A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published August 10th 2018
Classic European style dishes with creative flair
An institution in Collins Street, Collins Quarter has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to Melbourne diners for over 11 years. Occupying a Victorian terrace which was originally built as a doctor's consulting rooms and residence in 1872, the venue boasts a pub, various dining spaces and bars, melding 19th-century grandeur with 21st-century design.
Keeping its food offering fresh and interesting is important to Collins Quarter. Helping to ensure that will continue to be the case is the appointment of new Head Chef Luke Headon. Luke has recently returned from an eight-year stint in Europe, working at renowned restaurants including The Fat Duck and Story London. Luke's approach is to champion seasonal ingredients in his dishes, with a creative overlay. For example, he pairs modern European dishes with indigenous ingredients, sourced through a relationship forged with an Aboriginal community in South Australia.
I recently had the opportunity to sample some of Luke's dishes at a tasting dinner, with matched wines from Rob Dolan.
Starters - the braised lamb on toast, and the pickled pine mushrooms with truffle doughnut
To start, we had four dishes: lamb on toast ($17), pickled pine mushrooms with truffle doughnut (a seasonal creation not currently on the menu), kangaroo skewers with pickled peach and rye ($4 each) and smoked mussels with barbecued baby gem and apple ($16). Of these, I particularly liked the lamb on toast, which is correctly classified in the menu as a 'small plate' rather than a starter, given how substantial a dish it is. The lamb is slow braised, giving it a melt in the mouth tenderness, and given interest with the addition of ingredients such as saltbush.
From an aesthetic viewpoint, the pickled pine mushrooms with truffle doughnut was the clear winner. Each luscious looking ball was topped with a delicate nasturtium leaf and oozed its contents when you cut into it.
I tried two main courses: wild barramundi with cabbages and rosella butter sauce (a similar dish is on the dinner menu, but with finger lime sauce, for $30), and the aged duck breast with rhubarb and bay leaf ($34). The barramundi was beautifully cooked, and the cabbages served in different ways gave the dish interest and texture. The rosella butter sauce was just as rich and delicious as it looks in the picture. I explored the green ball on the plate (to the right in the photo) which looked for all the world like a Brussel sprout - but didn't taste like it! Turned out it was a cucumber ball. Clever.
The barramundi - a delightful dish
I thought it would be difficult to top the barramundi, but I admit I am a big fan of duck, and this duck was AMAZING. It was perhaps the nicest duck I've had. Achieving that perfect crispy skin while maintaining succulent, melt-in-the-mouth meat is no mean feat. The tartness of the rhubarb was a strong contrast to the sweetness of the duck meat.
Duck - perfection!
Dessert was a strong tilt at the 'creative overlay' concept: Jerusalem artichoke, cardamom, chocolate ice cream ($10). The earthy overtones of the artichoke paired beautifully with the bittersweet flavour of the dark chocolate. An inspired dish.
The dessert creatively paired artichoke with dark chocolate
The Rob Dolan wines had been skilfully selected to work with the dishes. Of those tried, I particularly enjoyed the 2017 'White Label' Pinot Gris. The waiter mentioned the palate included 'red apples', and certainly it was a fruity, fresh wine. It has a natural pink tinge from the skins of the pinot gris grapes, so it looks appealing in the glass also. It was paired with the barramundi, but I felt it would have worked equally well with the duck.
Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable meal. It was thoughtful, creative and interesting, while still being a delight to eat. I'm looking forward to returning to try some of the other dining spaces and bars within Collins Quarter.
Collins Quarter is located at 86 Collins Street, Melbourne. Click here to view their menus.
It is open from 7.30am - 11.00pm Monday to Thursday, 7.30am - late Friday, and 4.00pm - late on Saturday.
Please note that as this was a tasting menu, the portion sizes shown in the photos in this article may not represent the standard serving size.
The images in this article were taken by the writer.