Friday, August 14, 2009

No 35 (Sofitel, Melbourne) 09

I don’t know what their breakfast is like and I don’t know about their dinner but I can highly recommend lunch at No.35, described as a new restaurant experience. On the 35th floor of the Sofitel at 25 Collins St. with an unsurpassed view over Melbourne. It is a quiet up market space. Carpeted, linen clothed tables, good cutlery and crockery – what one might expect from a fine dining restaurant in an excellent hotel. The most astonishing thing about their lunch is the menu arrangement. Set out in numbers No1 is five entrees, No2 is six mains, No3 is four desserts and Additional No’s is four side dishes. It costs a flat $42/person and you can choose any three courses you like and that means just that ANY three courses from anywhere on the menu. As for side dishes they’re included too any or all of them. I expected they’d be pretty small serves since one main and a side dish would cost more than those at most halfway decent restaurants. The menu also tells us that they concentrate on “purity and simplicity resulting in honest, clean identifiable flavours from a union of the best produce using traditional and modern cooking techniques” They focus on organic produce and support local farmers and growers. We were keen to try as much as possible and started with poached petunia trout, double creamed eggs, salmon caviar, sourdough

an outstanding entrée. The trout was quite fantastic. The crab tortellini, sweetcorn puree, fried Clarence river shrimps was a good second choice. We left the raw kingfish salad, the aerated cauliflower soup and the cotechino risotto for another time. Smoked Tasmanian eel linguini had plenty of eel, mushrooms and delicately just poached quail eggs a big tasty serve. The rustic fish soup, seared red mullet, semolina, garlic emulsion was much better than most attempts at a bouillabaisse that I’ve eaten. Crispy Berkshire pork belly was a large piece of pork with excellent crackling, served with white beans and sautéed cavalo nero. Confit of Murray cod on mussels and cabbage with a sweet butternut pumpkin puree worked really well, again with a large piece of fish just barely cooked and very delicate. Ambitiously we also ordered sautéed organic potatoes, wild rocket salad, buttered sugar snaps and sweetcorn and feta fritters with tomato jam. They were all excellent but embarrassingly we did not get within cooee of finishing half the meal. Certainly have to come back for the grain fed black angus scotch fillet and the slow cooked lamb rump to say nothing of the desserts. Chef James Viles has a liking for decorating his food with foam but I could not taste the background ingredient, for example we were told the linguini had a parmigiana foam . In all the food was extremely tasty, prepared with delicacy, nicely presented and substantial. It is ridiculously good value Monday to Friday for lunch as long as you skip the tea/coffee which adds $7. They have a good wine menu but we had only a Portuguese Madeira ($13)
Score 16/20

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