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Catch up for a business lunch, girls' lunch and more
Head Chef Gil Zamudio - Photo: Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
Not sure what I expected when heading to Little Collins Street Kitchen at the Sheraton Melbourne. Their new winter express business lunch is promoted as a meal where you can impress your boss or client in just under an hour with a two to three-course French-inspired lunch.
I thought perhaps it might be brusque and full of sleek business-suited people and that it would be on the ground floor, so you could rush in and out.
It was none of these things. Instead, I met a doorman so friendly I'll stop to say hello whenever I pass in future and a restaurant tucked upstairs that is definitely one of Melbourne's best-kept and most charming secrets.
I arrived a little early but there was plenty of lounge-style seating where I could have a quiet coffee while I waited for my daughter, who unlike me, was rushing out during her lunch break for this catch-up.
Great area with newspapers to relax, while you wait for your guest.
Once ushered into the restaurant the decor was startling. Sheraton is a 5-star hotel in the French quarter of Little Collins Street just around the corner from the grand Windsor. The decor is all gleaming glass, twinkling lighting and long mirrors and an eye-catching staircase leading up to the 1st floor where the restaurant is located.
But Little Collins Steet Kitchen, as the name implies, is down to earth even homely. There are little pots of fresh rosemary like you might grow in your own kitchen at home. Slatted venetian blinds cover the vast windows and perfectly filter out any glaring light. There are soft billowing curtains that can be drawn to partition off more private dining areas, sleek tables, and wide comfortable chairs with cushions. Or you can opt to sit along the long padded window seats.
Such a reprieve from the city outside. Photo: Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
It's a Parisian boudoir, a reprieve above the bustling city outside.
The crisp white napkins and sparkling cutlery heralded a very special menu. We had the choice of ordering from the wider menu but opted for the set express menu as a true reflection of what's on offer with the well-priced winter seasonal selection we had come to sample.
This new menu offers you two courses and a drink for only $39.50, which is stunning value for a very special lunch out. For this price, you can choose between a starter/main or main/dessert. Or for $10 extra you can have all three courses!
We began with our included drink. The house wines were Lorimer (De Bortoli) and included white, red and sparkling options, normally $11 a glass. One could also have a Stella or soft options.
Our flutes of Lorimer Sparkling, NV Chardonnay Pinot Noir arrived. and there we were at lunchtime sipping an elegant style of Australian sparkling, which is soft and full on the palate.
Other options included whites such as Lorimer's Semillon-sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, while red drinkers could enjoy a full-bodied cabernet merlot or a Shiraz.
Little Collins Street Kitchen is known for its excellent wine list.
The express menu offers the choice between two dishes for each course but so we could sample each dish, we both chose different options and then shared.
Each dish came in well-proportioned sizes. Not overly large but just the right size for a lunch, where you are having at least a couple of courses. In terms of presentation, each dish was a canvas with food beautifully plated in terms of colours and textures.
The first entree option was herb fish goujons with garlic and plated with an artistic sweep of lime aioli.
Herb fish goujons with garlic and lime aioli. Photo: Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
As in all good establishments, no question goes unanswered and our waiter went off to ask the chef.
Head Chef Gil Zamudio's arrived at our table to answer the question. The kitchen is an open style so he was readily on hand. We listened in some awe at his explanation of the emulsification process and of the loving care that went into the creation of the heavenly texture involving, butter, cream and a hint of thyme.
His time in Mauritius and his love of French cooking all plays a part in the cuisine he creates.
As for the saffron, forget it. The rich colour comes from the rich orangey- gold of the pumpkin and from careful cooking that retains the vivid colour.
There were two meat dishes for mains but if you are a vegetarian, the risotto dish with its medley of mushrooms can be adjusted so that it is a totally vegetarian option.
The chef had already intimated that the sous-vide beef cheek was rather special. Sous vide is the process of vacuum-sealing food and cooking it in a temperature controlled water bath that ensures perfect consistency. This was a wintery dish with a rich red wine jus, smooth buttery mash and season vegetables with colours bright enough to make you forget the blustery winds outside.
My daughter ordered the confit chicken leg, risotto with mushroom duxelle and pecorino. Mushroom duxelles is a richly flavoured sauteed mushroom dish and a classic of French cuisine, it was scattered with what looked to be lightly fried enoki mushrooms
Chicken confit chicken leg, risotto with mushroom duxelle and pecorino.
It was rich and creamy and the shards of the tinkered off as I cracked down with my spoon. Tap, tap, tap, bliss. Is there any more delightful sound when you know what lies beneath? The lavender in the accompanying biscuits made one think of Provence and the areas picturesque rows of lavender.
As for my own dessert, I spent a lot more time staring down at the way it had been created than consuming it. Pastry chef in charge, Shiraz Chawla Malik, obviously knows that we eat with our eyes first.
It was a chocolate, passionfruit, raspberry gel and pistachio Aero and decorated with a little totem pole with a duo of spiralling white and darker chocolate that mirrored the chocolate layers in the creation.
There was a sweep of apricot and raspberry coulis on the plate and these were the exact same colours in the petals and stamen of the flower that adorned this stunning dessert.
Chocolate, passionfruit, raspberry gel and pistachio Aero.
As we had three rather than two courses, this was a fairly leisurely lunch but the service was smart, well-timed but never brusque. My daughter still managed to get back to her work for the afternoon and I went out to chat with the doorman.
Samuel offers a friendly welcome into the Sheraton Melbourne.