Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chef Hats and Culinary Nobility - Jacques Reymond and Bistro Guillaume

Entrance to Jacques Raymond

Last year in October I made a quick trip to Melbourne to enjoy a long weekend getaway. When you live in Adelaide a trip to Melbourne with its colourful city life teaming with incredible restaurant experiences and tantalizing treats that can be had just under $150 (return airfare on virgin blue) it is worth every single penny and becomes almost compulsory every so often to maintain ones sanity, especially if you are a big city girl like me and have a food affliction anything similar to mine!

I must admit that I managed to cram in quite a bit into the four days I was in the city with a busy, highfalutin gourmet agenda, especially being on an international student’s budget and given that unlike a cow, I have just the one stomach!

Two of the meals I enjoyed were at establishments notably knighted as Melbourne’s most stellar – namely Jacques Reymond (the only restaurant to have received a three chef hat rating in the city and award for the ‘best fine dining restaurant of the year’ both by The Age’s Good Food Guide) as well as Bistro Guillaume (that has been awarded two stars by Gourmet Traveller).

The acclaimed Guillaume Brahimi is not only an award winning chef but also the proprietor of Guillaume at Bennelong (that is said to afford stunning views of the Sydney Opera House), and he decided to bring some of his magic to Melbourne by christening Bistro Guillaume at the Crown Casino in March 2008.

Conversely Jacques Reymond is more established with his inception dating back to 90’s and the restaurant is set in a stately 1800’s Victorian mansion. The ambience as well as the menu reflects this with an effortless and tasteful marriage of the classic richness and an edgy contemporary feel with lightly accented modern sleekness.

While Bistro Guillaume impresses at first sight with parachute like pillows that make for light fittings, protruding from the ceiling creating an intimate cosiness and adds a somewhat Japanese feel, which I doubt was intended, yet works anyway the restaurant is illuminated by a definitive yellow glow.

In contrast the entrance to Jacques Reymond is strikingly unique, so much so it is possibly impervious to a similar welcome in any another Melbourne establishment, and definitely not one that would come anywhere close to the realm of what it manages to achieve at first sight. Jacques Reymond undoubtedly offers its guests an entire package, the mansion with its surrounding gardens and walled property becomes an extension of a surreal dining experience.

I lunched at Jacques Reymond, opting for a two course menu with coffee and petit fours priced at $48 and dined at Bistro Guillaume for what I am sure was a pretty hefty sum which I was not privied to thanks to a very generous uncle who believes in encouraging a budding food enthusiast as myself (thanks Mario!).

To kick start lunch we (friend and I) ordered a bottle of Victorian Pinot Grigio from the Mornington Peninsular, which I believe is north of Melbourne. I decided to go entree and main while my friend went the main and dessert option and we shared.

Entree was a delightful Jerusalem artichoke and celeriac soup with blue cheese meufiles – the lightest, airiest pastry pillows I have tasted.

For mains we had quail cooked two ways: roasted with glazed turned vegetables, tempura battered and fried and the saddle of wallaby with pumpkin and watercress.

Dessert was a delicious crepe Suzette with a vanilla ice cream log and caramelised nuts. We ended our meal with cafe late` and chocolate mousse served as petit fours in little shot glasses.

Setting the precedent for dinner at Bistro Guillaume was the $100 bottle Agly Brothers, Cotes du Roussillon 2006 that we sipped on.

It was closely followed by South Aussie Coffin Bay Oysters with a Red Wine Vinaigrette and mind-blowing beautifully fresh, sweet serving of sashimi Hiramasa Kingfish paired unusually with a parsnip puree and potatoes finely julienned and fried – besides looking stunning on the plate the dish is an unpredictable stroke of sheer genius!

For mains my uncle, cousin and myself shared a 1.2 kg bad boy – yes a perfectly cooked medium-rare rib eye with an unbelievably balanced proportion ratio of meat to fat resulting in an indescribable level of gustatory pleasure that well and truly had me in heaven. Possibly one of the best steaks I have eaten, to date.

This came with sides of roasted kipfler potatoes seasoned with rosemary and sea-salt cooked in duck fat and sautéed watercress.

Having polished off the steak it was time for dessert and boy did we go to town. Not only did we each get our own and then passed them around to have a taste, but we threw back a golden-straw hued, subtly sweet Chenin Blanc, Domaine Coteau de la Biche 2002, Vouvray, Loire Valley.

Dessert was an average lemon tart, an absolutely divine blueberry cheesecake and an indulgent mudcake with vanilla bean ice cream that my spoon kept tucking into completely involuntarily on my part. What would have been apt however and completed the French feast appropriately would have been a crème brule I thought.

Jacques Reymond

78 Williams Rd
Prahran VIC 3181
Ph: +61 03 9525 2178

Bistro Guillaume

8 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC 3006
Ph: +6103 9693 3888

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