Sunday, March 05, 2017

Masons of Bendigo (Bendigo - Central. Victoria) 03/2017

When I called to reserve a table for one they told me that there was only one table for one and it was already reserved. I said OK I'll be happy to sit at a table for two. They did not laugh. Anyway I called when I arrived in Bendigo and, although fully booked they had a place at the bar which was fine with me. It occupies a simply furnished long room with a bar and open kitchen taking up most of one side, where chef's work really hard to get food out on time,
and ceiling high shelves offering a range of high end products. 

I was particularly struck by Persian Fairy Floss imported from Persia. Stuff that would have sold for the equivalent of, perhaps, 50 cents when I was a child now sells for over $24 here. It's clearly a free market. The identical product sell at the upmarket supermarket Leo's in Kew for less than $11!! They're proud of their achievements, featuring a Tourism award at the end of the bar.

The menu at Mason's is extensive, with "Savoury Bites" and larger dishes described very fully with a range of fairly exotic ingredients, many with Japanese emphasis such as green sicho salad, sichimi mayonnaise, soy bean butter, smoked miso butter and other Asian specialties.
Bread and butter, which were both delicious, as is so often the case, came early.
My first course, out of a selection of 15 very interesting looking offerings, was hand dived Port Phillip bay scallops, cauliflower,Goulburn trout, Yarra Valley salmon pearls, saltbush.
Artistically presented it was an extremely pleasing start to the meal giving a wide range of flavours and textures on the one plate. The scallops were a little small and not really the hero of the dish with so many excellent competing ingredients.
From the 10 larger dishes I selected the spit roasted Camboer goat shoulder, smoked hommus, freekah tabouleh, wild figs, tzatziki.
Another piece of art on a plate the shoulder sat on a bed of freekah and hommus and was guarded by a couple of crisp maple leaves on each side. A bit hard and dry on the outside the goat was succulent and very tender under that hard exterior. This came about because it had been slow cooked overnight and then roasted "on demand". The down side of this style of cooking is the loss of texture during the slow cooking process. The richness of the dish was slightly relieved by the figs but I felt it needed more of them, there were only two, or perhaps something like pomegranate. Close to being a fine dish, for me it just missed the mark.
It would be unfair to judge this restaurant too much on the basis of a look at the menu and two dishes and I hope to come back to it to try something else before too long. It looks like it has serious potential as an excellent restaurant. 
I also supported the local industry, just a little, with a pleasing glass of Shiraz from the Heathcote area! 
Score: 14/20

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