Sunday, October 20, 2013
Champion's Grill (Clayton) 10/2013
After reading about this remarkable place at which, almost legless, former Vue de Monde sous chef Clinton McIver has taken the reins we booked asap.
Just as well, next day Nina Rousseau gave it such a great rap in Epicure that getting a table on a Saturday night has become almost impossible.
McIver has taken a movement which began gradually as top chef's began to expand into pubs developing the gastro-pub, bringing modern French influenced cuisine to a most basic cafeteria style venue. This schizophrenic endeavour deserves a new name. Something like HiLow dining!
This place is a bowls club with a restaurant facing on to the bowling green.
It's plain, pleasant and utilitarian.
Of course we came for the food.
They have five course degustation menu for $50 on Saturday night. On week nights a more traditional menu is divided into Smaller, ($14) Bigger, ($25) Meaty ($29-$49) and Sweeter ($9).
The menu looked quite attractive. Dishes such as Spanish Iberica Ham, organic hen's egg, smoked almond and salt and pepper soft shell crab, sweet herbs, kimchi Mayo looked especially interesting.
Among the bigger dishes free range pork cheek glazed and pickled pear, mustard oil and Spring Lamb muesli bar raisin purée Ortiz anchovy, which also appears on the degustation menu, seemed attractive. There were a variety of steaks and the desserts also looked appealing but we were here for the degustation menu.
Spanner crab, charred corn juice, créam fraiche was a very simple first course of not great distinction it was a tasty nibble.
This was followed by another very small course Auschovy chicken wing, Mizo oil. Auschovy actually referred to anchovies of Australian origin. This was also a tasty dish with nice variety of textures however it was also only a couple of bites.
Flinders Island the lamb, "muesli bar" and Ortiz anchovies was quite unusual and I could have done with a much bigger serve. The anchovies were represented by two tiny bits of anchovy.
Peppered steak with smoked and dried blueberry was the last main course. It was a lovely piece of meat and the smokiness of the blueberry carried across and accompanied by a baby leek. This was another nice dish but somehow lacked any thing to make it truly outstanding.
Deserts of toasted lemon curd, yoghurt sorbet, ash meringue was distinguished mostly by its sweetness.
Sandra was feeling quite unwell and could not eat anything. As a result I ended up eating all of her meal as well as my own. At the end of this I was only just satisfied and would have been on the way to McDonald's with out the extra courses!
For some reason they have a policy of no bread on Saturday which I think is a sad mistake.
Service was exceptionally amateurish although very willing and as helpful as possible. Our first waiter, Tony, was there for the first time but he has worked at other clubs. He was unable to answer any question without referring to the kitchen. He poured our bottle of wine without giving us the opportunity to first taste it. It happened to be very pleasant. A Heathcote Shiraz ($48). They have a small, inexpensive list of quite presentable wines.
In all it is distinguished by above average food at very reasonable prices, although the serves are too small, in a plain venue with no pretensions.
Clinton with his partner Eli