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Published November 30th 2012
Age Good Food Guide Sous Vide Technology
Right next ot Bairnsdale's famous church
Invariably one day you will find yourself driving through Bairnsdale, possibly on the way to somewhere like Lakes Entrance or Mallacoota.
It is always a dilemma knowing where to stop off for a meal in a large country town. They are the great unknown.
Inside we began to settle. Sure it was just a pub but with some surprisingly nice touches such as soft lighting from tea candles on each table, walls filled with paintings and large vases of flowers. The seating to our amusement was on long church pews. Given the hotel is right next to Bairnsdale's famous cathedral we thought perhaps some of the seating might have walked.
The menu read as fairly typical pub food such as steaks, fish and chips, chicken and so forth but this seems to be because of lack of imaginative menu writing rather than in any way bland items. There were a few interesting specials on the board including what seemed a strange anomaly - Thai lasagne, a red chicken curry with layers of crispy Asian greens and crispy wantons for $22. This dish alone suggested an innovative chef.
The waitress wafted past with plates of asparagus so thick and huge that they were hanging over the side of the plate. They looked so green and enticing that despite rarely ordering vegetarian options I proclaimed my intentions, "Those will do me."
My daughter ordered what sounded like an ordinary dish of lamb rump. When the food came we were both astounded. My bright green locally grown spears of asparagus, despite their huge size, were succulent and served on a bed of buttery yellow pumpkin risotta. The colours were divine, verdant green on a background of sunny yellow. Every mouthful was a crisp then squelchy delight.
My daughter's unimaginatively named lamb rump came with jus on a bed of mash launched on a sea of diced root vegetables and again it was sensational.
I settled on a banoffe pie, something I had not seen on a menu before. This was a beautifully presented dish of a home-made pastry case, filled with creamy toffee filling (although not overly sweet) and decorated like a flower with petals of fresh banana.
My daughter had an equally delicious lime tart, with double cream and raspberry coulis. She seriously considered licking the plate but then thought better of it - might have been different if we had been home.
We later discovered that one of the secrets of the incredible food is that chef Stuart Derham uses a method of cooking called sous vide technology. Sous-vide is French for "under vacuum". Meat and some vegetables are vacuum sealed and and then cooked in a water bath at precise temperatures that are exacting up to one tenth of a degree. The results are perfectly cooked foods that retain all their juices.
The bistro also a strong emphasis on local ingredients and an extensive list of local wines that you rarely see in Melbourne.
Probably one of the most surprising things about the Main Hotel was its prices. My asparagus sensation was $22 and my daughters lamb rump dish was $28. Desserts were around $9. It is not often that you get Age Good Food Guide cuisine for the cost of a country counter meal.
So don't use Bairnsdale as a drive-thru. Stop off and sit down for a truly sensational meal.