I'm time-pressed and always counting the pennies as a single-mum writer, so going out has to be worth the lipstick. It's the year of discovering tantalizing Melbourne and, sometimes, a tease of Adelaide's treasures. Join me.
Published March 23rd 2015
Forget city culinary kingdoms and see how The Stables reigns
The Stables entrance to a simply pleasurable evening.
When place, produce and professionalism unite, the experience becomes an elevated creation beyond the sum of its parts. So it is at The Stables Restaurant, set magnificently at Stones of the Yarra Valley, an estate vineyard and events venue around an hour from Melbourne.
A pre-dinner something under the Autumn vine leaves is a perfect beginning.
The age of the celebrity chef has given rise to foodie fans with more culinary savvy than ever before. Quirky combinations and impossible presentations are gradually giving way to stand-alone quality and simple food artistry, something head chef, Hugh Davison, accomplishes with striking mastery. Having faith that chef knows best is highly rewarding at The Stables when you select the five course menu ($85). Choose matched wines ($45) for a supreme evening rivaling any inner city hot spot for impressive value and surprises so successful, they feel familiar.
The Stables bar is heavy with locally produced representatives.
I don't want to critique Davison's food, so much as describe the pleasure of it, because this is a purely indulgent event that marries most of the senses with synergy. Before daylight disappeared, we were able to start our evening with champagne under the vine-curled pergola. Most of the staff had already acknowledged us and we knew we were in the hands of the accomplished. Canapés were offered outside, but we chose to take our table to begin. Pea puree on crispy salmon skin seemed made for one another and a further canapé of goat's cheese, tomato and olive balanced above tomato consommé was a tiny marvel.
A goat's cheese canape balances above tomato consomme in a wine glass.
Enter the entrée. Becoming steadily famous, Four Pillars Gin (Yarra Valley) was served on ice with tonic water and a grapefruit wedge, as well as being responsible for curing the first course salmon. Black tapioca made a contrasting visual alternative to the frequently seen and separately treated skin proving a puffy crunch against the gently dense fish. This was a delicate delight. Next, giant scallops, cauliflower puree and apple three ways (fresh, freeze dried and remarkable, looking like clear caviar) were tender and elegant together, accompanied by wine from Soumah (Yarra Valley), a character filled 2013 viognier.
Salmon cured in Four Pillars Gin, freeze dried horseradish, cucumber, tapioca with squid ink.
The main stage. Duck breast, hay smoked and rendered, with caramelised onion puree and heirloom beetroot, (roasted and also chipped), was finely flavoured and perfectly earthy-sweet. The 2013 D.C.B. Pinot Noir (Yarra Valley) played its supporting role well. A singular deviation from the regional wines came next with a 2009 Sardinian red from Pala, a cannonau (grenache), named "I Fiori" (flower) for its organic production, delivering intense colour and medium-bodied substance as a fine partner to the red meat on its way. Water-bathed Wagyu rump finished on the char-grill alongside smoky kipfler potatoes, parsley puree and courgette carried me away before I could photograph it (sorry).
Hay smoked duck breast, caramelised onions, heirloom beetroot, herb emulsion.
Finale. Strawberry variations, white chocolate, mascarpone mousse and a pouring of basil infusion completed our courses with novel drama, served with 2013 Montevecchio Moscato (Heathcote). Coffee is not part of the set menu, but was well worth the couple of extra dollars, perfectly rounded and temperature right. Most astonishing for me was the enjoyment of each plated element for its own sake, that when tasted in unison made magical sense. There is, of course, a world of talented honesty creating these apparently effortless and exquisite dishes, made even richer by interested wait staff and the grandiose rustic surrounds. The Stables will stay with me for a long time and I'm already convinced it would make a true treat of every season to revisit. Weddings and events here must make lasting impressions too. When your senses have been completely harmonised with fine dining and friends, somehow nothing more joyous is necessary.
Seared scallops, cauliflower puree, Granny Smith apple, sorrel.