Saturday, January 20, 2018

Point Leo Restaurant, (Point Leo Estate - Merricks) 01/2018

When someone spends $50 million on a sculpture park, an winery and an architect designed modern restaurant and then engages a bevy of chefs with pedigrees that include Rockpool in Sydney, Attica in Melbourne and other excellent restaurants you must expect something pretty special. That is what John Gandel, of shopping centre fame, has done at Point Leo Estate, some 85 Km out of Melbourne.
From the outside the place is gorgeous with a stunning entrance leading into an attractive 110 seat restaurant. 
After passing reception, and an impressive sculpture, (This pic is from their website), 
The restaurant is run by chef Phil Wood.
seating is arranged around a curved venue with floor to ceiling glass walls looking out over a sculpture garden featuring over 50 works by modern Australian and International artists.

The room itself is attractive 

although the bare wood tables do not suggest fine dining. At present it is also very popular so it's always crowded and noisy. 
We started with a Goat cheese tart ($19). The menu is set out as "To Start" basically small dishes from $5 to $9.5, "Entrees"  $19 "Pasta" (only one) $26 Mains" $36 to $49 and "Sides" $9 to $15.
This was very mild and  rather characterless.

We followed this sharing the pasta dish.
 This looked a bit meagre. Three small smoked Flinders mussels for each of us on a bed of hand cut al dente linguini. There was so little sauce that the spoon provided proved totally unnecessary. There was a lemony tasting succulent in the dish which did not appeal to me but Sandra loved the whole dish. She felt the thick sauce enriched the dish.
Our next course, Tempura whiting with eggplant, smoked fennel and cashews. ($36)

was a very good size serve. The batter was excellent though it still had a lot of fat in it. The smoked fennel was a nice addition though the smoke was not obvious to me. What made it really good was the combination of the fish with the eggplant which almost melted in the mouth and cut down the fat in the batter.
The side of shoe string chips ($9) 

came with no mayo, aioli or tomato sauce. When requested it took so long to come it was barely needed.
Our last course, pork belly with glace citrus and nettle gremolata, ($37)

was another extremely good dish, imaginative and technically excellent. The small squares of glace citrus was brilliant - looked good, tasted good and blended well with the pork. A great advance on apple sauce. Although I got little taste from the nettles the gremolata garnish it did help keep the dish more moist and palatable.
A glass of 2016 Point Leo Shiraz was extravagantly expensive at $18. Twelve dollars would have been reasonable.
We were too full for cheese or desserts.
On the negative side it's noisy +, it's expensive and the service is slow and the tables reminiscent of a cafeteria. On the positive side the cutlery and glassware are excellent, the food is very interesting, locally sourced, super fresh, cooked with imagination, in unusual combinations and nicely presented combined. Lastly, service was very friendly.
Score: 15/20
For more information about the sculptures go to the Pt. Leo Sculpture app.

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