Friday, 5 October 2012

Stokehouse - The Relaxing Long Lunch Lives

I had been holding off returning to Stokehouse in St Kilda as I wanted my visit to coincide with the first hot day of the season. Knowing that temperate weather was predicted by David Brown since last Sunday, it is with that intelligence in mind, I made a booking and intended to try to achieve the elusive mid-week relaxing lunch. Stokehouse is a Melbourne institution when it comes to the relaxing lunch and after my accelerated dinner at Nobu earlier in the week, I really wanted to truly languish around and enjoy the afternoon.

The ground floor of the restaurant is currently being renovated so there was no problem with securing a table "upstairs" which is the place to be normally. We were greeted at reception and were asked if we wanted to enjoy a drink on the balcony before sitting at our nominated table next to the window. "But of course!" I proclaimed and we were led outside and glasses of Veuve Cliquot soon arrived. Sitting in the sun watching the rogues of the day traverse the St Kilda Promenade and people frolic on the beach evoked a sense of calm in me. I thought then and there that I was truly relaxed, which is probably the first time I have had that feeling all year.

After a second glass of champagne on the balcony, we retired to our table. It was by the window so were able to continue to watch the comings and goings on the promenade and also the beach. Not wanting to make any serious decisions, we ordered six freshly shucked oysters from Tasmania with white gazpacho dressing and two serves of foie gras with Reisling jelly, walnuts on gingerbread toast. The oysters were medium sized and the dressing complimented them well. The gazpacho was the first dressing in a while that I thought "worked" well with oysters as normally I choose to have them natural. The foie gras with the jelly and walnuts on the gingerbread toast had to be the most tastefully presented and unique pairings of taste that I have ever had with a foie gras dish. I was ready to put the menu aside knowing that I could just eat this splendid foie gras all day.

The ambiance oddly made me think of being on Hamilton Island. I am not sure why as the upstairs doesn't remind me of any restaurants there per se but I think it was because of the weather and actually seeing water whilst eating, which is a rare feat in Melbourne, that I was transported elsewhere. The sommelier, Lincoln, introduced himself and we had a good chat about wine. I took him up on his recommendation to match our next dish, the seared Atlantic scallops with morcilla sausage and brioche crumb, parship and baby cress. I normally shy away from scallops in restaurants since they are rarely prepared properly, but I took a gamble and it paid off. Perfection. I ended up cutting the scallops into very small pieces just so I could not only enjoy them longer but continue to explore the compliment of them with the Pinot Gris on my palate. To finish the wine, we ordered Kingfish ceviche, mandarin, pistachio and cucumber salad with horseradish and cauliflower cream. The kingfish and mandarin melded nicely together and further enhanced the Pinot Gris - or perhaps it is the other way around. I certainly felt impressed at the conclusion of my adventure with the entrees.

Lincoln returned and we advised him that we were thinking of continuing on with the Rabbit leg ravioli, chestnut cream, mancetta, brussel sprouts, provolone and mustard sauce. We also talked about mains, and given that I was interested in the lamb rack, he suggested we pair these with a Gamay. For me, besides the foie gras earlier in the day, the Rabbit leg ravioli turned out to be the highlight of the experience as when matched with the Gamay it was magical. Not taking away from the beauty of the three point lamb rack and confit shoulder, pepperonata, Ortiz achoivies and kohl rabi puree, as it was great and prepared a perfect medium rare.

After retiring to the balcony again to drink wine after the lamb rack was devoured, we were informed that dessert service was going to end soon. It was nearly 4:00 PM and I was surprised that the 3.5 hours that we had been there had gone so fast. We returned to our table and after consulting the dessert menu, we ordered "The Bombe" which was not only visually stunning but also delicious. It was sweet without being excessively sweet and given there is ice cream in the centre of the dish, it complemented not only the warm day but also wrapped up everything that we had with a burst of flavours that cleansed the palate.

The relaxing lunch does exist and it can be found at Stokehouse. It certainly is one Melbourne institution that I will be making my own on hot blustery days this spring and summer and I suspect for many more years to come.

Stokehouse, St Kilda
Link to review
30 Jacka Boulevard  St Kilda VIC 3182
(03) 9525 5555
My Rating: 16/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Quality: 4.5/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Comment: Fois gras + rabbit ravioli = win

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

When I made this post originally, 77% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon also liked Stokehouse.

Stokehouse (Upstairs) on Urbanspoon