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Published April 23rd 2020
You'd do lockdown all over again for food like this
The sun may be shining and we have all been doing our bit saving lives by staying home, but the days are starting to feel interminable so diversions are much welcomed.
Last night, I had a delicious diversion that lifted my spirits. It was a meal from Left Bank, a Southbank a fine dining restaurant and cocktail bar presently closed to restaurant patrons, but thankfully still delivering meals in a 15 km radius.
It was so different than my normal fare. Like most people, I have been doing more cooking during lockdown using up staples in my cupboards and for a little relief, perhaps ordering takeaway. But takeaway that comes in plastic containers never seems as good, as the times now becoming a distant memory where we would sit in restaurants and enjoy meals freshly prepared by a chef.
Left Bank's offerings are hardly takeaway but instead fine dining meals that arrive on your doorstep and you put the finishing touches to them at home.
I wondered how this would work in practice when I ordered from their online menu .
The options are all about share dishes with even the smaller serves large enough to feed 2-3 people and the next size up feeding 4-6 people. Most of the dishes were what I would describe as comfort foods. which is what we most need right now to feel nourished and nurtured.
There were choices like lamb and eggplant moussaka (made from slow-braised Gippsland beef), lasagna made from Black Angus Beef and creamy cheddar bechamel sauce and vegetarian options such as risotto with sautéed autumn mushrooms and premium Arborio rice, finished with pecorino.
Chunks of Victorian beef rump, braised with red wine, rich tomato sugo & vegetables, mashed potato topping Served with seasonal greens with lemon & seeded mustard dressing
Each package had easy to follow instructions. Simple enough that even I could not stuff this up.
The instructions were those that would have been second nature to a chef but possibly needed to be pointed out to the layperson at home. Such as with the braised lamb shoulder to put the skin side up covered with foil for the first few minutes before removing the foil to allow the skin to brown. Or to rotate the apple pie halfway through to heat evenly.
With these easy to follow instructions, I had a restaurant-quality meal on the table within 20 minutes or so. Achieved without effort as there were no pots and pans to wash or any of the endless preparation that normally goes hand in hand with creating a fine meal.
The dish may have been specially crafted by Left Bank's Executive Chef, Stan Delimitrou to restaurant standards, but the final touches were done by me. It was almost like he was standing in my kitchen telling me exactly what to do next.
The meal was incredible. There is a huge difference between a fine meal prepared by a chef and what a home cook such as myself might prepare.
The braised lamb shoulder, which has originally been slow-cooked at Left Bank, fell apart with the touch of a fork. The finishing touch was sliced button mushrooms that slid like a landslide down the mountain of succulent lamb before pooling with the rosemary and shiraz ragout, where the stream met a mound of perfect buttery mash.
How do chefs make such perfect mash? I suspect cream and butter and the equipment that can whip it to such perfectibility. We might not normally make it so richly at home, but it certainly makes for a memorable occasion when you do get to taste such perfection.
The medley of accompanying green vegetables included bright green beans, small florets of broccoli, finely sliced brussel sprouts and shelled peas. But it was the lemon and seeded mustard dressing with olive oil that transported these daily vegetables to restaurant status.
There was easily enough food for two or even three people. So at the cost of $30 to feed two, this was excellent value for the main. Especially given this was a restaurant-quality meal doubling as a fine dining experience, albeit at home.
The main was followed by a traditional spiced apple pie with buttery puff pastry. There was just the right balance of cardamon and cinnamon to apples and then the pièce de résistance of Chantilly cream, flecked with skerricks of vanilla bean seeds.
I will remember this fine meal as the highlight of being in lockdown.
Ordering from Left Bank would be perfect for those with a special occasion during the time at home whether it be an anniversary, date night or birthday. Or perhaps you want to provide someone with a special meal to help them get through isolation.
Given the reasonable cost, ordering could also be a special meal to break the monotony of home cooking. Often we can cook well but never this superbly. Chefs really know how it's done.
Thank you for this highlight during the lockdown, Left Bank.
**It is worth noting that Left Bank can also deliver alcohol. They have a range of beers and ciders, Italian and French wines and Australian options such as from the Yarra Valley and Margaret River.on their menu page. Prices seemed excellent and were certainly not exorbitant restaurant prices. Pick up is also available.