part of the meal. The jelly absolutely outstanding.
They have a small and very reasonably priced wine list. We enjoyed a bottle of Freeman secco ($52)
This was a good meal but we really expected a bit more than that.
Without deciding the relative importance of these things we might score Ambiance 7.5, Service 7,Noise 6 , Food 6.5, Presentation 7, Returnability 5, Value 6.5 all out of 10
I should add that Raymond recognized us when we arrived and we accepted a glass of very pleasant champagne at his expense.