Friday, October 14, 2011

Maris (Malvern) 10/2011

Its two and a half years since we ate at Maris but I remember it well so I was surprised when we returned a few days ago to find that it had been renovated and lost its warm and homely atmosphere. Even the sign outside has gone square. There are no more straw baskets with their chooks heads for bread, probably banned by the health dept, the ledge along the window with its decorations has been replaced with more seating, the rocking horse demoted to a high shelf above the bar. Tables are unchanged with fake marble tops and linen serviettes.
Their menu remains interesting and they now offer a six course chef's menu ($75) which is all or none i.e. the whole table must have it if that's your choice.
It looked interesting and was not going to cost much more than a three course meal so that's what we selected.
First they brought the most dangerously moorish house made bread which was irresistible despite a large meal to come.Service was well paced and began with fresh prawns in Brick pastry with basil.
The pastry was superb, crisp and light and the prawn unusually flavour some but some one went wild with the salt detracting from an almost excellent start.
This was followed by foie gras parfait with prune jelly and a lovely, but rather salty, rabbit terrine with a little glace mustard fruit. The foie gras was very smooth, light and delicate. Next came smoked beetroot with chicory, pumpkin, pine nuts and goats curd. The smoky taste was distinct and pleasing in this dish which was topped with a dob of goats curd and ice cream on a strip of crunchy puff pastry. There must have been at least a teaspoon of pumpkin puree under large chunks of beetroot which seemed incongruous considering the fineness of the rest of the dish. Slow roasted lamb with organic carrots, puffed quinoa, almonds and cumin seeds had great potential but was unrealized because, as good as the textures were, the crisp almond s and the puffed quinoa were great and the cumin well blended, unfortunately it came with undercooked beans and the lamb was very over cooked and grievously over salted turning a good dish into an awful one. A wagu rump was also seriously over salted. It was remarkably tough for wagu with a moderate amount of gristle through my piece. They said it was grade 6 to 8 but I think it was closer to grade three. It came with a creamy mash and a slow cooked wagu ox tail that had been removed from the bones and then cooked in a light pastry. Finally a vin santo pannacotta with burnt fig. As on a previous occasion the pannacotta was insufficiently gelatinized and the wrong consistency. The fig was a very strong tasting accompaniment for the delicacy of the pannacotta and the whole lot was excessively sweet. A drier vin santo might have helped.
The dishes are very nicely presented and of good size. This is so close to being very good that it saddens me to see it failing in basic areas like seasoning. In 2008 they scored an AGF hat for their cooking and have slipped quite a way since then. I think it has the potential to get back to that again but they are going to have to take a lot more care of their basic seasoning.
Score: 13.5/20

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