Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Estelle (Northcote) 07/2014

We have been greatly restricted by extensive home renovations limiting our restaurant excursions to brief local outings for months now but an opportunity to have an eight course degustation long lunch on Sunday cooked by a team under the guiding hands of Scott Pickett and Philippe Mouchel was too good to miss. Mouchel came to notice more than 30 years ago as sous chef for Paul Bocuse and, after Bocuse's restaurant at Daimaru closed, continued to run his own restaurants at Crown Casino and PM24 in the CBD. His cooking is modern French which fits well with Scott, who had previously worked with him as "protege and mentor" at three restaurants.
Estelle looks much the same as it did last time we visited. Walls are tiled, I think by an impecunious  student paying his way throughUniversity. They are reminiscent of our bathroom in the sixties. Very retro.
Bare wood tables in side, white clothed tables

in the covered outside area with plant boxes along the walls.

Toilets are clean and neat with a live flower and plant arrangement

We elected to have the eight course menu ($150) with both the premium ($150) and the standard ($80) matched wines.
A delicate amuse bouche small cheese filled gougeres and a finger of biscuit base with foie gras with a streak of ?strawberry jam and a crunchy topping made a pleasing start.

The first course, a Paul Bocuse truffle soup created in 1978 was served in a tiny cup topped with a light buttery puff pastry which retained all the flavour and taste of the soup.
The NV Medot Brut Tradition, Epernay, France was a mild rather undistinguished champagne with very light yeastiness. Not a favourite for me.
Spanner Crab Mornay had a touch of chili in the very creamy cheese sauce. Unfortunately these two elements totally overwhelmed the delicate crab.

The 2012 Mader Reisling, Alsace, France was light and dry and could not be compared to the Alsatian 2009 Albert Boxler 'Sommerberg' Grand Cru Reisling which offered a rich complexity.
Confit Salmon, spring onion compote, salmon caviar, vinaigrette was the opposite to the previous dish in delicacy and finesse. My friend Neil remarked that he could do with a whole plate of that and I heartily agree. Adorned with a little edible succulent and a few thin slices of spring onion and surrounded by little dollops of lemon and lime it could not have been better, only bigger!

 Once again the premium 2012 Gangloff Saint Joseph, Rhone, France topped the 2012 Bird on a Wire, Yarra Valley, Victoria although neither of these wines had great appeal to me.
Barramundi, gnocchi, mushrooms and Chardonnay jus was another beautifully prepared and presented dish. It was handled with gentleness, the sauce perfect, the gnocchi soft. It was the sort of dish that makes MasterChef judges like their lips. Yum.

Served with a 2010 Chestnut Hill Chardonnay, Mt.Burnett, Victoria, the premium offering, 2010 Domaine Chandon de Brailles Corton Grand Cru, Burgundy, France again turned out to be the preferred pairing.
Next we got away from the surf to the turf with roast breast and confit leg of duck, burnt orange and navet, the French name for turnip. Only positive things to say here. It looks beaut and it was.

Sher wagyu, black truffle & heirlooom carrot was the last main course. It was nicely presented but if truffle and waghu were to be the hero's of this dish they did not quite make it. The waghu had none of the character that I expect of this meat. I doubt that there was ever much marbling and in the end it could have been any reasonable piece of beef.  There was plenty of shaved truffle but, somewhere along the way it had lost most of it's distinguishing aroma. For all that it was an enjoyable dish.

Best of all was the 2003 Chateau La Conseillante Pomerol, Bordeax, France. For me this was the best wine of the night. It had aged beautifully producing a superb mellow wine.
Pear gratin, hazelnut & praline was the first dessert. So very good we were prepared to pay extra for a second serve but our waiter provided it gratis.

The wines on offer here were from the Loire. A 2011 Baumard Coteaux au Layon and a heavier more complex 2009 Baumard Quarts de Chaume.
The final dessert Quince, pain d'epice & Sauterne had a little too much sweetness for me.
It came with Sauterne a 2010 Carmes de Rieussec or the premium 2005 Chareau Coutet.
Although we had not, at that stage, ordered coffee we were presented with a small platter of petit fours. The apple jelly was particularly appealing.

 In all we had a great afternoon in a most pleasant environment with mostly fine food and well matched wine. I would highly recommend Estelle. For us it is a destination restaurant.
Score:16 /20